Hipster capitalism and metapolitical (hipster) fascism

Abigail, an evil wind is blowing through the land
and they need every man to drive it away

As Rorschach-like interpretations of the hipster phenomenon continue to pile up, one interesting feature is that certain segment of the left is very uncomfortable with what Will Self called this week a global “seisdick shift.” The classic example is this Adbusters essay from 2008, which in a momentary lapse of concern for Western civilization, proclaimed hipsters the dead end of it, for having turned all our once-subversive countercultures into saleable parts of an ever-changing consumer identity:

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society. …

With nothing to defend, uphold or even embrace, the idea of “hipsterdom” is left wide open for attack. And yet, it is this ironic lack of authenticity that has allowed hipsterdom to grow into a global phenomenon that is set to consume the very core of Western counterculture. Most critics make a point of attacking the hipster’s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, sub-cultures and lifestyles. …

An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.

Just to be clear, you’re reading about the suicide of the West in the publication popularly credited with starting Occupy. Hopefully the author was taken out back and shot for his counter-revolutionary thinking.

Because many of Adbusters’ readers are hipsters, they did run a “acknowledgment of potentiality” by Ilie Mitaru to qualify it a little later. The poor sap wants to believe in hipsters’ “revolutionary potential” sooo badly you feel bad for him:

Haddow approaches hipsters as a potential revolutionary group, and when they fail to uphold characteristics of previous groups – cohesive ideology, symbolism and behavior – the lack of historic parallels leads him to conclude that the hipster holds no revolutionary potential. If hipsters are to evolve into anything meaningful, however, they will adhere to no historical pattern and must be given the benefit of the doubt, the opportunity of the unknown. …

Formed by the empty promises of our predecessors, history has dealt hipsters more defeats than triumphs, more distractions than direction, and abandoned them to the hollow embrace of commodity fetishism.

But they are collectively filtering through the facade. Evidence of this can be found in the adoption of bike culture, urban gardening and art/music-based activism and even in rallying for Obama. Many are also acting on their distaste for corporatism by starting businesses and nonprofits, engaging in progressive work both locally and internationally. …

Still new in respects to movements, the hipster is groping in the dark for authenticity. He does not claim to be an activist when he rides his bike, buys used clothes or works as a freelance designer, though he may have labeled himself as such a few decades ago. His path may not have been inspired by revolutionary ideas as much as a search for personal meaning. But ultimately, motivations matters little if the roads lead to the same place.

Au contraire, mon frere! Nothing could be further from the truth! Whether he’s simply not been presented with the argument that waving signs for Obama has revolutionary potential, or rejected it as daft or irrelevant or passe, is of great importance indeed. If it’s the first case, we need only sell more Adbusters subscriptions.


Secession lagniappe


Hope you’re not getting tired of these, but there’s a lot to keep up with. In the wake of Scotland’s vote for dependence this week, let’s revisit the Portland Declaration on subsidiarity. I’m a sucker for a good manifesto, but you ought to read the whole thing:

The State is always in danger of morbidly multiplying its cells, of assuming functions which properly belong to the person, the family, or to Society. (Society also can occasionally encroach on personal rights.) Whatever a person can do, he or she should do; the next step would be to turn to the family and then to the community. Only finally should the State be asked for aid — and the central power of the State asked only as the very last resort. This is called the “principle of subsidiarity.”

Therefore, it should also be understood that the ideal State is a federated State composed of political units with far-reaching autonomy (“states” in the American sense, Lander in German, regions or provinces in French). Regions, as well as persons, have a unique value; regions are often a more organic unit with a sharper profile than the Big State.

The gigantic, centralizing Provider State, wrongly called the Welfare State, takes over all functions of life with its inherent drive toward an increasing and swollen bureaucracy, and turns (in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville) “men into timid animals” bereft of all initiative, thus weakening the fiber of every nation to a deadly degree. A great catastrophe — history has them always in store for us — then leaves the people unable to rise again.

Here’s the Jacobite’s take:

I find it interesting that Glasgow and its surroundings, the area where Catholics of Irish descent predominate, was the region where the ‘Yes’ vote was strongest. What we see on the map this morning is almost a modern-day equivalent of the divide that existed in the eighteenth century between the Catholic Highlanders (supporters of the Stewarts) and the Presbyterian Lowlanders (supporters of the Union).

Failure and defeat in Jacobite history are so frequent as to have become a defining feature of Jacobite identity. We strive and then get heavily defeated – that’s just the way it happens, and we might as well accept it. That does not make the original striving any less worthwhile, because we stand on principle, not for any advantage.

It’s pretty obvious clickbait, but I’ve nevertheless been surprised by the sheer number ofthese-secessionists-are-also-watching-Scotland‘ stories. The big difference between Scotland and most others, as David Boaz points out in a piece for TheDC after the referendum, central governments elsewhere rarely grant them. And if it’s magnanimous enough to do so, as in Scotland, the case for seceding in the first place is not as strong. Madrid, for example, seems to be trying the opposite approach, declaring Catalonia’s referendum illegal and said it would “take any measure possible” to keep it from happening. Or in Malaysia, where people are being threatened and jailed for expressing pro-secession viewpoints on social media. The EU is still nervous despite the outcome, though David Frum won, so the world lost.

