The Negative Mind

For a very long time, the radical conception of politics was the struggle between the radicals advancing society forward and reactionaries trying to block the way. In this formulation, the radicals push for reform and the reactionaries concoct an argument against it and the resulting struggle advances society forward. The result is imperfect, so the ideal solution from the radical perspective is to eliminate the reactionaries, who stand in the way of the project and the path of human destiny.

Strangely, the modern Right has also embraced this view. This was not always so, but the conservatism that evolved in the 20th century fully embraced its role as the dancing partner of radicalism. Bill Buckley made this clear when he said, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Note also the need do the yelling when others are not inclined to do any yelling.

Superficially, this was an effort to own the insult, a pose to signal indifference to the self-righteousness of the radicals. There’s a bit of self-dealing there, as it assumes a bravery on the part of conservatives that has never been observed in the field. At the core, however, is the acknowledgment that conservatism as Buckley and others imagined it in the 20th century could not exist without radicalism. Conservatism was just one prop on a set that was built to feature the radical agenda.

Of course, this is an entirely negative identity. There is no internal mechanism to define Buckley-style conservatism. In isolation, it is like a pathogen looking for a host. It can only be kept alive through artificial means. This reality means that Buckley-style conservatism could never defeat the radicals, as to do so would be to sign their own death certificate. In time, this evolved into a sort of battered wife syndrome, where they needed the radicals to win every fight in order to feel alive.

The thing is, the radicals were not entirely self-determined. If we assume the birth of radicalism was the French Revolution, what defined it at its conception was an opposition to the established order. Radicals opposed tradition and order, seeing those as superstitions and cowardice. The way forward was to abandon those things in pursuit of human destiny, so naturally the radical must always be opposed to convention and orthodoxy. The radical was born to be in opposition.

In the 20th century, as liberal democracy became the norm in the Anglosphere and the nations under its dominion, radicalism blossomed into its own negative identity. To be on the Left meant opposing normalcy. Whatever normal people were doing, the radicals had to oppose and try to wreck it. This is explicit today in the grievance studies rackets, where they endlessly go on about disrupting and overturning what they imagine to be their oppressors. It’s all about opposition to normal human relations.

Modern politics is a dynamic between two co-dependent worldviews that must oppose one other to exist. This dynamic between two entirely negative identities has come to define modern liberal democracy. The radicals search around for things they must oppose and the conservative are constantly examining the radicals for what it is they plan to oppose. Once some novelty is discovered, both sides feverishly engage in well-established dance that always ends in the same place.

Take, for example, the issue with Joe Biden. He has a long reputation for being a guy who gropes women, often in public. He seems to get off on it. He’s not a rapist or a sexual predator. He’s just a weirdo who likes to grope women. According to the current sensibilities of the Left, he should be torn to pieces and fed to the dogs. After all, women have come forward with specific complaints and his behavior. In the Kavanaugh hearings, they said we must believe all women.

Of course, the Left is not all that interested in this. The conservatives are up in arms at the alleged hypocrisy. How can they support the absurd claims about Kavanaugh, while ignoring the quite believable claims about Biden? Predictably, the conservatives are putting on their outrage faces and doing the self-righteous indignation act. Soon, they will be outraged that the Left is not shamed by their own hypocrisy. That’s always the next phase of these political dramas.

The thing is, the Left is not indifferent or ignorant to the obvious hypocrisy. They are energized by it. Seeing the conservative apoplexy is what makes them feel alive, because it means they have disrupted and subverted the status quo. Who they are, what makes them what they are, is entirely dependent on the outrage and anger of the people they oppose. When the conservatives put on their angry face and appear to be confused, the radicals have become self-actualized.

What may have happened over the generations is liberal hypocrisy has evolved into a form of caudal luring. The radicals naturally embrace hypocrisy as it lures in the conservative, causing them to act in a way that validates the radicals. Unlike a snake or shark that uses its tail to lure prey, the radicals are not hoping to destroy their opponent, but rather they are sustaining themselves. As an entirely negative identity, they need the outraged conservatives in order exist.

This dynamic between two co-dependent negative identities that has come to dominate liberal democracy may be at the root of the crisis in the West. With no positive vision of the future and the endless struggle between two political forces with no natural reason to exist, nihilism becomes the default. At some level, both sides feel the despair that must come from knowing the pointlessness of their existence. The result is a manic quest to plumb the depth of cultural despair.

