The identarian attack on science: Postmodernism strikes back.

By its very nature Social Justice and in particular the activism that permeates throughout the movement is antithetical to science. These departments who cultivate such ideas are deridingly, but arguably fairly described as “grievance studies”, they underpin Social Justice and are heavily influenced by postmodernism. This philosophy is deeply critical of meta-narratives such as science, suggesting that subjective opinion has more value than empirical evidence. It is useful to view the onslaught on science via the social justice movement as a postmodern assault. Primarily, because numerous theories surrounding identity politics originate from postmodernism, examples being; intersectional feminism and critical race theory.

It is reasonable to imply that postmodernism perceives science as another tool for social control. Postmodern guru Jean-François Lyotard postulated that there was an “interlinkage between the kind of language called science and the kind called ethics and politics”. Lyotard used this idea to reject science’s claim to any objectivity, by coupling the knowledge science produces to politics and thereby power. This can be condensed into two postmodern critical statements against science;

  1. Science is unable to produce any objective or truthful statements about the physical reality, therefore, cannot lay any claim to universal applicability.
  2. Scientific enquiry is not a value or interest free pursuit of truth that is independent of local culture constraints, rather it is inspired by hidden ideological motivations.

The question must be asked; why is the social justice movement, using postmodernism as an blunt instrument, to pursue science so vigorously? Heather Heying, former evolutionary biology Professor at Evergreen College and wife of Bret Weinstein, simply explains that science seeks truth and truth isn’t always convenient for this movement. This siege on science manifests in two primary ways; firstly there is an external attack on the credibility of science, followed by a secondary insidious infiltration of science via feminist/social justice ‘researchers’.

heather heying
Heather Heying

The predictable first battle for identarians began in the arena of the social sciences. Given that the social sciences investigate areas of complexity such as human interaction and society, it would make perfect sense that this would be postmodernism’s first port of call. Science searches for objective truths, but this is decidedly more difficult given the unpredictability of humans. Nevertheless, the Scientific Method should still form the cornerstone of any social science. To complicate matters, social sciences often have to perform a balancing act between objective truths and interpretation. The more objectivity a research paper entails, the more trustworthy it will be considered. In contrast, if an over reliance on subjectivity is evident, this could inevitably lead to an increase in confirmation bias, with a very real danger of producing erroneous results and the potential to be harmful to society.

The erosion of social sciences due to a concerted postmodern tide started roughly in the mid 20th century. This was characterised by a shift on the see-saw from objectivity to subjective experiences. This change in approach ushered in the concept of multiple realities. In contrast, objectivity increasingly took a ‘back seat’ leading to social sciences being at odds with objective natural sciences. Postmodernism at one stage was only a small part of the social sciences and was primarily utilized as a differing lens in which to interpret the world from, such as from a feminist standpoint. In recent times postmodernism has been catapulted into the forefront, becoming one of the predominant methods in which to view society. This change has spawned whole departments deeply attached to a singular and myopic philosophy.

Postmodernism and by association identarian beliefs are detached from reality. In colleges around the western world Social Justice is purported to be a distinct academic field, presenting with a set of established truths. It could be argued that Social Justice is little more than postmodern speculation anchored by en vogue ‘theories’ such as Intersectionality. Worryingly, these ideas are being touted as a set of universal beliefs accounting for the entirety of the human experience. With this postmodern input Social Sciences appear increasingly interested in tearing down current ideas and objective truths, rather than understanding them. It is an ideology drowning in subjectivity, divorced from the Scientific Method and marooned on self absorbed intellectual islands.

Most of the blame must go to the teaching staff, who are exploiting their students in an effort to propel their own agendas. Many Social Science students will leave college without any firm grasp of the Scientific Method. Students are taught that ‘lived experience‘ is truth, whilst encouraging them to discover what is referred to as “my truth”, which to you and me is commonly known as an opinion. In these hotbeds of wild ideas, good grades are attained by mirroring back to the educator their favoured ideology, without any requirement to critically think. Students indoctrinated in “right think” are generally ill prepared for the outside world, as their entire education is chiefly formed from a particular perspective.

Rather than considering certain ideas such as “Intersectionality” and “White Privilege” as opinions they are purported to be objective truths. Once in contact with the real world, students find that these beliefs can be met with strong opinions that run counter to the 21st century teachings of Social Science. This lack of preparedness is played out on Social Media everyday, as these identarian disciples are ill equipped to debate in a logical manner. Suddenly they discover that people are dismantling their firmly held beliefs, that were obtained in a safe college echo chamber. This for them will feel like personal abuse, these exchanges often culminate in ad hominem attacks in return, such as “Nazi”, “Alt-Right” and “Misogynist”. None of this partisan anger helps to encourage dialogue or an exploration for “the truth”, but in fairness exponents of “grievance studies” are clearly not interested in objectivity or discourse.

For now, we will make our departure from the Social Sciences and look at how the Social Justice movement has attempted to make inroads into the Natural Sciences. Increasingly, the attack on the Natural Sciences has been performed from the inside, rather like a virus attacking the host cell. As Heather Heying stated, identarians are compelled to attack science, purely because it is in conflict with their own belief system. SJW’s including feminist lobbies have spent decades trying to increase the amount of women taking part in STEM. Not only that, but it would appear that there has been a concerted effort from the identarians to change the way science is conducted and moreover the value in which we place upon it.

Once you delve into the murky waters of postmodernism you will discover that many ideas or theories appear to lose value. In this universe you can pick and choose your ‘truths’ as you see fit. An area that ‘gender feminists’ fight to the death on is, the concept of gender being a social construct. This is despite mountains of evidence on the contrary, which I have discussed in depth in previous ramblings. In an attempt to strengthen the feminist claim, ‘feminist scientists’ have tried, with some success to add scientific weight to their ideology. The paper that I will highlight is Daphna Joel’s article published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. This in summary asserts that the differences between men and women’s brains are negligible.

Daphna joel
Daphna Joel

I’ll start, by stating that this paper was taken on face value by the New York Times, The New Scientist and most liberal media outlets. Joel was even invited to talk at TEDx Jaffa. You’ll be pleased to know that this paper has since been thoroughly reviewed by her peers. To begin, let’s make it clear what Joel claims in this paper.

  • Brains of individual males and females show very little internal consistency in their combination of “male-typical” and “female-typical” features.
  • Overlap between male and females in the distribution of anatomical traits in specific brain regions is so large, that it calls into question the very idea of gender differences in brain structure.

Firstly, let us keep these findings in perspective, the study only suggests that the structure of the brain is “mosaic”, nothing pertaining to functional differences between men and women. In response to these claims Giudice et al starts off by drawing attention to the questionable methodology. Giudice states that the paper employs an unduly strict criteria for “internal consistency” (brain differences) but a lax criteria for “substantial variability” (brain similarities).

To demonstrate Giudice offers an example using a fictional male, who we’ll call Bob. Bob is tested on a number of sex typical preferences for leisure activities, these are; boxing, construction, golf, scrapbooking, using cosmetics and playing video games. He has no interest in scrapbooking and cosmetics, but is passionate about boxing, construction and golf, however, Bob also does not care for playing video games. Using Joel’s guidelines Bob’s profile would be classed as “substantially variable”, therefore, offered as evidence to display Bob’s brain as a “mosaic” of male-typical and female-typical features.

With regards to the second claim in Joel’s paper, it was noted that the original study did not test how well varying brain features predict a participants sex. Giudice did complete the testing using Joel’s original data, finding that an individual’s sex was predicted through brain features between 69-77% of the time. Furthermore, the multivariate overlap of male and female features based on Joel’s data was a moderate 42% on average, which was considered not high enough to invalidate the idea of overall brain structure differences. Another study by Chekroud et al conducted a multivariate analysis of structural MRI’s for 1566 participants, concluding that “whole brain patterns in brain morphology (structure) can reliably discriminate sex”.

At this juncture it would be fair to mention that despite Joel’s heavily publicised paper, discrepancies between male and female brain morphologies have been comprehensively demonstrated and published in a 2014 meta study. This list is long, so I will leave the finer details of the study here. The point I’m trying to make is Joel’s paper was founded on ‘cherry picked’ data and more than questionable research methods. Not only did it receive a pass from the media, but it was championed by them and declared as a breakthrough in science. It has been thoroughly demonstrated, although contentious in ‘gender feminist’ circles, that biological sex differences do exist. These findings could be used in a positive way to improve health and public policy. Regrettably, politics and ingrained ideology repeatedly obstruct useful science.