And Huffpo was running this above the fold on Friday:

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 11.11.04 AM


Intellectual bullying and the postmodern discourse of GamerGate

The discrediting of voices in intellectual discourse is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, when a person holds a position that is indefensible and plain wrong, they should either accept that they are wrong or have their soapbox revoked. Most of the time it isn’t this clear. Different opinions are held by disagreeing parties, and silencing dissenting voices requires tactics that are a little more underhanded. The tactic of dishonestly re-framing a viewpoint into something outrageous in an attempt to discredit those who hold the viewpoint is known as intellectual bullying.

Black_box bulling

This is a powerful tool. With enough voices dishonestly insisting that someone holds all those beliefs that everybody hates, the person in question will either be shamed into silence or suffer from character assassination. The black box takes an honest input and produces a dishonest output. But what goes on inside the black box? I am going to try to explain that, both in general and specifically for the GamerGate controversy.

A lot of of the tactics of the anti-GamerGate intellectual bullying campaign were famously codified in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.  The ideological guerrilla warfare tactics encouraged in that book and others like it include character assassination, isolation, and ridicule. Ad hominem attacks are implicitly encouraged, because people are easier to hate than abstract ideas. Strawman arguments are particularly effective. Strawmanning is more effective than addressing actual arguments, so one should ignore the points of those who disagree with you and respond to something else.

I initially scoffed at the prospect of Cultural Marxism being real, because in common parlance among conservative pundits, it’s used as a stronger pejorative in place of “political correctness.” Despite what the noise around the provocative term might sound like, Cultural Marxism is not Alex Jones-style paranoia. From the beginning, Marxism rejected positivism – positivism meaning the belief that mathematical logic and scientific experimentation are the sole authoritative sources of knowledge. This should be interesting for the reader who has heard of Marxism being scientific socialism. To Marx and Engels, scientific was merely a nice sounding word that meant that their socialism had a philosophical methodology behind it. This is true: Marxism does have a methodology, it’s just a non-rationalistic methodology.


Thoughts on the NFL abuse scandal

The NFL is being forced to backtrack and install harsher penalties following the outrage of the video of Ray Rice knocking out his wife being released and Adrian Peterson being indicted for child abuse. While the attention has focused on both instances of abuse as well as the response of the NFL, I would like to consider the broader cultural implications of the story.

First, I think the outrage is driven by a certain cultural elitism. When Roman Polanski was arrested for raping a 13 year old child in Switzerland in 2009 after spending 30 years hiding from justice the public outrage was muted. In fact, numerous well known movie and television personalities expressed their support for him.  Despite this, there was no conversation about the moral failure of Hollywood. The NFL is being excoriated in the media, not for defending Rice and Peterson, but for not punishing them harshly enough. Part of the reason for this different treatment is that sports fans and players are seen as unsophisticated. They need to be told how to act while famous movie directors are the kind of people the media enjoys talking to at cocktail parties.

The second point is the blurring of the line between private and public. The NFL, not the police, is expected to punish Ray Rice for assaulting his wife. Or, if the law treats domestic violence too lightly. Then the focus should be on changing the law, not the NFL. That people, especially the liberal elite, are expecting a private actor to punish what is a public crime, especially because the public punishment failed, is somewhat ironic. Especially so because it contributes to the conflation of public and private, a distinction I imagine they would assert they want to keep.

Lastly, from the target of the outrage and the response we can infer several things. First, private monopolies are extremely sensitive to public pressure, though the NFL is especially so because it is in the entertainment business. The NFL changed their domestic abuse policy after the outrage and pressured Adrian Peterson into not playing.  Second, public monopolies such as the police force are not responsive to public pressure. There has been no additional attempt to prosecute Ray Rice in spite of the outrage, though that is probably a good thing as we do not want justice to be swayed by public opinion. Third, those arguing for additional sanctions on Peterson and Rice implicitly understand the marginal benefits of targeting their outrage at the NFL over the justice system.

Christian group that hosted Ted Cruz calling for an apology from the Weekly Standard

My latest at TheDC:

The group that hosted one of the largest ecumenical Christian gatherings to address religious persecution in years last Wednesday night, which was crashed in dramatic fashion by junior Senator from Texas Ted Cruz, is calling for an apology from The Weekly Standard for remarks made by senior editor Lee Smith on Twitter regarding the incident. Smith accused the crowd of showing its “ISIS face” when some in the crowd which included many Arab Christians booed the Senator for goading them with successively more politically-charged lines about Israel.

“There were people in that very room whose loved ones were killed by ISIS terrorists. Smith’s hate and bigotry should not be tolerated by The Weekly Standard,” IDC Senior Advisor Joseph Cella said in a statement to The Daily Caller.

The rest of his nasty comments at the link.

I emailed Bill Kristol for comment; haven’t heard back and don’t expect to. Condemning anti-Christian bigotry is not high on the Weekly Standard’s list of priorities.