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A Racket, A Cult And A Corporation

In the fullness of time, future historians will write books on their theories about why liberal democracy came to behave so much like Soviet communism. The hallmark of Bolshevism was its intolerance of dissent. It was willing to sacrifice everything in order to prevent individuals or groups from questioning orthodoxy. This is becoming the defining feature of liberal democracy. In the name of individual rights and dignity, western governments are methodically turning into police states.

Take for example this story out of Germany. State media, with a reassuring confidence, has reported that a citizen is under surveillance by the state for holding unapproved ideas and positions. Götz Kubitschek has been labeled “the whisperer of AfD right wing Björn Höcke” so he is officially on a list of people good citizens should avoid. The point of the story and the government action is to anathematize the man in such a way that regular Germans will be afraid to be in his presence.

Notice the language. “The Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified him and his institute as extremists.” If anyone’s is curious, here is the German constitution. It is 74 pages long. Article five reads in part, “Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures, and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources.” As is true all over the West, this part of the constitution was destroyed to “save” the rest.

Of course, harassing citizens is not about protecting anything. The Right often makes the mistake conservatives have made for generations in assuming the Left has a practical reason behind their actions. Ideologues do not need a practical motive like money or power. In fact, worldly goods are not motives for ideologues. Rather, they are means to an end. The ideologue seeks power and influence in order to advance his agenda, which often just means crushing his opponents.

That was a feature of communist societies. The people at the top of the party apparatus could count on fanatics and zealots down the ranks to enforce party discipline. It’s why the military had ideological officers in the ranks. this was an innovation discovered by the radicals in the French Revolution. One fanatic willing to report a close friend for unapproved thoughts is worth ten thousand police. Once no one could be sure of even their closest relationships, no one dares speak out.

This is what we see with the West. When the state, in the case of Europe, or Big Tech, in the case of America, declares someone a heretic, it is with the assumption that the auxiliary volunteer army of fanatics will take over the policing. You can be sure that Götz Kubitschek will get the treatment. Germany’s version of Antifa will stalk him, his family and acquaintances. Radical media will use him as an example for endless scare stories about extreme right-wing extremist. AfD will be expected to purge him.

Another feature of the modern liberal democracy and the communist states is in the role of official media. Let’s assume Herr Kubitschek is a potentially bad guy and the state has a legitimate interest in him. Why would they inform the media? They would not do this if he was smuggling women or running a heroin ring. They would do the opposite and not say a word to the media. In the case of ideological offenses, however, the media and the state become partners in policing.

This was a feature of communist societies that has been forgotten. What little is remembered about the Soviet Union, is jammed into the Orwellian narrative of the police state. In reality, the communists figured out that it was cheaper to use soft power than hard power. Sure, they still arrested people and sent them off to camps, but their most effective weapon was the control of official truth. Fear of falling outside of official truth was more than enough to control most people.

As an aside, notice how that whole period is now officially forgotten? Even people offended by the sorts of things happening to Herr Kubitschek will not make a reference to the communist systems? Instead, they may reference you know who, but never the people who perfected the use of terror in an ideological state. The official narrative has slowly removed all references to the Cold War and the role of ideological fanatics from the collective consciousness of the West.

Something that ties the amnesia about communism and the increasing emulation of it by liberal democracy is something Eric Hoffer observed. Ideologies can get along just fine without a Utopian vision, but they must always have an opponent. In the Cold War, liberal democracy could justify its many compromises by pointing to communism. Once communism died, it served no purpose. The new devil is populism and nationalism, so liberal democrats are willing to ape the communist to beat them.

Hoffer also observed, “Up to now, America has not been a good milieu for the rise of a mass movement. What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation.” That was in 1967, so he can be forgiven for not imagining something that was all three of those things. That is what we see in America. Liberal democracy is a racket, a cult and a corporation. The political class operates a racket, the media runs a cult and woke capital systematizes the whole thing.

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Liar’s Poker

The case of General Flynn, which has dragged on for years now, may finally be reaching a denouement. He was charged with and pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI during the Russian collusion hoax. For reasons that have not been clear, he was never sentenced. Now it appears he may never see jail and will instead see his case dropped and his guilty plea vacated. New evidence shows he was framed by members of the FBI and Department of Justice.

As is standard procedure in this age, state media has been silent on the matter, but alternative media sources are reporting on the release of classified documents hidden by the government from Flynn’s defense team in violation of the law. Thousands of documents held by his former defense team and hidden from Flynn and his new attorney’s until now have also been released in what appears to be a damage control operation by the law firm Covington & Burling.