When we look at a research paper, it’s important that we note any biases from either the individual or any associated professional ties the author may have. Joel announced that she had no conflicts of interest in her 2015 paper, however, this declaration considering her area of study, appears a little disingenuous. Daphna Joel is heavily influenced by feminism and observing science through this lens. For example she regularly discusses the prospect of feminist neuroscience. Further to this, contrary to having no vested interest, Joel is a member of ‘The neurogenderings network‘. This group states;

“Neurogenderings Network is a transdisciplinary network of neurofeminist scholars, who aim to critically examine neuroscientific knowledge and to develop differentiated approaches for a more gender adequate neuroscientific research. Feminist neuroscientists generally seek to elaborate the relation between gender and the brain beyond biological determinism, but still engaging with materiality of the brain”.

Clearly (cue sarcasm) Daphna Joel and colleagues had no pre-conceived agenda while conducting their studies or critiquing the current body of knowledge. Once recognised, her affiliations begin to shed light on to why it appears she commenced her research with the conclusion and worked backwards. For me, one of the tell tale signs was her uncharacteristically (for a scientist) bold claims. The headline in the New York Times read, “Can we finally stop talking about ‘male and ‘female’ brains”? The answer I suspect is, probably not. These are not the words of an objective scientist diligently following the evidence. The general point of science is, you start with a hypothesis and proceed to disprove this idea, not manipulate the study to bolster a closely held belief.

Recently, medicine has also been on the receiving end of criticism. It has often been accused of being a hegemonic structure of power, while no more valid than Reiki or Homeopathy, implying that all therapeutic methods are equally valid. A postmodern paper by Holmes et al argued that evidence based medicine (EBM) was an example of “microfascism” and proved that health sciences are colonised by a specific research paradigm, which in turn prevents alternative forms of knowledge to surface. In this paper their central criticism is the legitimacy of randomised controlled trials (RCT’s), which are internationally accepted as the highest level of evidence. Alternative forms of ‘knowing’ that the authors allude to, generally manifest in an area called ‘Complementary and Alternative Medicine’ (CAM).

Many enthusiasts of CAM are openly anti-science, they claim that the Scientific Method misses the point of CAM and doesn’t account for cultural diversity. Another claim is that scientific testing is only one of the many ways of knowing and is not necessarily the best. Contrary to this assertion, clinical effectiveness is a falsifiable hypothesis applicable to all interventions. In other words, it simply aims to ascertain whether a particular treatment works or not.

Alternative research methods have their uses, concentrating on anthropological and sociological aspects using for example; intuition or somatic perception. These ideas may well help us understand patients’ beliefs about health, illness and the body, but they cannot inform us which treatment is the most effective for a given condition. The most conclusive evidence available proves that a modality such as ‘spiritual healing’ works as a placebo response. A placebo response essentially is fine and can be powerful, however, all treatments conventional or unconventional possess some form of a placebo affect. It is surely logical to suggest that having a treatment that possesses a physiological effect would be more beneficial than relying solely on a placebo. Forgive me if I appear to be stating the obvious here.

Science is continually under attack and closely regulated by identarians, but they rarely claim that targeted studies are poorly conceived or that the results are questionable. The objections are mainly concerned with the subject matter studied or the identity of the people performing the research. One such contentious area is the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’. In simple terms, this suggests that more men occupy the outer reaches of intellect on either end of a distribution ‘bell curve’ than women. Darwin observed these traits in many species throughout the animal kingdom, with reasonably consistent evidence being reported in species as diverse as; wasps, orangutans and humans. As a basic observation, there are significant differences in the number of men compared to women in; Nobel laureates, music composers and chess champions, but on the flip side, men make up the majority of homeless people, suicide victims and prison inmates.

Theodore Hill, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Georgia Tech University sought to discover why this variability occurs. His paper was written with Sergei Tabachnikoff, Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University and was due to be published early 2018 in the Mathematical Intelligencer.  Margaret Wikler, the editor, was untroubled by this potential controversial topic and proceeded to give it her blessing. However, almost immediately after posting a preprint on their website, the duo encountered the Women in Mathematics group (WIM), who warned them that this paper could be damaging to aspiring young women. All efforts by Professor Hill to discuss the content with WIM were ignored.

Following this, the National Science Foundation (NSF) requested that the authors removed any acknowledgement of funding from NSF. This was prompted by two Professors at Penn State University claiming that the paper was “promoting pseudoscientific ideas detrimental to the advancement of women in science”. Later on the same day editor-in-chief of Mathematical Intelligencer Marjorie Senechal withdrew her acceptance of the paper after being challenged by “several colleagues” stating that this paper would provoke “strong reactions”. She clarified that the research had received no scientific objections, but her decision was based on the response the article may elicit.

The U-turn was performed by the journal following a complaint by a senior professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Amie Wilkinson. After some back and forth with Senechal, Wilkinson recruited her father, a famous psychometrician and statistician to add academic weight to her disapproval. Long after the Mathematical Intelligencer rescinded the paper, Wilkinson continued to trash the journal and the editor-in-chief through social media. Due to mounting pressure co-author Sergei Tabachnikoff withdrew his name from the research paper, in order to protect his job.

WilkinsonIASWynne2019
Amie Wilkinson

Professor Hill eventually had the paper published via the New York Journal of Mathematics (NYJM), only for it to vanish from the online journal three days later. As it turns out, one of the editorial board members was Benson Farb, who is married to, yep Amie Wilkinson. It transpired that Editor-in Chief Mark Steinberger was effectively blackmailed into pulling the paper by half of the journal’s board led by Farb. Not satisfied, Professor Wilkinson continued her moral crusade, directing her vitriol at the NYJM and the editorial board, threatening to ‘unfriend’ them on Facebook if they did not sever ties with editor Igor Rivin. All this appears more like the insane actions of an angst ridden teenager, rather than a senior professor and yet it worked.

This isn’t the first or I suspect the last time that scientists have been professionally attacked for researching subject matters that identitarian’s consider ‘out of bounds‘. A published study at Brown University concluded that the “exceptionally rapid growth in cases of transgenderism among children and teens is very likely the result of a ‘social contagion'”. This outraged transgender activists, who attempted to discredit the author and the methodology, without really scientifically critiquing it. The article was subsequently pulled by Brown, with many academics since accusing the university of caving in to this group. Ensuring certain potentially uncomfortable areas of study are off limits and the fact identarians are monitoring the boundaries of acceptable academic inquiry is severely disturbing. If you would like to make your own mind up about the paper, feel free to click the link for the original article.

This directs me to my final area of discussion, which I acknowledge is at the more extreme end of science denial. The incident occurred at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. A young student there declared “science is a product of western modernity and should be scratched off”. She continued suggesting science needed to start again through an African perspective, which would include witchcraft.

It could be argued that this assault goes beyond colonialism, as these people seek to tear down universalism. It is true that the majority of scientists during the Enlightenment were white middle class men, but the knowledge that was uncovered goes far beyond identity. Mathematical equations and scientific principles are universal, theories only persist if the results hold, regardless of the place or person doing the testing. This desire to decolonise science is to dismiss all intellectual or social advances that have gone before. A relationship to truth, universal relevance, or intellectual worth are now considered secondary to the identity of the author, with the most oppressed carrying the greatest weight of opinion. Sadly, this movement is supported by lecturers in varying departments throughout the academy. No doubt, we are in the midst of a huge shift towards relativism, which ultimately will stifle any intellectual or scientific advances.

I am sure I will get a reasonable amount of pushback on this article, primarily because I will have been seen to ‘pick on’ the left, while giving the right some sort of critical immunity. Firstly, I will make the point that I have been deeply scathing of the right’s anti-science credentials in previous articles, principally with regards to climate change. We know that the right are just as wilfully blind when the science doesn’t match their ideology as much as this portion of the left are. Specific areas of science denial for the right include; climate change and the anti-vax campaign. However, it’s worth mentioning that this offensive on science by groups who proclaim to be on the left is seldom mentioned. I’m relatively sure that this is a comparatively small group who oppose science, but the problem, nevertheless, still persists.

It is duly noted that the right tend to become increasingly concerned when any scientific developments interfere with the rich making ever more money. This often results in aggressive lobbying, for example, the fossil fuel industry convincing democratically elected officials to follow the money, while turning a blind eye. The left in contrast get ‘hot under the collar’ when their pre-conceived societal ideologies are challenged by ‘inconvenient data’. Make no mistake science is facing a two pronged attack, with both sides more than willing to denounce empirical evidence to protect their ‘truths’. This erosion of the Scientific Method is a regressive measure, destined to transport society to pre-modern times, which effectively helps nobody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A false ideology: Why identity politics doesn’t add up.

