This is part of my effective populism series. Read the introduction here.
So I saw the tweet related to the LA Times opinion piece about the “Trumpites Next Door” who had the audacity to plow this woman’s driveway without asking and somehow the article is worse than I imagined. We’ve got comparisons to Nazi collaborators, Hezbollah, and the Nation of Islam. Ho boy.
I’ve discussed previously about friend/enemy politics and derangement, and wish to return to that topic amongst the 3 topics I feel the article relates to:
The Derangement that results from Friend/Enemy politics
The Manufactured Spectre of Fascism in the face of the banality of Trump
The Reverence for the symbolism of the Capitol
And then I want to briefly summarize what this means for Effective Populism.
Following my discussion about the relationship between individuals values and ideology, I discussed the force of Friend/Enemy politics that appears to have been brought out and crystallized in the Trump Era to a greater degree than any time since the end of the Cold War:
The problem here is simple: people select a person or label, assign it a moral value, and make that one of their higher goods. Rather than allowing my moral values to decide who my friends and enemies are, I have allowed my friends and enemies to determine what my principles are, what I support and oppose. This is derangement.
Derangement is basing your view of good/evil based on what someone does.
Trump derangement syndrome, TV-addicted boomers screeching about communism, etc. All of these are manifestations of this same process of Derangement:
A group of people are designated ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and this is the fundamental judgment of this group. It does not matter what they do. They ARE good or evil. “Facts” or “kindness” are irrelevant. These people are Good or Bad.
I have discussed how Charles Taylor effectively argues that our highest goods/values are how we judge all of our other values. We judge all the other ‘goods’ that guide our lives by the standard of this highest good. This is obviously more nuanced, and I differ from Taylor in some aspects, but I believe it is important to understand this: Derangement means that the assignment of Group A is ‘good’ and Group B is ‘bad’ is the individual’s highest good. Everything else is secondary.
In an irony lost on the deranged, they are far closer to the Nazi collaborators they cry about (example: replace Petain/the Nazis in this LA Times piece with Biden/the Dems and the “we were happy because they were very polite” seems to fit just as well).
The Off-Loading of Moral Responsibility
We see this towards the end of the article:
I also can’t give my neighbors absolution; it’s not mine to give.
It is important to understand that when progressives say they want to “center” the experiences of some group of people or something along those lines, they mean that they are placing that person/group as a ‘good’ in their moral map.
They go from “This group of people is ‘good’” to “The opinions of this group of people must be ‘good’ and therefore should guide me”. What we have is a total abdication of moral responsibility. No longer do I determine if someone is good/bad based on the degree to which they adhere with my moral principles; instead, I just take the judgments of some other person as my own. (Important to note that this is not just a flaw of progressives, but of many people across the spectrum - derangement regarding Trump happened on all sides)
I should not have to explain how dangerous this (borderline) personality cult behavior is, but I will leave you with this:
No human being is perfect. All of us are fallible. And not a single one of us always lives up to the principles we hold/aspire to. The best we can do is remain faithful to those principles instead of adopting a fallible human as our guiding north star.
There is a Spectre Haunting Liberals: The Spectre of Fascism!
The reality is that, policy-wise, Trump was no significant departure from the positions of his predecessors. Sure, he shook Kim Jong-Un’s hand and began a trade war with China, but this was after Obama’s attempted Russia reset and Iranian nuclear deal and his Pivot to China.
And what, Trump was uniquely bad? Really? You’re joking right? Considering this was basically Reagan’s 10th term, let’s look at the last 9 terms:
Iran-Contra? The First Gulf War? The pillaging of post-soviet Russia and standing by during genocide? The forever wars in the Middle East? The unprecedented spying on Americans (including spying on the Associated Press)?
Anyone who thinks Trump was uniquely bad is either a liar, delusional, or an idiot.
Yes, Trump continued the horrible war in Yemen. Yes, Trump continued the adult-child separation at the border that is of dubious effectiveness (it isn’t family separation given how many unrelated kids are used by adults for leniency at border). Yes, Trump refused to pardon Assange, Snowden, and Ulbricht.
All of these are inexcusable. Trump was a weak president.
BUT, what truly drives these people insane is that Trump undermined the legitimacy of the System. Because, at their core, these people are the hall monitors dreaming of the day when they’re principal of the school.
You question the current power structure, the nature of democracy or the purpose of the Media and Big Tech and the response is “wHaT, aRe YoU sOmE KiNd oF FaSCisT?"
This is why I abandoned the Left. They are a bunch of histrionic bootlickers.
These people claim to be revolutionaries and post guillotine memes and talk about “eating the rich” and then have panic attacks the moment some people enter a hall of power (more on this in a second). These people are not radicals. They are pathetic losers.
One of the more interesting takes on the frood narrative was that the narrative actually bolstered the legitimacy of the system. Put simply, the narrative of frood implied that beneath the “fortifying” of the election, there was a pure system of democracy that was Good.
This is, of course, nonsense (as I have discussed repeatedly). But, it points to a potential way to understand the “sublimation” of “rebellion” into the System: that even if the current regime is a perversion/degeneration of the proper system, it is still connected to that proper system, and so overthrowing it would mean overthrowing the underlying ‘good’ and that is bad!
And so each side conjures up a phantom: fascism for the Left and communism for the Right.
Acknowledging that we live under neoliberal capitalism would demand conservatives realize their value of tradition is undermined by the economic system they support and would demand progressives to realize their value of autonomy is in support of an economic system they oppose. Hence why both prefer self delusion.
So, returning to the article:
At the time, I seethed; the Capitol had just been desecrated.
Of course, I do not believe that the author is an anarchist, but it is interesting to see so many on the Left who have repeatedly criticized the government (for its corporate handouts, facilitating the plunder of our wealth by the elite, engaging in imperialist aggression and war crimes abroad, violating the rights of its own citizens, etc.) become pearl-clutchers when a symbol is threatened.
Because, the Capitol (to them) is not necessarily tied to the current regime; it is tied to their idea of America. Of a shining city on a hill where all can come from around the world, find a home, and get the same opportunity to make it for themselves.
However delusional this dream may be, it explains why the System persists: because any genuine threat to the System is necessarily a genuine threat to some underlying ‘good’ each side wants to maintain.
And understand this: the current regime is seen as contingent, accidental, malleable. It can be changed. But the underlying system is seen as far more solid (and therefore fragile). It is easy to shape putty but far harder to put a brick back together after you break it. And so, anything that threatens the brick must be opposed. And if the putty is capable of surviving so long as the brick survives…well………
What This Means for Effective Populism
In the introduction to this series I said that one of the core tenets of Effective Populism must be to privilege material wellbeing over any ideology. I reiterated that in my post about how the barometer of good rulers is whether or not they meaningfully improve your material well-being, not whether or not they look like you or you want to get a beer with them.
In more concrete terms, this means slaughtering the sacred cows of Diversity and Democracy, rejecting Derangement in all of its stripes, accepting moral responsibility for ourselves guided by principles, and placing genuine well-being at the center of our politics. This will further mean the defeat of Liberalism and the demonstration that “autonomy”/”freedom” is a nonsensical incoherent delusion. This was a major project of mine before and I will be returning to it.
As I have said before, it is time we explode the boundaries of possibility space. Reject our modern society’s highest goods and build a new moral map and order.
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I look forward to conversing with you in the comments.
Hope you all have a good start to the week!