What these new FBI documents reveal is the FBI and Department of Justice carefully planned to entrap General Flynn by tricking him into making inaccurate statements about his activities during the campaign. They did this because they wanted to remove him from his post in the White House and hoped he could be manipulated into making accusations against other administrative officials. Then they systematically lied about what Flynn said to them in his interview with the FBI.

Compounding this is the fact that the FBI and Departmental of Justice systematically withheld all documents that could be used by Flynn in his defense. One way they did this was to hide them in the special counsel operation. This prevented anyone, not just Flynn’s defense team, from discovering the plot. The sudden release of long withheld documents by Covington & Burling suggest they may have been part of the plot to entrap Flynn and get him to plead guilty to a crime.

At this stage, only a partisan fanatic thinks the principals in this whole Russian collusion caper were operating in good faith. You could make the argument that their behavior was unethical, but not necessarily illegal. Even if their actions violated the law, you could argue they did so in the belief they were within the bounds of the law. With these new revelations, it is clear they knew they were breaking the law in an effort to frame General Flynn as part of a much larger conspiracy.

One thing that is now confirmed with these new revelations is that the Special Counsel was always just part of a larger effort to cover-up this conspiracy. In fact, that was the whole point of it. The FBI and DOJ officials involved in the conspiracy would hide all of the evidence inside the counsel’s operation. This would make it impossible for the defense lawyers to access and very difficult for Congress to access. It would also prevent the administration from looking into it.

Another outrageous aspect to this case is that it appears that Flynn’s original defense team, Covington & Burling, may have been in on the plot to frame him. It’s not all that clear at this point, but the best that can be said of their actions on behalf of their client is they are the worst law firm in the country. They exist because they have resources and know how things work in Washington. Despite this, they made the sorts of errors TV writers would find too ridiculous for a legal drama.

There’s also the fact that this sort of behavior by the FBI and DOJ is business as usual, which underscores the corruption. This is not a couple of renegades. This is just how things are done by the government. They frame people for crimes then work to prevent them from getting a proper defense. The FBI has a long history of framing the innocent, but it was always confined to the field offices. Now it is clear that the institution is rotten from the head to the tail. It is hopelessly corrupt.

It is also increasingly clear that the weaselly Rod Rosenstein was the man tasked with orchestrating the cover-up after the election. He manipulated Sessions and Trump into firing Comey and then agreeing to the Mueller charade. The only purpose to that operation was to cover up the illegal spying. Then there is Comey, who claimed under oath to be the guy who ordered the Flynn investigation. He may have arrogantly admitted to initiating multiple Federal crimes.

Of course, the big question in all of this is whether Washington is so hopelessly corrupt that none of this amounts to anything. In banana republics, the judge in the case would be assassinated or intimidated into ignoring the facts and sentencing Flynn to jail. We may not be there yet, but the lack of any substantive investigation into the FBI corruption suggests no one will be charged with anything. The principals in this scandal are now in high six figure positions in Washington, living the good life.

Now, it is possible that Bill Barr was not prepared for the scale of corruption that has been revealed in this case. He may have truly thought it was a few bad apples that went off on their own. Once the scale of the corruption was known, he had to change course and bring in outside help. It’s just as possible that he is part of the problem. He is friends will most of these people. His role in this could simply be part of the how Washington is neutralizing Trump and preparing him for expulsion.

There is one puzzle that gets no attention. Why would the government keep delaying Flynn’s sentencing after he agreed to the deal? They said he was cooperating, but he had nothing to offer them and they knew it. Perhaps he was just a prop to maintain the greater narrative of the Russian hoax. By dragging out his process they could feed fake news to state media, claiming it was from Flynn. That’s seems to be a too cute by half, given the reality in Washington, but it is possible.

Ineptitude is always a possibility. There’s also the fact that highly corrupt institutions tend to have lots of internal intrigue and conflict. The old line about thieves sticking together is a myth. The corrupt man has no honor. As a result, the last stage for the corrupt institution is when the people inside beginning to scheme against one another to the point where they undermined their mutual efforts. Maybe that’s where things are in Washington now. It’s just one big game of liar’s poker.

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The Narcotic Of Outrage

The legacy right-wing media is working hard to breathe life into the story about Joe Biden sexually harassing a women decades ago. Tara Reade has been turning up on conservative chat shows to tell her story. Evidence to support her claims has been circulating around the internet. One can’t help but be impressed by the effort to locate old television show clips and old acquaintances familiar with the event. That, of course, raises suspicions about who is behind this effort.