We now inhabit a world where influential people in academia and increasingly the government decide who is privileged and who is not, purely by which group we belong to. These are not organised by who’s rich or poor, educational attainment, health levels, class status or even the environment we may live in, sadly nothing quite so objective. Individuals are crudely grouped by what cannot be changed (generally), this being genitalia and melanin levels. This grossly unscientific method, purposely ignores many parameters as outlined above and boils what is termed “oppression” down to race and sex.

To get to grips with how this occurred, our journey starts in France, with some very smart but terribly misguided philosophers. This bunch were largely responsible for a type of philosophy called postmodernism. Postmodernism is at the root of identity politics and underpins social justice activism. The movement, primarily artistic and philosophical began in 1960’s France. It claimed that life was viewed through a male, middle class perspective and sought to rally against this. Additionally, postmodernism outright rejected philosophy that valued ethics, reason and clarity.

This brand of philosophy dismissed overarching movements such as structuralism, which was an attempt to analyse human culture and psychology. While Marxism, endeavouring to make sense of society through class and economic structures was considered simplistic. Furthermore, the movement deeply criticised science, in particular, the idea of objective information. Postmodernists postulated that knowledge without human perception was just another example of arrogant western assumptions. Historically, the term “postmodern” was first used by Jean-Francois Lyotard in 1979, in his book The Postmodern Condition. Above all this was a rejection of meta-narratives, used to explain large phenomena such as religion and science.

In their place Lyotard offered that mini-narratives should be used, with the aim of getting smaller, more personal truths. This thought process led to epistemic relativism, or a belief in personal or culturally specific ‘truths or facts’ and also towards the advocacy of privileging. In summary Lyotard simply ranked “lived experience” above empirical evidence. In addition, postmodernism regularly promotes a type of pluralism, privileging the opinions of minority groups over views of a consensus, such as science or even a liberal democracy.

Another one of the French postmodernists was Michel Foucault. Foucault suggested that people were culturally constructed and a “product of the relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces”. In Foucault’s world, cultural relativity is expressed through structures of power, while shared humanity and individualism are practically ignored. Using this theory, people are constructed entirely by their position in relation to the dominant culture and labelled as oppressed or oppressor.

The third musketeer, in our postmodern yarn is Jacques Derrida. Derrida focused heavily on language, rejecting that words referred to anything in a straight forward way, suggesting that there were only contexts without any absolute anchoring. He implied that the author of a text is not the sole authority and that the listener provides their own equally valid meaning. Derrida’s main contribution to postmodernism was a literary critical method called ‘deconstruction’. This was utilised in an attempt to overturn what he perceived as biases in language.

derrida
Jacques Derrida

Deconstruction arose from the belief that all concepts appear in opposing binaries and that language privileges one concept over another. For example “male” and “female” or “good” and “evil”, the first term usually having dominance over the other. Derrida suggested that this showed great inequality in western/modernist thinking. Derrida’s second idea, was to offer that the identity or meaning of words could not be understood except in relation to what they are not. He suggested that the only way to overcome these inequalities was by deconstructing text and thereby the language which was thought as the inherent power within the binary structure.

Derrida achieved this by equalising the opposing “inferior” and “superior” terms, then placing the “superior” term merely as an expression of the “inferior” term. Using this train of thought, we could say “good” is just an expression of “evil”. Derrida suggested at this point that the terms were meaningless and subjectively imposed by violence as the identity of words are overturned by différanceDerrida used this term to point out that the meaning is not final, rather it is constructed by differences specifically by opposites.

By now, if all this postmodern speak has “baked your noodle”, to borrow an expression from the Matrix, well that is kind of the point. Even the brilliant academic Noam Chomsky failed to see the relevance of postmodernism, stating; “Seriously, what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn’t already obvious, etc? These are fair requests for anyone to make. If they can’t be met, then I’d suggest recourse to Hume’s advice in similar circumstances: to the flames”. The underlying problem now is, conclusions drawn by postmodernists were used as the foundations by future sociologists, gender and race studies academics to build an even more misguided, subjective, divisive and flawed theory.

One of the main theories that underpins social justice activism is intersectional feminism. This was introduced to the world in the late 80’s by UCLA law Professor Kimberleé Crenshaw. Crenshaw rejected “classical liberalism”, which looked past categories such as; race, gender and sexuality, while it focused on levelling the playing field and enabling all people to succeed on their own abilities. Incidentally, this is also known as “Enlightened liberalism” and promoted not only universal human rights, but the freedom of individuals to pursue their own path. Despite this, it was opined by critics such as Crenshaw, that this type of liberalism built structures of power which needed to be addressed. In contrast to liberalism, Crenshaw’s theory suggested that areas of race, gender and sexuality, were essential as it added levels of complexity to the problem.

kimberlee crenshaw
Kimberlee Crenshaw

In general it is postulated that as a society we work primarily on 3 levels:

  1. As a member of the human race with common needs and drives.
  2. As a member of one of the numerous categories, such as; race, nationality, culture or religion.
  3. As a individual, with our own particular interests and abilities.

It could be surmised that while universal liberalism concentrates on 1 & 3, intersectionality gravitates almost exclusively towards the second group. Meaning that this ‘theory’ fundamentally views all issues through the lens of race, gender and sexual identity. Hence the rallying cries of, “listen to women, listen to people of colour”.

But this theory possesses some glaring errors. Firstly, women of colour and LGTB people are to be found all across the political and moral spectrum. Intersectionality, however, is firmly embeded in the leftist identarian camp, complete with a distinct ideology. That said, intersectionality claims to support all of the aforementioned groups, but requires all members of these groups to subscribe to the identarian left. Judging by the stats available, this is just not obtainable. In the US 24% identify as liberals and 38% as conservative. In the UK the left and right are split roughly 50/50. Women are more likely to be left leaning than men. In the US 47% of African Americans identify as liberal and 45% conservative. The Conservative party (UK) claim 33% of Black and Middle Eastern voters, while 52% of Black Britons vote Labour. In Britain LGTB voters are as likely to be on the left as the right, but in the US LGTB voters are likely to be left wing. These nuances go on and on and do not fit the intersectional rallying cry.

As far as ideology is concerned, intersectionality alienates even more people. To be intersectional you are expected to focus on many categories at once, believing that they are all marginalised and worthy of your concern. Therefore, a woman describing herself as wholly a white, feminist would not be considered nearly committed enough to the cause. It would be assumed that the believer should also automatically subscribe to queer theory, critical race theory, trans-equality and anti-ableism discourses. However, as highlighted with politics, all of these varying groups do not have a single way of thinking. For a start in the US, only 20% of woman call themselves a feminist, while in the UK it’s as low as 9%. Using this information alone intersectionalists would have alienated over three quarters of their target population, that being women. Overall, the vast opinions expressed by the varying groups makes this theory totally unworkable.

Effectively what transpires, is the emergence of a small faction, with a minority ideological viewpoint, dominated by people from economically privileged backgrounds. This group generally has a university education, they have studied the social sciences, or have had enough leisure time to have grasped the varying ideas encompassed by intersectional theory. Activists of this cult readily pronounce that the only way is intersectionality, as all other groups are dismissed as fake. Crucially, intersectionality undervalues shared human experiences and universal rights. It ignores personal autonomy, individuality and distinctiveness, concentrating intently on group identity and intersectional ideology. This in turn places the individual in an extremely restrictive “collectivist” position, which was often considered the domain of severe conservative cultures, such as the religious right.

Looking at postmodernism and then intersectionalism, we can see the erroneous foundations being laid for the modern social justice movement. When this is combined with other factors that are peculiar to the millennial generation and now i-gen (generation Z), it starts to makes sense why we are witnessing behaviour punctuated by a lack of tolerance for any differing views. Safe spaces, trigger warnings and microaggressions are all common parlance on university campuses. This development like previous politically correct movements aims to stifle free speech. But according to Jonathan Haidt social psychologist, the motivation this time around, turns out to be more concerned with emotional wellbeing.

Haidt suggests that childhood has changed dramatically over the last couple of generations and that unsupervised play is much rarer than in previous decades. Children, therefore, have less chance to develop skills, such as, how to negotiate in a difficult situation or how to critically think. Meanwhile, a change in perception during the 80’s and 90’s regarding crime, suggested that there was a marked increase of kids being abducted or murdered. One of the main reasons for this view, was that we started to hear more about incidents through a increasingly pervasive media. Following this, a common message millenials received from adults was, life is dangerous but we will protect you from harm. This has contributed to millenials and i-gen being less resilient and more hostile towards political or moral opposition.

jon haidt
Jonathan Haidt

To add another layer to this, professor of psychology Jean Twenge wrote the book ‘the narcissism epidemic‘, in 2009. In this, the professor looked at the changes in individuals and in culture, discovering that narcissistic traits were rising twice as fast than in previous studies. More disconcerting, was that the severe form, Narcissistic Personality Disorder was experienced 3 times more in people in there 20’s than individuals over 65. Other markers that Twenge used, showed plastic surgery was up by a factor of 6 in a decade. Furthermore, materialistic attitudes had increased, as people were more likely to go into debt to get what they wanted. Meanwhile the reading of gossip magazines increased and the interest in newspapers decreased.

