Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Flimsiness Of Unrelenting Political Catastrophism


Internet induced political faddishness seems to have reached an all-time high, especially if measured by factionalist self-unawareness. I will ashamedly confess to having consumed far more of this sugary topicality compared to what my ideal disciplined self would have tolerated in a fraction of the timespan. And certainly far more than my silence on the boring and predictable American Presidential Election cycle might've led regular readers to believe.

I keep tuning in on a weekly basis, from the same familiarly detached distance the average reader of this blog probably does. The insipidness? Everything from "Terrorism is a serious threat to our way of life" (roughly 2001-2006) morphing into "Counterterrorism is a front for gov't expansion & liberty encroachment, read Orwell" (roughly 2006-2014) then imperceptibly back to "Terrorism is a serious threat to our way of life, but doubly-seriously this time!" (2014-2016).

For nearly a decade, it was next-to-impossible to come across a respectable poll or to spot a positively received YouTube video mounting an irrepressible case for counterterrorism, with terrorism treated as The Biggest Issue Of Our Time. Perhaps this speaks more to my preoccupation with cyberspace opinions and inevitable failure to pay adequate attention to meatspace opinions. So be it. It's doubtful I'm missing all that much, seeing as prodigious geopolitical discussions mostly occur online anyway.

The online-specific clamouring for non-interventionism –– even isolationism, at fever pitch moments –– was influenced partly by a growing fiscal distaste for the project of Middle Eastern nation-building. Still, I believe the piteous failure of this task played a comparatively minor role in molding public distrust of militaristic adventurism during the mid-to-late 2000s and early 2010s. The major component was the perceived governmental lies regarding civilizational threats posed by terrorism itself, distinct from the arguable necessity of nation-formation. Just think back to all those chuckles the online world enjoyed when exposed to any "They'll follow us home!" mode of fearmongering at the hands of neocons. But seemingly overnight, and for the second time already this century, this mindset pulled an about face.

Well of course it did. What else could it do? Oh and look here, the attitudinal shift tracks the highly-publicized emergence of ISIS. Shocker. But consider how Global Jihad is only a slightly higher harm-generator today compared to its effects throughout the 2000s, if we go by global metrics. That is to say; if one understands that a faultless and civil non-westerner being akbar'd in the name of Islamism is as bad as a faultless and civil westerner being akbar'd for identical reasons.

Mainstream America is growing fonder of "All Lives Matter" sloganeering. Contrary to progressivist mind-reading, this is a good thing. It's good regardless of what it happens to be a reaction to. If you think it's a reactionary slogan, the downside is mutually-cancelling considering the reactionary underpinnings of the original BLM slogan. If I am to nitpick it, I'll point out that it actually aims for "All Human Lives Matter" and excludes non-human animals. If any lives are viewed as justifiably ripe for exploitation, it's non-human animal lives. But let's just set that aside for now. Thanks to ALM, or A(H)LM, hardly anyone is going to come right out and say "Westerners Are More Important Than Non-Westerners" and this ties back to the 2000s vs. 2010s Global Jihad civilian casualties and the absence of drastic inclines in said casualties.

So why the arbitrarily recent panic? Why is it fine and dandy to make Orwell spin in his grave now in the name of safety-before-privacy overreach, counterterrorism and collateral damage... compared to back in 2009 or something? The per capita victim count in stable and relatively stable regions hasn't surged anywhere near the quantity required to match the present levels of panic. Despite omnipresent scandalous-news outlets and Europe's pseudo-apocalyptic "burning" status, we are still living in one of if not the most safest period(s) in human history. Cognitive scientists like Pinker, who have been made reputable by stressing such statistical slam-dunks, aren't telling catastrophists to "go back to sleep". They're recommending the occasional nap, since sleep-deprivation is known to elicit clumsy thinking.

Sure, my picking on Mainstream America for its 180 shifts on real vs. faux epidemics makes me the sort of person who goes after below-the-ground-hanging fruit. Frankly, I don't care. For once, effortlessness is mine to indulge.

To be clear, I hold nothing against the highly opinionated who change their minds, so long as they fess up to having done just that, instead of downplaying previous convictions. Hell, I probably fall somewhere within that highly-opinionated camp more than I'd like to admit, but then I was the first to admit publicly that my last major geopolitical prescription turned out to be a colossal mistake. Any other response would qualify for Sunk Cost Fallacy apologetics to save face. In that sense, I commend the few who go the next step and review past errors with a fine tooth comb. The intent being to broadcast self-reviews and pinpoint abandoned former positions, as doing so in public makes for a sound cautionary tale.

Just how often does this happen though? It should be frequent, seeing as shifts in general attitudes are anything but infrequent. But if you're masochistic like me and waste time doing longitudinal analyses of internet sensations like Stefan Molyneux and his YouTube channel or Freedomain Radio archives, you'll find a consummate example of a massively popular content creator who marches to the beat of vogue while most of his commenters intentionally overlook (or daftly fail to pick up on) glaring contradictions. An anti-statist, NAP moral absolutist who is yet to recant any of that strictness, but who casually engages in mainstream political cheerleading so non-stop partisan hack-like it would make Rep/Dem strategists blush. Again, this is admittedly below-crust-hanging fruit I'm going after, but the point needs to be made. Sometimes the easiest target is also the most consequentially suitable one.

More broadly, one can't help but notice large swaths of minarchist Paultards, most vocal around 2007-2013, having seamlessly shunned long-held Limited Government ideological fetishes in favor of neoreaction traditional left-wing Keynesian stances consisting of Fair Trade Tariffs, Labor Market Protectionism, with robustly tightened and unavoidably pricier border protections. All this, without a peep in the way of "Whoops, maybe the role of government is bigger than we've been willing to entertain for all those decades. Maybe this means proceeding with a bit more humility in future engagements with misguided devotees of Big Gov't". Of course, there is no catchall appropriate size for the role of gov't. As with anything else, its size is subject to fluctuation. If you find that off-putting, take it up with Contextualism.  

Throw in cultural anti-permissivism which is historically less Left/Right and more centrist in nature, and you're left with quite the interesting ideological synthesis. Traditionally centrist though it may be, anti-permissivism catering to pro-familialism runs afoul any hope to shoehorn laissez faire principles into the social sphere. So much for those sanctimonious "Libtards want to oppress you economically. Conservatards want to oppress you socially. It is only my political tribe that offers you economic and social freedom" platitudes.

Which brought me to the realization that more and more left-wingers are hopping on the backlash against "The Cultural Left" (whatever that's supposed to mean) and its agenda to "Destroy The Family Unit".

This is the strangest 180 of all. As I said, tradcons never really gave up on this grievance, but I couldn't have imagined it catching a second wind among influential sectors of the American Left. I'll be examining this in depth in an upcoming post. This writeup was actually supposed to contain that examination, but I got caught up in the above introductory rants and figured they serve a decent prelude to the main course.

Rather than posting yet another longwinded post, I'll leave it here for now and follow-up in a day month or two.