As usual, the so-called conservatives are flabbergasted to learn that the media is working hard to ignore the story. The same people who were hyperventilating about the goofy old women accusing Bret Kavanaugh are now too busy fabricating stories about hero nurses to bother with politics. Here’s a piece by Reason Magazine wondering why the media is ignoring the story. Here’s a post by National Review about the media’s double standard. They are shocked by the hypocrisy.

Most people on this side of the great divide no longer pay attention to this stuff, as it is like watching an old movie that you liked at the time, but you now realize was not very good after all. The Legacy Right has not aged well. In fact, a lot of people struggle to admit that there was a time when they were really into this stuff. The truth is though, almost everyone on this side of the great divide used to be really into these tales of left-wing hypocrisy. It mattered for some reason.

That’s the thing though. Why is anyone still fascinated with this angle of attack at this point in time? If you are under the age of 90, the so-called double standard has been a feature of politics your entire life. The complaining about it has been a staple of your politics until you made the journey over the great divide. The complaints never change and they never have the desired impact. It turns out that the people in charge are not swayed by appeals to their virtue or appeals to their sense of fairness.

It is one thing to play the long game. It is quite another to keep performing the same rituals over and over expecting some miracle, only to see nothing change. Even the truest of true believers starts to doubt after a while. Yet, the Official Right never seems to waver on this stuff. When Brett Kavanaugh was being assaulted, they did the same things they did when Clarence Thomas was assaulted. In fact, they were giddy. It was like they were working from a script.

It’s not an age thing either. It would be understandable if the people performing these rituals were old guys who spent their life doing this dance. The Reason writer is in his 20’s according to his bio. The National Review writer looks like he may still be in high school, but is probably fresh out of Hillsdale or Yale. If you are over 50, you have seen three generations work from the same script with the same results. A cynical person would suspect that this is not entirely an accident.

There’s no doubt that the people paid to stand around yelling at trains perform these rituals because they are told to do so. The people funding the Official Right are the same people funding the Official Left. This level of politics is intended to be theater to sustain the illusion of choice. You, the active citizen, are supposed to pick a team, put on their jersey and yell at your television every night. The political-entertainment complex has its formulas just like television and movies.

The puzzle though is why so many people fall for it. You can be sure that the people who read Breitbart will be fully enraged by the hypocrisy. The comment section there will be full of ritualized grunts and groans to signal unhappiness over how this poor woman was treated by old hairy legs Biden. They will be in ecstasy when Trump retweets a story about this or maybe likes a Tara Reade tweet. The campaign probably has that event on the calendar for this summer.

It may seem pointless to wonder about this, but any effort to alter the political dynamic must first start with breaking this conditioning. Simply pointing out to these true believers that their outrage is wasted does not work. If you went into the comment section of Breitbart and pointed this out, you would get shouted down as some sort of commie liberal. The same is true with social media. Confront these people on Twitter and they will just block you. They are programmed that way.

For a very large swath of right-wing people, even many on this side of the great divide, valiantly losing is a powerful narcotic. That’s at the core of the “let it burn” chorus regarding the coming economic depression. There’s some deep-seated belief that only through utter destruction can the sins of the modern age be washed for the collective soul of the people. It’s the other side of following the hypocrisy script. Instead of shared outrage, it is shared despondency.

That probably is the real narcotic of these quixotic battles we keep seeing. They provide a sense of security and community in a world where being “right-wing” means being an isolated individual in perpetual competition with his fellow citizens. The alternative to the Left has always been the lonely isolation of individualism, with the exception of these outrage rituals. Like solitary woodsmen coming into the village for a festival, it is a time to reestablish their humanity.

This is the trick of alternative politics. It’s not about grand plans or sophisticated meta-political discussions. It is about offering an alternative community. Libertarians, despite the ridiculousness of their cause, hang together because membership in the community provides a sense of belonging and bestows upon them a sense of dignity. That sideline they imagine to be the high ground is not a lonely place. Imagine a similar movement built around something based in observable reality.

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Wither The Bernie Bros

Lost in all the excitement of the government crackdown this past six weeks has been the fact that the Inner Party crushed the Bernie Bros. The party did not just outmaneuver them like they did in 2016, but they humiliated them. Their champion was forced to endorse the first Alzheimer American to run for president, while hiding in one of his mansions during the crackdown. The party made clear that they will not tolerate any more nonsense from the Bernie Bros going forward.