When we start to stitch all this together, it’s not surprising that we have a group largely of millenials, who actively attempt to curtail free speech. They also vigorously take part in historical revisionism, for example trying to get certain statues removed, which are deemed offensive. While the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling was unceremoniously removed at Manchester University, following allegations of racism, with no historical context, just a veil of ignorance, as proudly worn by SJW’s. These puritans are offended by the slightest utterance that may come into conflict with their pristine, logic free utopia. While they brazenly display no conscience either, as they repeatedly attempt to remove university professors for ‘wrong think‘.

Many followers of the ‘social justice activism’ have been exposed to a postmodern philosophy, that twists language to square with their pre-conceived conclusions. It is proposed that certain groups are oppressed, such as women and people of colour. This is supposedly a fixed position, bound by the illogical ramblings of postmodernism and now intersectional feminism. These adherents are perpetual victims, regardless of any personal factors that may not tie up with this label, such as; being a middle class, privileged student, as witnessed in many cases. Their assigned victim status enables the SJW to be absolved of any personal responsibility. With this cloak of victimhood, they are able to call out all men or white people, purely because they are oppressed and by virtue of this, are unable to be a misandrist or indeed a racist.

It is by no means a revelation that people who are less developed in terms of diplomacy, resilience and people skills gravitate towards such a movement. It carries little risk, you can gang up on a single speaker, shower them with nasty tweets, retreat to your safe space after a trigger warning and declare an incoming microaggression to your dean. If you are narcissistic this is also perfect, you can metaphorically sniper your political opposition, all in the safety of your morally pristine ivory tower, thus not receiving a narcissistic injury in return. Outstanding! All this would be relatively bearable if it was limited to academia, but alas, we are not so lucky.

There are many examples of the cult of identity politics seeping into everyday life. We can start with the former Director of Public Prosecutions of the Crown Prosecution Service, Alison Sanders. It could be argued that Sanders utilised the CPS as a crusading tool, redirecting limited resources to focus on violence against women and hate speech. The former DPP was responsible for many victim-focused reforms, including the definition of a hate crime, which states; “any crime experienced by the complainant as motivated by hate”. Interestingly, during the last couple of years of her tenure, a series of rape cases collapsed. It had transpired that police and prosecutors had failed to pass key information to lawyers defending the men. This lack of ‘due process’ is what can occur when an ideological quest overrides the search for justice.

In Nottinghamshire, UK, unwanted sexual advances and unwanted verbal contact with a woman can now be recorded as a hate crime. The problem with the term “hate crime” is, it is purely subjective and, therefore, open to abuse. Across the Atlantic in Canada in 2017, bill C-16 was passed, meaning someone could be prosecuted for not using the correct gender pronoun for a person’s subjectively determined “gender identity”. In Brighton, UK, kids are now being taught that both boys and girls can have periods. The whole area around gender and sex is highly contentious and effectively pits science, based on rigour, peer review, evidence and objectivity against emotion, feelings, subjectivity and the idea ‘I feel, therefore, I am’.

Gender and sex are key areas where the Enlightenment collides with postmodernism and judging by the government orthodoxy in many domains Foucault et al. are winning. The primary concern with regards to basing society on subjectivity, is that it is potentially ever changeable, this makes it exceptionally difficult to create and enforce laws, such as hate crime. For example; An ugly guy walks up to a girl and starts talking to her, she might find him detestable and feels threatened. Under these rules, this conceivably could be called a hate crime and for the bloke no matter how well intentioned, he could find himself in trouble. However, a good looking guy could approach the same woman and say exactly the same words but this time, it could be well received. Neither guy has been offensive or violent, but one of them (lets call him Elephant Man) could end up being questioned by the police. Does that feel like a fair use of the law and resources to you?

It is this uneven handed use of the law, as demonstrated by many college Title IX  proceedings in the US during the Obama presidency, that is a major cause for concern. Another campaign doing the rounds currently is “believe women” following sexual harassment or rape allegations. Their is an obvious danger behind this. It instantly biases any following investigation in favour of the accuser. Surely police departments all over the world can provide an environment that allows the person to share their perception of events without siding with them. For “believe women” to be effective, it must demand that women never lie and furthermore, never commit crimes, otherwise it’s a flawed premise. By promoting this we are asserting that women are morally superior to men at all times. Judging by the likes of Myra Hindley, Rose West or Joanna Dennehy this is patently untrue. Moreover, high profile false rape allegations such as the Duke Lacrosse team or Biurny Peguero also severely question this moral superiority theory. Just like men, women lie too, for a variety of reasons.

joanna dennehy
Joanna Dennehy

It makes absolutely no sense to enforce laws and rules that govern society based on a certain perception of a group as a whole. This is especially true, if the group in question is not 100% consistent. We hear from people on a daily basis, talking about white privilege or male privilege. Just an idea, but how about we look at what is occurring at an individual level, rather than writing off masses of the population via gross stereotyping. Identarians can get quite irate if they feel an individual for instance is stereotyping someone regarding gender identification. Yet, they are quite happy to put people in sociological boxes merely for traits that cannot be altered. Crucially, group stereotyping is what this whole identarian ‘belief’ system is built upon, it is the very core of their ideology, but makes no positive practical sense.

To point out how ludicrous this is; a black, middle class, well educated, relatively rich, woman, who has had no direct oppression, from a happy home, can be viewed as oppressed. In contrast; a white, ex-military, homeless man, with PTSD, with no formal qualifications and no support system, can seen as privileged. If this does not strike you as some sort of a scam, you are either benefitting from this in some way, or you are so blind with identarian doctrine that you have lost the ability to critically think. Which of course is the whole point of postmodernism, to appeal to emotion and subjectivity. It’s this loyalty to ones team, providing the power over government, media and society that allows, individuals like Professor Suzanna Danuta Walters to have an article published in the Washington Post enquiring, “why can’t we hate men”? A couple of weeks ago the American Psychological Association, published guidelines outlining the dangers of masculinity. This was nothing short of an overtly ideological exercise, using one social justice buzzword after another (see the link for original document).

Last week Gillette felt the need to jump on the bandwagon, releasing an advert imploring men and boys to sort their masculinity out. This has generally been lauded by the mainstream media, desperate not to stray from the feminist narrative. It’s worth noting, this is not in isolation, anti-male rhetoric is the social norm and is excepted in so called polite society. For instance, the Melbourne café who charged men 18% more, because of the supposed ‘gender wage gap’. Men are repeatedly told how to behave, when to speak (mansplaining), how to sit (manspreading), when it’s OK to talk to a woman, what to say and so on. The overwhelming percentage of men are not violent, do not rape, do treat people with respect, do act against bullying and the list continues. But if you’re trying to neutralise the very masculine traits that helped to build the physical world, that make up the majority of individuals who keep us safe, who love competition and do many of the dangerous jobs that keeps life ticking along, guess again.

For those who still buy into identity politics and in particular feminism, you need to have a serious chat with yourself. At this moment, the Social Justice movement currently feels emboldened, it has governments, media and much of society eating out it’s hand. Now feeling buoyant after #metoo, there is a huge offensive against masculinity, of course, not the bad men in society who it will never have any affect on, but ordinary men like many reading this. Right now, this is not a gender war, as only one side has turned up. It’s more like a massacre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why identity politics makes the left an easy target.

It doesn’t take long, particularly on the internet to realise that the ‘right’ are winning the war of the narrative. Video after video on YouTube are shown, viciously demonising varying antics from SJW’s. Some are baseless cheap attacks, while others are more thoughtful, with some examples displaying more than a kernel of truth in them. From the infamous Trigglypuff a student who blew a gasket at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, during an event, to identarians walking out of a speaking event. This was latter stunt occurred when evolutionary biologist Heather Heying mentioned anatomical differences between men and women.

Unfortunately, these so called activists really don’t help themselves, or more precisely the left in general. This last apparently controversial nugget of information, mentioned that on average men are taller than women. Such malicious utterances triggered outrage among the SJW’s in the audience, who promptly stormed out, damaging the audio equipment during their theatrical exit (see below). Displays of tantrums and looks of utter disbelieve following offerings of, at times innocuous information have been witnessed on campuses all over the western world. In truth, I don’t really care if these science denying lunatics want to believe in the ‘blank slate theory’, ‘intersectional theory’, ‘structural violence’, flat earth stupidity or pink unicorn theory. What I do take issue with, is when these shenanigans are used against the non-narcissistic left, who genuinely support a better world for everyone.