It was an impressive performance by the Inner Party. Once they decided it was time to end the Sanders nonsense, they wheeled around after the South Carolina primary and eliminated everyone but Alzheimer Joe, forcing each candidate to endorse Biden in a well-choreographed media blitz. They also had the media ready to promote each event through all of the official channels. Compared to the fumbling and bumbling of the Outer Party performance in 2016, it was a masterful show.

From the establishment perspective, the matter is resolved. Much as the Outer Party believed they had eliminated Buchananism forever in 1996, only to see themselves eaten alive by the cancer of Bushism, the Inner Party is sure they have put their crazies back in their boxes for good. They will tolerate brown bomb throwers like Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, because they are useful decorations. In the new, hip Inner Party, Maxine waters is replaced with wacky New Arrivals.

That said, what Sanders revealed in his two presidential runs is there is a substantial portion of the Democrat coalition that is uninterested in neo-liberalism. Like many people flying the White Nationalist banner, these people don’t like modernity very much, but have no way to look past it for an alternative moral framework. Instead, they look backward to a long gone past for an alternative. For them, it is industrial age socialism. They dream of being serenaded by folk singers as the rally against capitalism.

Unlike the people drawn to the former alt-right, the Bernie Bro world is much more colorful and culturally diverse. The alt-right was almost exclusively suburban, middle-class white boys. The Bernie Bros are disaffected young working-class whites, left-wing Jews and educated New Arrivals. The New Arrivals have benefited greatly from the current system, but are frustrated that they are slated to be nothing more than decorations for the Inner Party, so they are looking elsewhere.

The Inner Party is betting the New Arrivals will choose to stick with the plan, as being relegated to the outer darkness of political obscurity does not pay as well. People like Rashida Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez are not giving up the endless attention to lock arms with the dumpy and depressed children of old white working-class America. Instead, they will be the party spear throwers. The Inner Party will feed them new ideas to champion and they will sell them on party media platforms.

The radical Jews in the Bernie Bro movement are small in number and easily dealt with, as they are a permanent feature of the American Left. That leaves the white working-class element. Like the hard-core greens, who followed Nader out of the party, but sort of drifted back in, these voters seem less willing to fall in line with the Inner Party mandates. Many voted third party in 2016 or voted for Trump. This time most of these voters will simply abandon the election entirely

Now, the numbers for this cohort are not easy to figure, as there is not much in the way of polling to determine the size and characteristics of these voters. Since the Inner Party just wants them to die, the polling outfits and media are not allowed to look too closely at their issues. We’re left to guess by using what we see on social media and from the primaries in 2016 and 2020. Against Clinton, Sanders got 16 million votes. In 2020, he got half that in a truncated crowded race.

That means the size of the cohort is between those two numbers, but once you strip away the New Arrivals and adjust for other factors, the real range is between 5-10 million people or about 3-6% of the total vote. In other words, it is not an insignificant portion of the voting pool. It’s why Trump continually makes overtures to those voters whenever he talks politics or economics. It’s also why the Inner Party is now anathematizing the Bernie Bro media personalities.

That’s probably the best way for the Inner Party to handle these people. If they marginalize their leaders and media personalities, they have no rallying point, so they cannot organize themselves. All of those “dirt bag left” YouTube characters better get familiar with D-Live and other fringe social media platforms. They also better get ready to be treated like lepers at the Democrat convention. They will be purged from all sanctioned platforms. The valley of the damned will be getting crowded.

Now, it must be mentioned that the kookier elements of the now defunct alt-right think they can build a red-brown alliance with the Bernie Bros. Counter-Currents did a long post on the ridiculousness of these ideas. The “wignats” as the author calls the remains of the alt-right movement, are delusional. Too much of what defines the Bernie Bros is an opposition to crackpots embracing fascism. The grand Red-Brown entente is as likely as a Muslim – Zionist grand bargain to rule the West.

One amusing aspect of the Brown overtures to the Red side is the Browns are using the language of Marxism to do it. They try to explain to the Red that they are suffering from a false consciousness and need to examine who really controls their lives. It’s not a lot different than Breitbart types trying to own the libs by showing how much more anti-racist they are than the Democrats. Instead of “Dems Are The Real Racists” it is “White Nationalists Are The Real Socialists.”

In the end, the most likely result for the Bernie Bros is the same that we have seen with the patriotic white working class. Unable to move in any direction without compromising something vital to their identity, this group has just faded from the scene. Trump brought them out of the shadows to some degree in the 2016 general election and may do so again in 2020, but after that they will disappear from the electoral map. The Bernie Bros will follow the same path into obscurity.

The reason for this is that political movements based only in grievances are short-lived and ones based in incoherent grievances are even shorter lived. That is the common thread to the proposed Red-Brown alliance. Both sides answer to “what are you rebelling against?” is “what have you got?” They don’t know why they are unhappy and they don’t know what they want if not the present, so they rummage in the past for the trappings of meaning, fraternity and purpose.

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The Rewind

In his book The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukyama argued that humanity has reached the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the triumph of Western liberal democracy. This does not mean stuff stopped happening, just that the evolution of political thought had reached an end-point, where liberal democracy was the best we could muster. All the alternatives had been explored and tried only to fall short of what liberal democracy could provide materially and morally.

There is a lot to be said for and against Fukyama’s claims and whether he is even the first person to make this argument. Alexandre Kojève made similar arguments from a Marxist perspective in the middle of the last century. Given the trajectory of liberal democracy since Fukyama’s book, Kojève has the better claim. Regardless, there is no doubting that the West has gone a down a cul-de-sac of sorts intellectually. Whatever comes after liberal democracy, we cannot imagine it.

This dead end is most obvious in fringe politics. This debate the other day between an anarchist, a Marxist, and some flavors of fascism is a good example. The debate itself is puerile and stupid, but it is illustrative of the state of the fringe. Rather than debating novel ideas as alternatives to the current orthodoxy, they shout at one another about archaic ideas that have no salience in the modern age. The far Left and far Right these days just engage in a form of live action role playing.

Fascism and Marxism are as relevant as the free silver movement, but for people unhappy with the status quo, and hoping to seem edgy and dangerous, they are the only options. Classical liberalism is what suburban dads embrace when they are unhappy with the status quo, while mom can throw in with the gynocracy. The middle-class radicals are left to embrace old ideas that never had much purchase in America and have not been popular in Europe for close to a century now.

One common item to both sides of this fringe debate is the unspoken agreement that the current order is unacceptable. Their critiques of liberal democracy fall into one of two categories. On the one side, the claim is the system does not adequately provide for the material comfort of the people and the wrong people benefit. The other side mostly focuses on the wrong people benefiting, but largely agree that the system does not adequately provide for the materially well-being of the people.

Strangely, the race angle is mostly a prop, a fig leaf to disguise the fact that both sides largely agree with one another. Both sides agree that socialism is the right economic model and both sides agree that the bankers and corporate executives are the bogeyman in this drama. The neo-Marxists, however, make a big deal of being anti-racist, despite all of them being white, while the neo-Fascist make a big deal of being racist and anti-Semitic. Race is mostly a costume for both sides.

There is another element to this neo-revanchism we see in fringe politics and that is the strong desire to start over. Having reached the end of the tournament and being relegated to the loser bracket, the various teams in fringe politics now seek to start the tournament over again. It’s why the Left side calls themselves anti-Fascists and the Right side embraces the Fascist aesthetic. It allows both sides to believe they can start the process over again and this time, get a better result.

That’s why both sides were hoping the virus panic would destroy the economy and usher in a great depression. The Right-side imagines people taking wheelbarrows full of cash to buy food. The Left side imagines working men being entertained by folk singers after they hear a speech by the local communist cadre. There is the assumption that if the whole liberal democratic order fails, we just rewind the clock and begin the process over again, but this time with a different result.

Another angle to this neo-revanchism is a new romanticism among younger white males for a return to a what they imagine was a more honorable and possibly heroic way of living as political actors. They want to be poet-warriors, who read political philosophy and fight the enemies of their cause. The neo-Marxists kit themselves out as beatniks and repeat lines they picked up movies about prior left-wing movements. The neo-fascists embrace Nazi iconography and language.

Richard Spencer tapped into this romanticism with his Faustian man act. Prior to his ascension as the face of the alt-right, he busied himself writing banal paleocon essays about current events. Then he started doing videos and speeches about how it was the destiny of European man to conquer and rule. He threw in enough literary references to pass himself off as a philosopher. A lot of young white men fell for it, because they dreamed of going back to a more honorable and heroic age.

Of course, this type of fringe politics is almost exclusively male. In fact, the reason for so much interest and energy in fringe politics in general is that mainstream politics is almost completely feminine now. Both sides of the liberal democratic order are dominated by harpies and schoolmarms. There’s simply no place for a normal male in conventional politics, so normal males are filtering into antiquarian politics. For many, this is just a better version of the video game of life.