Unsurprisingly, the politically right lurching media, particularly within social media, latch on to these escapades and then depict the protagonists as mainstream leftist supporters. They are shown as proof, that the left are indeed crazy, that they can’t be trusted and are determined to socially engineer society. Sadly to a large extent they are closer to the mark than I would care to admit. SJW’s are primarily adherents of postmodernism, where emotions, feelings and lived experiences are viewed as more important than objectivity, logic, critical thinking and science. In this topsy turvy world, the perception of the receiver is given far more credence than the quality of information being conveyed. This is the gift that keeps on giving for the conservative media such as Fox News. They repeatedly use this material to discredit not only identarians, but the entire left, as SJW’s repeatedly do their work for them.

In the US, the left to many is considered to be focused entirely on identity politics. Neoliberalism has now prevailed for four decades and the fight against economic inequality has mostly been unsuccessful. Bernie Sanders was a prime victim regarding this obvious lack of interest concerning the fight against economic inequality. It was clear that the Democrat party leadership was far more interested in installing a woman as President, rather than someone who demanded a recognisable change to the status quo. At the top end of the supposedly left leaning parties such as the Democrats, Labour (UK, Australia and New Zealand) for the last 20 years, the fight has been on the battlefield of social justice. Now, identity politics has gravitated to the nonsensical, for example; laws covering unwanted verbal contact from men, to the life threatening fight against manspreading on public transport. The level of absurdity has suddenly been turned up to ’11’ (see Spinal Tap for details), allowing the political right to seize the moral high ground.

Once upon a time, the left fought for everyone no matter what your background was. It’s clearly understandable why the left historically battled for minorities, as they are the most likely to be disconnected from society. Initially, identity politics fought for the big groups, African American’s (US), gays and women. The aim was to undo historical wrongs, by gaining support and working through our varying political systems to secure rights. These noble intentions gradually gave way to politics of narcissism and self regard. Issues of self interest have become increasingly prevalent and for this cult the personal is very much the political. Western feminists often don’t care about women in say Saudi Arabia, who truly are second class citizens, nor do race activists have much empathy towards other marginalised ethnicities.

In contrast to today, the left could always pride themselves on looking outwards and assessing what needed to be done for the common good. There have invariably been groups with special interests such as; nuclear disarmament, anti-war and the environment. But these issues were not about the self and encouraged the individual to engage with the wider world. As students in particular, became increasingly identity conscience there was a shift from issue based movements to self-based movements. This is the central reason I don’t consider this group to be on the left. What’s urgently needed, is a common goal to bind people together, such as fighting for economic inequality, that is if we want to make a tangible difference in this world.

I would guess that there are many people from the ‘old left’  who shake their collective heads in dismay when they read about SJW stupidity on a regular basis. Much of the old left are socialists of one form or another. Predominantly concerned about the destruction caused by capitalism or more precisely neoliberalism, towards large swathes of the population. In recent times many on the left have also been deeply disturbed by climate change and how this will pan out for them and for future generations.

Unconvincingly, SJW’s repeatedly claim they’re socialists or communists without ever having a clue what these ideas truly mean. It would appear that the only requirement nowadays, is a T-shirt of Ché Guevara, thus providing you with a backstage pass to socialism. Incidentally, I place myself firmly on the left mainly because of my opposition towards massive economic inequality, which is statistically linked to; poor health outcomes, increased crime levels and an inability to access quality education for all. All of these issues have been thoroughly investigated and researched. But scarcely do you hear any SJW’s ever discussing these problems.

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Within the myopic worldview of an SJW, the world’s social ills are solely related to genitalia and skin colour. This is irrespective of education level, current employment status or social standing. If you belong to a so called minority group, you have the right to call yourself oppressed and therefore, are eligible to apply for citizenship to the Kingdom of Victimhood. Conversely, a white, middle age man, ex-armed forces, who’s sleeping on the street with possible PTSD can be labelled privileged by middle class, identarians. While the man’s only crime may be a lack of melanin and male genitalia.

My biggest worry is, to accomplish anything within our so called democracy, some form of consensus is required, something that glues the masses together. At this tipping point, ideally anger, frustration and vitriol would be aimed at the ruling elite, neoliberalism and people who rig the game in favour of themselves. Not too long ago the left was more united, disagreements from varying factions existed, but the overall idea was broadly agreed. Identity politics in contrast is divisionary, it doesn’t seek to bring people together, it creates a pecking order based on arbitrary parameters. It makes no attempt to charm people into the fold and it outwardly endeavours to alienate people, using a criteria we can do nothing about. This behaviour adds yet another layer of disharmony, therefore, making life ever easier for the powers that be, to maintain a firm hold on society.

Just in case you are missing my not so subtle point, SJW’s are not socialists or on the left. Of course the right leaning media will push the lefty SJW spin, as this is a good way to launch an attack on us. Individuals such as Jordan Peterson continue to ramble on about concepts such as ‘Cultural Marxism’ in a way to demonise all on the left. Granted Peterson can sound persuasive at times for the disaffected, but to link concepts from Marx to what the right describes as ‘Cultural Marxism’ is a stretch, bordering on a barefaced lie. Although, credit where credit’s due, it is another masterstroke linking identarians with the left through Marx.

So what is Cultural Marxism and does it exist? The story begins in the early 20th century, when the socialist revolution failed to materialise beyond the USSR. Marxist thinkers of the time primarily Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukacs endeavoured to make sense of this. They suggested that culture and religion undermined the commoners desire to revolt. It was thought that the solution would need to investigate; universities, schools, government bureaucracies and the media, so that cultural changes could be implemented from above. This particular baton, was then taken up by the Frankfurt School, who concluded that the way to dismantle capitalism was to blend a bit of Freud and some Marx together. The idea was that workers were now not economically oppressed, but were made compliant through sexual repression and other social conventions. It was surmised that that the problem wasn’t just capitalism, but family, gender hierarchies, religion and race.

There is glaring error with this synopsis. Marx did talk about oppressed and oppressors, but always from a class perspective. This slight of hand from the right, which suggests that descriptions of gender, race and sexuality is spoken in the context of Marxism is disingenuous at best. Identity politics does not have it’s roots in Marxism, but more accurately in postmodernism. In fact postmodern thinking, like it’s SJW adherents, almost completely neglects class. This intentional connection of the two lefts ‘economic’ and ‘identarian’, serves the right very well, despite being concocted from a fable.

Unfortunately for the economic left, ‘identarians’ are a strong influential group, which can be witnessed in numerous universities. They are also heavily supported by many influential politicians, such as Justin Trudeau. Just note the amount of laws that are now being implemented, that not only support, but favour the so called oppressed. For SJW’s the patriarchy, white supremacy, rape culture, transphobia and imperialism is the very air that they breathe. Far from being linked to Marxism, this is undoubtedly a postmodern creation; Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard being the primary actors. This ideology has spawned spin-offs such as; intersectional feminism, critical race theory and queer theory. Postmodernism has very little to do with economic inequality, apart from the occasional anti-capitalist sound bite. But the merging of the two philosophical factions with little in common, is a stroke of genius from the right.

Sometimes I wish SJW’s were coalesced into a single entity, in the form of a ‘baddy’ from the James Bond movie Goldfinger. In this situation all I would need to do, would be to push the ejector seat button under the gear stick flap of the Aston Martin DB5 and poof…….no more identarians to weigh the left down. Sadly this bunch are more akin to leeches, sucking the life out of a once coherent section of politics and equally the joy out of life. Doubtless, because the left is saddled with narcissistic, victim obsessive, self interested, fanatics, we will continue to be on the defensive, against the right. The left will also find it difficult to seize the moral high-ground from them. Not because they are bathed in moral superiority, but because the left’s weakest link, notably SJW’s are the ball and chain around the left’s leg. Both the conservative and libertarian right ideologies are riddled with flaws; morally, economically and socially. But the left metaphorically haven’t got a leg to stand on, if we don’t clean house soon.

The libertarian and conservative right are now laying claim to the mantle of “defenders of free speech”. In reality the only free speech they approve of is the stuff they agree with, which is no different to SJW’s. We can witness this at the very highest levels of government, such as, every time Donald Trump smears journalists, denying them access to the Whitehouse. Or when he prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from providing information on climate change. But then again, SJW’s disable any ascendency or potency of a coherent argument to challenge these indiscretions, every time they no platform disagreeable invitees. These actions are often conducted under the infantile suggestion that speakers can make students feels unsafe and threatened. Meanwhile, SJW’s often forcefully try to disrupt events held by groups with differing views (see the first video).

Shutting down opposing views is thoroughly counter-productive, I want hear my opponents and debate them, because conservative and libertarian arguments are often weak. In a world with an ever growing population, looming climate change, global poverty and economic inequality, we can no longer consume our way out of trouble. Nor can we use meaningless metrics like GDP as faux markers, denoting how far we’ve come economically, when it only relates to a minority of people. For our species to survive and hopefully flourish, we can not allow a tiny proportion of the world to dictate terms to the rest of us. Inevitably, for the left to succeed with this message, we need to get into the Aston Martin, flip the gear stick flap and press the red button.

The illiberal left, libertarians and neoliberals have one thing in common; self interest.

Recently, I’ve been reading and watching about identity politics. Possibly too much at times, in a desperate attempt to grasp the ideology of Social Justice Warriors. This produced several side effects, namely a plethora of highlight videos on YouTube from the right of the political spectrum, often right (US) libertarians. On viewing a multitude of films from both the left and right, I noticed a common denominator, that of self-interest. This self-regard is largely underpinned by a variety of drivers; money, freedom, liberty, power, diversity and societal control. What traits of political and moral selfishness you display, all depends on where you pitch your political tent. It’s easy to critique these video clips from our own echo chambers and muse, what’s wrong with liberty? Or, I can’t see how diversity is such a bad thing. On the surface this may appear true, but on digging deeper, I felt there was much to uncover.

As a libertarian socialist, the failings of the right are more intuitive and obvious to me, so this is where we’ll start. Neoliberalism is a particular aspect of the right that has appeared in the mainstream political consciousness since about 1979, due to the rise of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and later Reagan in the US.  Although globally, an experiment utilising these values occurred a few years earlier in Chile, following a coup in 1973, led by Augusto Pinochet. Renowned academic David Harvey, surmises that neoliberalism is a political project perpetuated by the corporate capitalist class, initially designed to stop the power of labour in the late 60’s early 70’s. For this group the motivation has consistently revolved around money, control and power. While for most of us the impacts have been negatively felt across the globe. We have all witnessed this, with the demise of our health service, our collapsing education systems, countless wars and the destruction of our ecosystem.

Neoliberalism’s omnipresence  is now ingrained into our society. We are told that competition is a natural human response, while freedom is found in the buying and selling of commodities. We are hypnotised into believing inequality is virtuous and is, therefore, a reward for working so hard. The rich persuade themselves and others that their wealth is acquired by merit, conveniently forgetting the advantages of education, societal networks and family wealth. Neoliberalism is undoubtedly a self serving racket; smashing unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation. But on the other side of the great divide, the majority of us have more insecure jobs, poorer public services, higher rents and we pay more, often for a diminished product. All the while a very small group of rich parasites have made vast sums of money at the expense of us all.

Neoliberalism could be fairly classified as systemic self interest, but it is nearer to a virus, as it invades and devours the human spirit. Money for the rich is maximised through a sympathetic system, encouraging maximum profits and preserved for example, via limited tax payments.  This cash is utilised to change policies to obtain further power in an effort to wrestle more control, to acquire ever more riches. Lobbyists paid by banking, fossil fuel companies or tobacco firms bombard politicians to vote for bills in their favour, while the minions get to vote every few years, that often has little to no effect. Routinely politicians are easily persuaded to side with the corporate world. All across the western world they generally enjoy the same education and societal advantages as the corporate community. It could also be argued that many share the same personality traits too, such as sociopathy. In a study published in 2014, it concluded that CEO’s possessed more sociopaths per population than any other job.

It is theorised that many leading politicians also share these sociopathic traits, which include; a lack of remorse and empathy, a sense of grandiosity, superficial charm, manipulative behaviour and a refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions, among others. Apart from the obvious ones such as; Hitler, Stalin, Trump, Nixon, LBJ and say Churchill, we could also make very strong cases for both Clinton’s, Tony Blair, Trudeau, Dick Cheney, Obama, Henry Kissinger, George W Bush and Thatcher as sociopaths without too many problems. It is, therefore, not surprising that a marriage between the political and corporate elite is often an easy fit, due to their end goals, namely power and prestige. The neoliberal motivation is blatant and obvious yet often goes unchallenged, as it is all encompassing. It is ideological in a sense, but the game is about power and control of the upper echelons of society. They, however, are not the only section of the right who believe in self interest, but for quite differing reasons, this next bunch are called libertarians.

Libertarianism is an ideology that is mainly peculiar to the United States, but not wholly. According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, here are the key concepts:

  1. Individualism
  2. Individual rights
  3. Spontaneous order
  4. Rule of Law
  5. Limited government
  6. Free Markets
  7. The virtue of production
  8. Natural harmony of interest
  9. Peace

The motto that can be seen regularly associated with Libertarians is ‘don’t tread on me’. This is known as ‘Gadsden’ flag and goes back to 1775. The flag was adopted by the Tea Party movement in 2009. Libertarians claim the meaning is pacifistic by nature, suggesting they won’t bite unless stepped on, meaning of course their rights. The institution that is generally thought of as invasive and the most likely to infringe on these rights is the government. In fact in the minds of many libertarians, government can only threaten freedom. This lines up with one of the main beliefs of libertarians, which is the idea that ‘small government’ works best. Conceivably this could mean practically any government entity, dependent on who you talk to, could be privatised and that a pay as you go system for services required would ensue. From a social perspective, libertarians and libertarian socialists often find some common ground, such as; the legalisation of drugs, prostitution and a purely defensive military unless attacked.

libertarian bs

Ideas between the factions rapidly diverge when discussing the libertarian view of economics and how this relates to people. This ideology believes that the dubiously named ‘free market’ is guided and at times corrected by the ‘invisible hand‘. This is based on an idea from Adam Smith, implying that if we leave the markets alone, the correct outcome will be achieved, as if by magic. If that isn’t weird enough libertarians apply this theory to humans, stating that if we are left alone to satisfy our own needs, society will ultimately fall in to place. This is number 3 on the previous list and is called ‘spontaneous order‘. The idea is almost childlike in its naiveté, if an individual is driven by self interest as promoted by this ideology, these actions may come into conflict with what is good for society. As much as this is vehemently denied by libertarians, what is proposed is no more than a ‘dog eat dog’ philosophy with a few loose ethics wrapped around it, to offer a veneer of respectability.

It doesn’t take too much of an imagination to realise that in a free market system, the disparity between rich and poor would grow dramatically. Further to this the power imbalance between the haves and have nots would widen ever more. With no substantial government to intervene, the poorer end of society would live short brutal lives. On the other side of the tracks the rich in contrast would have the power to make the rules up to suit themselves, even more so than now. The oft mentioned libertarian ‘pin up’ girl is Ayn Rand, who preached a ruthless individualistic narrative, implied that the importance of personal rights and profit grossly outweigh the collective good. These ideas do not account for any interaction we may have as human beings, or the fact that as a species we tend to co-operate with each other. A problem to consider is, if one person is meeting their personal needs, it may have a direct affect on somebody else’s liberties and freedom. This is just basic causality, as none of us live in silo’s, we all have to interact at some point. Rarely do you hear a libertarian addressing this conundrum. I’ve always considered the libertarian ideology as politics of an 8 year old. I still conclude that as an ideology it just doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny and appears to be at odds with human nature.

To highlight libertarians self-serving and anti evidence mentality I will use two examples; the first one will be their aversion to tax and secondly their attachment to guns. A regularly used mantra heard from libertarians is “tax is theft”. Firstly, there is a fundamental problem with this statement, if we have no taxes, then we have no government and even libertarians belief in some ruling body, albeit a skeletal version. However, it’s worth noting that no modern society has ever survived without a government and this ruling body of course would need funding. Primarily because government’s are required to provide goods and services, therefore, tax is necessary to pay for this. The libertarian problem with taxes is entirely ideological, they disapprove purely because taxes are not voluntary and that a certain amount of coercion is required from the government. Libertarians believe nothing should be forced, so using this logic the government is wrong to collect taxes. Libertarians advocate for a voluntary exchange, where people are free to make their own choices with their lives. This is impractical, naïve and utopic by nature. A pay as you go system for services is a ridiculous notion. The general idea of being ‘free’ to do what you want without any civic responsibilities, has all the hallmarks of a teenager who hasn’t discovered the word accountability. We’ll finish with libertarianism on the weird American notion of the ‘right to bear arms’.