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Thinking About The Unthinkable

Last summer, cable personality Tucker Carlson started doing a bit where he claimed to believe in things like extra-terrestrials, or at least believe they are possible. He would go through a list of things that he used to think were impossible, then finish with how in a world where Donald Trump is president, anything is possible. The point was not to talk about little green men, but to highlight how our old assumptions have to be abandoned, because many of them have been proven false by events.

It is a good thing to keep in mind when evaluating predictions about what comes after the great lock down. Trump is no longer talking about Easter as the back to normal date and has extended the lock down through April. Governors are now in a race to see who can come up with the bleakest prediction for when things get back to normal. The Brits now lead the race with six months as their estimate. This is an unprecedented time, which means what was considered unthinkable is very thinkable.

For example, ten years ago most Americans assumed the political classes had learned a hard lesson from Watergate. They had let the security services run wild for too long and suddenly they were a threat to the politicians. The days of a J. Edgar Hoover spying on people were over. Not only was that false, but there was a plot among FBI officials to interfere in the presidential election. They went so far as to concoct an impeachment trap in order to remove Donald Trump.

Six months ago is was unthinkable that these same security agencies would have the president removed by some other means. Six month ago we did not have a third of the country hiding under their beds. We did not have major cities turned into ghost towns by quarantine orders. How unreasonable is it to think that the same people who launched the seditious plot in 2015 would find themselves a Lee Harvey Oswald? It sounds crazy, but we live in an age where the crazy quickly becomes the norm.

What about something less cloak and dagger like martial law? State governors are getting pretty close to the line between state of emergency and assuming dictatorial powers over their states. New Jersey is supposedly issuing travel passes to citizens and arresting people for gathering in their own homes. Los Angeles has suspended the second amendment. Trump has contemplated a Federal quarantine of New York City, which would probably mean troops on the streets to enforce it.

On April 27, 1861, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia so military authorities could silence rebel dissenters. In a world where governors are calling up the National Guard in order to enforce a lock down, is martial law really unthinkable? Sure, some nutty judge would no doubt challenge Trump on something like this, but what about governors? Would a corrupt judge like Amy Berman Jackson challenge a fellow party member like Cuomo on this?

What about the upcoming election? The Democrats have already suspended many of their state primaries for this virus. Given that Joe Biden is in such poor health now, they may force the suspension of the remaining primaries in order to have an easier time finding a replacement for him at the convention. That’s a precedent that could easily be used to delay the general election in November. What if New York and California have a second wave of the flu in the fall? Unthinkable?

How about something way out there with Tucker Carlson’s space aliens, like a military coup to topple Trump? The military is riddled with multicultural lunatics these days, so you know many are fanatical Trump haters. You can be sure there are a few generals who think they are Napoleon trapped in the body of a mediocrity. Given what we saw with the FBI, it is not unreasonable to think that the same “us versus them” mentality has crept into the officer ranks of the military.

Of course, for a military coup to work, it needs at least some support down the line, but mostly it needs civilian support. An ambitious general would need someone that really hates Trump to be the fig leaf for the coup. Would a vindictive old bat like Nancy Pelosi entertain such an idea? Would a group of Senators from the neoconservative cult consider such a thing? It seems unthinkable, but again, we live in an age when the unthinkable is not just thinkable, but happening in real life.

Of course, military coups and revolutions at the top have the habit of setting off civil unrest, as some portion of the public protests what’s happening. Locking people in their homes and communities will have unanticipated consequences. Lots of things that were out of the question now start entering people’s minds. The riots in Wuhan after they lifted the lock down is a good reminder that forcing people to do something does not change their unhappiness with the policy. It just intensifies it.

If this does go on for months and the cracks in the ruling class begin to show, is civil unrest really unthinkable? Is civil war unthinkable? Rhode Island now considers New Yorkers persona non grata. Pennsylvania is doing the same. Mainers are now going vigilante on suspected New Jerseyites. Sure, concern for the virus is the stated reason, but a general dislike for New Yorkers is the real reason. There are lots of such divisions in this country. Is civil war really so unthinkable?

Just because something is possible, does not mean it is likely. It is possible to hit the lottery for a billion dollars, but the odds are very small. What we’re talking about here though are the things that were thought impossible or close to impossible just six months ago that are now suddenly possible. Maybe they are still unthinkable within the ruling classes, but we thought the FBI and CIA spying on presidential candidates was unthinkable until not so long ago.