The 2nd amendment is something libertarians doggedly cling to. They will challenge anyone, along with the National Rifle Association (NRA) who attempts to tighten gun regulations. Their reasoning proposes that people have a right to arm themselves to make themselves safer, but this just isn’t supported by evidence. The data suggests that people who carry firearms are more likely to be shot, furthermore, it increases the risks of death for those around them. Libertarians also posit that gun restrictions wouldn’t work, this is contrary to much of the evidence, a good example being Australia. Over two decades ago Australia banned rapid fire guns, this was implemented just months after the mass shooting in Port Arthur by Martin Bryant. Bryant killed 35 people and wounded another 23 in Tasmania with 2 semi-automatic weapons. The effect of Australia’s crackdown on guns has been nothing short of incredible. In 18 years leading to 1996, the nation witnessed 13 fatal mass shootings (4 or more killings at one time) with 104 fatalities. Since 1996, however, there has been one fatal mass shooting in Australia, which took place in May 2018. What’s also important to note is that within the first 7 years of this legislation, firearm homicide rates dropped by 42%, and firearm suicide rates by 57%. Maybe these types of measures could have prevented the shooting at Sandy Hook, where 27 children and adults were murdered in 2012. Or the massacre by Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C, where 9 people were killed in a church, June 2015. Even more recently, 59 people may not have been shot dead in Las Vegas in October 2017, with the tightening of regulations.

We are informed of these types of incidents in the news so often it almost seems commonplace, but this is something we should never get accustomed to. Here lies a good example concerning the problems with libertarianism, the very place where ideology clashes with reality. It would appear that libertarians are happy to forgo the lives of fellow citizens in order to keep the guns that they don’t really need. I would also strongly suggest that the victims of this type of crime have had their rights, freedom and civil liberties trampled upon much more so than libertarian gun advocates. These issues seem to be conveniently forgotten, as apparently the personal rights of a libertarian are more important than anything else despite the outcome, thus proving this ideology is not compatible with a functioning society. It’s also important to mention that the political right’s attachment to guns is not just a libertarian phenomenon. This strange love affair is also witnessed within the ranks of the authoritarian, religious right too.

Gun nuts
Former Republican Sen. Greg Brophy and his gun loving family.

With the right dealt with, next we’ll tackle the left, or more specifically Social Justice Warriors or more politely, adherents of identity politics. I generally like to call this group the illiberal left or identarians. Although, I would strongly suggest that they have no place on the left, as their self interest is the antithesis of what the left is all about. To recap, we’ve covered how the neoliberals are motivated by money and power, how the libertarians are driven by blind ideology, so the question is, what drives the SJW’s. I suggest that the SJW’s have more in common regarding outcomes as the neoliberals, which is power and control. While their motivation, is more ideologically driven similarly to libertarians. Identarians view the world based on a perceived power struggle between oppressed groups and systemic power. Often a supporter of identity politics will ensure they are a part of an oppressed group such as; women, people of colour, LGTB’s, disabled people and other marginalised groups. Many of these groups can be witnessed fighting among themselves regarding the legitimacy of their oppression, or even challenged individually if someone is perceived to have infringed upon the ever changing rules. Its believers claim they are a movement of diversity, but this status is only reserved for certain groups who pass the oppression test. Everybody else outside of the zone of marginalisation, is rendered mute and have no voice regardless of academic prowess or any expertise one may possess.

This ideology borrows heavily from postmodernism, valuing “lived experience” over empirical evidence. Therefore, the quality of information takes a back seat to the perception and feelings of the receiver, while all logic or reason is disregarded. Vast numbers of identarians are only oppressed by association and have not encountered any direct oppression. They will claim that oppression is systemic, so by purely belonging to a perceived ‘out group’ it allows them access to victimhood. Whether an individual has been on the receiving end of any kind of abuse is considered irrelevant and the enquirer is promptly accused of victim blaming. In fact the definition of oppression has become so broad and the bar set so low, that almost anybody could meet the criteria (unless of course you’re white and male). Identity politics possesses a myopic view of the world, one based on genitalia and skin pigmentation. Class rarely gets a mention as many identarians are economically privileged and middle class. It is through this distorted lens that Munroe Bergdorf, a trans-woman and part-time model stated, “a white homeless man can still be privileged”. You see it’s about equality, but only a certain type of equality, and it promotes diversity, but not alas diversity of thought.

Smash_Patriarchy_Detroit_Feminist_2014_Protest

SJW’s use the manipulation of language and the setting of moral boundaries in order to control society. Identarians do not possess the money and ability to influence the ruling elite through lobbying as neoliberals do. Therefore, they have to be creative in the way they exert their control. What they have constructed, is a victim narrative, whereby the ‘minorities’ are the victims and the ‘majority’ are the oppressors. This is used to attract help from the authorities and to obtain greater influence in the public sphere. The outcomes of this can be seen by the rise of ‘safe spaces’ on university campuses, or by making ‘wolf whistling‘ a criminal offence in Nottinghamshire, for example. Identarians are exceptionally puritanical, regulating who is and isn’t allowed to speak on campus, often no-platforming anyone who may be considered ‘problematic’. Opinions are blurted out freely from these groups and conflated with facts in this cesspool of ‘ideas’, while unwelcome, incoming words, are considered violence. All this is a desperate attempt to control the narrative and the terms of acceptable dialogue.

Often labels such as; racist, misogynist, fascist and transphobic are yelled to silence dissenters at the first sign of any challenging speech. We are regaled with stories about the gender wage gap, patriarchy, toxic masculinity and white privilege to maintain the story of oppression. This is not about changing the world for the betterment of society, this is pseudo-politics of the narcissist, designed to benefit and empower the individual. Identity politics is not just confined to academia either, pro-Israel lobbies regularly use anti-Semitism as a weapon to stifle debate or indeed discredit anybody who may be deemed ‘problematic’. The term has been manipulated over the years and is now so malleable that it can be deployed on anybody, regardless of the individual’s moral and academic integrity. So my summary of identarians is this; they are a collection of self-obsessed, self-involved, narcissists, who for them the personal really is the political and nothing else matters. Their goal is to attain social control and re-build society in their image.

All three of these ideologies are bathed in self interest, but for contrasting reasons. Neoliberals manipulate society from the top down, appealing to politician’s self interest via lobbyists. The idea is to control what the government does or does not interfere with for the benefit of their corporations and bank balance, the Koch brothers are a prime example (although they possess libertarian traits). Any collateral damage to people or the environment is inconsequential as long as their best interests are served. Libertarians on the other hand, are driven predominantly by ideology, such as, stating the markets should be allowed to regulate themselves and government should play a minor role in our affairs. There is, however, a conflict between how libertarian’s see the market and the real world, plus there is no evidence to support their view. Libertarian ‘theory’ also infers that corporation’s have no more power than the individual, for example banker to customer. Given the 2008 crash this notion becomes increasingly difficult to believe. Another suggestion is, we are ‘free to choose’, but what we choose is largely dependent upon what resources we were born with or have at our disposal. If corporations were allowed unbridled freedom, the planet and inhabitants would be destroyed by the people with the most power. It’s also telling that there is no country on the planet that is run in a libertarian fashion.

Finally, the illiberal left or SJW’s, this group cannot achieve top down control, therefore, the goal is to control what is acceptable in society. The objective is to strangle and hijack society through the regulation of speech, how we behave or even what we think. This is imposed through a particular worldview, where individuals are coerced into fighting structural enemies such as the mystical patriarchy. Whilst all human interaction is only acceptable through this narrow viewpoint. One such example of control, is terming the previously mentioned ‘wolf whistling‘ as a hate crime. This suggests that 3rd wave feminists instinctively know what is good for women and that they are somehow unable to defend themselves. Clearly some men need to grow up regarding their behaviour, but it is arrogant for SJW’s to suggest that they speak for all women. Identity politics is a set of puritanical beliefs enforced upon society purely for the good of their group.

As suggested earlier people are motivated in a variety ways and self-interest is a common factor observed right across the political spectrum. It is noticeable that the neoliberals control government, industry, the military and the global arena. This could be considered the most important type of power and in many ways it is. But there is another system to control and that is one of society. Here, identarians using postmodernism as their guide, are now starting to control and re-configure societal norms. Our behaviour, language, feelings and thoughts are now being scrutinised and punished through a specific ideological prism, often outside of the law. It’s a society where rules will not governed by logic, reason or science, but emotion, ‘lived experience‘ and subjectivity. The neoliberal ruling elite are relatively happy for radical societal change to occur as this keeps the proletariat divided, confused and aggressive towards each other. While any societal change from the illiberal left will have little or no affect on them. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are being affected or more precisely infected by this twisted world view. Identarians are desperate to dismantle society, while constructing a dystopian, puritanical, 1984 type thought prison in its place. This all started in academic institutions, but without doubt it’s coming to a home or workplace near you. Soon!!!

From Brexit to feminism: Why are complex issues distilled to a binary decision?

Everyday we are posed with challenging dilemmas such as; do you agree with trident, as a man are you a feminist, do you support Brexit, amongst many others. Admittedly some decisions are easier to make than others, but often we are given two choices to a multi-faceted issue. Quite regularly there is a consensus of opinion that drives debate. The problem that arises is if you are not fully on board with the sway of public opinion, then you are cast to the margins, as there appears no room for nuanced debate anymore. Many of these opinions are formed by strong social justice bodies, government departments and corporate lobbyist.

The major issues are not the topics per se, but the fact that the answers are required in absolute terms (yes/no), when morality rarely works in such a way. As individuals our complex thoughts and feelings, which have been developed over time from our genetics, environment, education, personal experiences, family background and so forth are clumsily distilled into a binary decision. More often than not this an over simplification, it generally doesn’t work to the benefit of society and is deeply dissatisfying.

As a lefty there will be aspects of a socialists worldview that resonate with me more than others. In my opinion, to critically think your way through each issue as it arises is healthy, as opposed to taking the entire medicine given with no questions asked. Sadly, in a world that has become increasingly polarised, nuance has been replaced by blind belief. That’s not to say I’m a centrist, nothing of the sort, but within my left (more than) leaning ideas there are an array of complex and sometimes contradictory thoughts, that with compelling evidence may be subject to change. If we stop asking questions regarding our own ideas, then who are we to challenge people with differing views. We could quite easily find ourselves on the road to following a religious type system rather than something that is anchored in research and moral rigour. If after an internal inquiry, our political ideas are incongruent with our core moral beliefs then I suggest we are in trouble.

So lets look at an extremely emotive and controversial topic for a variety of reasons and that is feminism. There are some subjects that I think I possibly shouldn’t write about on this blog, however, I am equally happy to be provoked and to provoke. Firstly I will begin by suggesting feminism is used by politicians as a political football, in as much as they support the rights of women as they are the people who support them. For example lets take Hillary Clinton…………as far away as humanly possible hopefully. In all seriousness, Hillary has used feminism and feminists to the nth degree. She has been more than happy for her wealthy backers and showbiz celebrities to project her as this beacon of feminism, all the while supporting military campaigns in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria.

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Incidentally, these are countries where many women and children have been murdered and obliterated by years of bombing by the US. Which begs the question; how down with the sisters is she really? Another disturbingly memorable moment occurred in New York during her failed Presidential bid, when fellow war-hawk and ex Secretary of State Madeleine Albright threatened a rally crowd yelling “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”. Which is interesting as I don’t remember her helping out Serbian women whilst they were being bombed back to another millennia. I guess like I alluded to earlier, life isn’t straight forward. Maybe you can be a feminist whilst condoning mass murder of thousand of civilians in Kosovo, many of whom were women. Although that distinctly sounds like Orwellian doublethink to me.

Quite possibly the question some might want answering is; am I a feminist? I would have to answer with a wry smile on my face and declare that it’s not that simple. However, do I believe women and men should get paid equally for the same job requiring the same experience and skills, without question. To complicate matters, do I believe there is systemic wage gap as suggested by Obama, Trudeau and any other relatively liberal leaders? Well yes and no, evidence suggest it exists but not at 79 cents a dollar as Obama hinted, it’s more like 1.6%. The reason being most studies crudely take the mean pay of women and divide it by the mean pay of men. This crude arithmetic does little to explore a true gender pay gap. For example if a male police sergeant with 15 years experience gets paid more than his female colleague of equal experience, that is obviously an issue and needs to be corrected.  Most of the studies unfortunately do not compare ‘apples with apples’ and instead fall back on the use of means or medians for their methodology.

At this point in people’s minds, I may be considered by some who are reading this as a misogynist for not buying into the gender wage gap theory, but as I did concede earlier life can be particularly challenging. Obviously I wouldn’t suggest such a controversial opinion without a chance for you to read the data. The study I refer to has been described by some in NZ as American in an attempt to delegitimise it, however, the study utilised data from 33 different countries. To add a further layer of complexity to this debate in an attempt to dispel binary thinking, it is without doubt that there is a problem with gender and employment in as much as there is a dearth of women at the top end of the employment chain. Men dominate in high paid roles and boardroom position, which is why the crude version of the ‘gender pay gap’ looks more like a chasm.

The term gender pay gap is actually a misnomer, the main problem is getting women into the upper echelons of the employment chain, for those who wish to do so. It’s the politicians who like to peddle catchy slpay gap crapogans such as ’79 cents on the dollar’ for women to rally around and often get angry at men who question it. When in reality there is a difficulty getting to the top, where you will find the very politicians and corporate leaders trumpeting ‘the gender pay gap’. The good news is there is an excellent reason for companies to increase the amount of women employed at the top end, that is, corporations and organisations alike gain substantially. Greater gender diversity is associated with an innovative work culture and from a bottom line perspective, woman in the boardroom is linked to a 15% profit increase. Reading further down the previously mentioned article it also suggests how to recruit, develop, promote, reward and retain women in the workplace. I hope I’ve started to demonstrate that life is much more than ‘either or’. We don’t have to accept the entire stack of an ideology if we don’t agree with what is being presented, we can pick and choose, particularly if there is compelling evidence on the contrary.

Unfortunately it would appear that in the 21st century if you are not in the club 100% then without question you are banished from the village and cast as one of life’s Dr Evil’s. This ensures that no dissenting voice or indeed debate is heard in the confines of the tribe. This cultivates a cosy echo chamber of which can be found within all political parties, social justice groups, religious groups and race orientated organisations. Sadly the echo chamber insulates you from uncomfortable opinions, opposing theories, straight forward general enquiry and even truth. Within this bubble the belief system strengthens and positions harden, as they are rarely allowed to be challenged from the out group. One such environment that is a regular feature in liberal colleges and used by the likes of feminists are ‘safe spaces’.

Contrary to being a helpful environment, it’s suggested that these safe spaces shut women away from public life and back to the metaphorical kitchen. Suggesting women are incapable of looking after themselves or their emotions, which is frankly ludicrous. This whole problem of an ideological retreat is disturbing, in so far as; how do we know what we are opposing if we are not prepared to listen to any challenging points of view. On many occasions we have already decided what our opponents are espousing before we’ve really heard them. To listen doesn’t mean you have to agree, at times it can strengthen your current position in a healthy way, by analysing your views through discussion. In fact recently it appears if we don’t hear what we expect, quite often we create a ‘strawman’ to justify our attack, this style of engagement is a regular occurrence on social media.

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It would seem as there is no direct physical threat on social media, we therefore, feel less need to negotiate with our foes, thus we often adopt polarised views. There is nothing more evident than Brexit, where our opposing views are entrenched, our detractors are vilified and finally dehumanised with nicknames such as ‘remoaner’. Personally, I haven’t got a side, because it is my view that this was a neoliberal construct to further unpick the last remaining stitches of society. However, each side proclaims that the rival faction is stupid, uneducated and easily led by the media, without them even listening to one another.

To many liberals ‘brexiteers’ are often described as racist, although I suspect it’s highly unlikely that nearly half the voting nation is racist or/and xenophobic. Unfortunately we now inhabit a world of black and white thinking rather than shades of grey, whereby every person who voted to leave will be lumped together along with UKIP and Britain First supporters in a nice neat parcel with a purple bow on it. This is regardless of any individual underlying reasons that may have contributed to their decision-making processes and this of course works on both sides of the Brexit divide. The pro-Brexit clan are as equally dismissive as the pro-Europe contingent and this behaviour pushes the two parties back into their respective corners.

So, do we have to agree with every view we encounter? Of course not, we are not obligated to shift from our initial ideas one inch. Equally we don’t have to subscribe to the full catalogue of ideas that make up, feminism, the Labour Party, socialism, libertarianism, religion, immigration, Brexit or any other stance or ideology. It doesn’t have to be a meal deal, we can look at the information presented and choose what we want to consume. Maybe watch Fox News, for Kiwis read Mike Hosking in the Herald or for Brits browse the Daily Mail at some point and rather than dismissing it, look at it with a critical eye.

Critique what you are witnessing in the moment, not what your pre-conceived ideas are telling you. You may draw the same conclusions, but at least you will have done this consciously rather than using a ready made mental script. If I look for example at ideas such as the theory of the ‘patriarchy’, I think this view is littered with flaws and is essentially highly simplistic, as it ignores any individual agency. So when I dig down and weigh the information regarding the ‘patriarchy’ I often side with the right leaning media. This for me as a lefty who reads Bakunin and the likes is incredibly annoying and perplexing. All of which confirms that indeed life is complicated, nuanced and eternally confusing. More importantly we are wonderfully unique, we are politically made of complex shapes that don’t fit in to neat little boxes and that’s a good thing.