We live in an age where the unthinkable, like the fog, quietly creeps up on us until suddenly the unthinkable is the new normal. Just as “shelter in place” is the new normal whenever it snows, mandatory lock downs will be the new normal whenever too many people get the sniffles. The unthinkable not only becomes thinkable, it becomes impossible to think otherwise. It also means that everything unthinkable today is suddenly on the table, maybe even the menu, for tomorrow.

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Over Stimulated

The news brings word that Washington has agreed to an unprecedented economic package, estimated to top $6 trillion. This includes the $4 trillion in money the Federal Reserve will hand to rich people through various ways. The other money will go to different rich people in the form of tax rebates and cash payments. Some very small amount will go to everyone else in the form of unemployment checks, loans to small business and one time crazy checks randomly mailed to people.

The money in the stimulus bill is not all a waste. Bailing out the airline industry has a real benefit. Airlines are like a hybrid utility these days. They are technically private companies, but almost all of their actions are controlled by government. They operate through state owned airports and every aspect of their operations must be agreed to in advance by the federal government. We need the airlines to function, so bailing them out has some actual value to the rest of us.

As an aside, you’ll note what is not in this bill. If we are throwing trillions around, it would make sense to build a wall along the border or maybe fix up some roads. Perhaps we could draw back some overseas commitments and put those funds to work rebuilding the homeland. While the checkbook is open, maybe Trump could get something for his voters this time. Instead, you can be sure, tucked away in the details, will be money for more dirty barbarians to be settled in your town.

The stimulus bill is just the show. Its main purpose is to show the public that the actors and actresses hired by rich people to play the role of congressmen and senators really care about the people. The other carny folk post videos of themselves enjoying quarantine in their mansions. The carnies in DC pass stimulus bills. That may sound very cynical, but everyone in small business knows the score with these rescue packages passed by Washington during a crisis show.

The real mischief, however, is in the other money being handed to the nation’s desperate rich people. This is the stuff being done by the Federal Reserve, away from the TV cameras. Trillions of dollars will be poured into the financial markets, much of it through the direct purchase of assets, like bad debt, stocks, corporate bonds and the synthetic stuff no one really understands. The central bank is coming close to turning the global financial system into a palace economy.

A palace economy is a form of economic organization that was common in the Bronze Age societies of Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. This is a system where a substantial share of the wealth flows to the rulers and is then distributed to the general population. The proceeds of farms, less what the farmers feed their families, goes to the king, who then feeds the people. The same holds for booty gained from conquest of neighbors or the mining of precious metals.

Now, the Federal Reserve is not taking these assets against the will of the current holders and then giving them to the rest of us. Instead, they are paying face value for assets that may or may not be worth what is claimed. The plan is to flood the system with cash in order to prevent cash hoarding. Theoretically, this keeps the banks lending and the credit system moving. In a system entirely based on leverage, any interruption in the credit system threatens the life of the system.

This reveals the big lie about modern economics. Small and mid-sized business are exposed to the dangers of the marketplace. If they make a mistake, they pay for it and possibly go under. In the major leagues, where the big boys play, there is no threat from market forces, as the Federal Reserve backstops everything. It is not a marketplace, but rather a highly complex casino, where the house stakes all of the players. Those that lose are simply given a loan from the house to keep playing.

A good example of this is something that started happening last fall, before anyone cared about the Chinese virus. This was back when the Fed mysteriously began to intervene in the repo market. No one had a good answer for why this was happening and the financial media was told not to ask too many questions. It turns out that it was a quiet rescue of hedge funds. They had over-leveraged themselves working a popular skim called the basis trade. The Fed jumped in to save them.

Just as democracy is a farce to conceal who is really calling the shots, free market capitalism is just a show to conceal the reality of the economic system. The response to the panic they have created shows just how little of the economy is actually a marketplace at all. The $6 trillion in stimulus is a quarter of the economy, on top of the mountain of regulations and trillions in normal government spending. In America, the “free market” is a fringe activity reserved for the little people.

It is tempting to think that this reality is some sort of perversion of our ancient economic traditions, but that’s just another pretty lie. In reality, the normal state of things is for the rulers to tightly control the economy of their territory. In was true in the palace economies of the ancient world. It was true throughout the middle ages. It has been true in the modern world since there has been a modern world. Like libertarianism and communism, the free market exists only in the mind.

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!

The Magic Box

Anyone who works in the right answer fields, like engineering and computer science, has run across the magic box gag. This is where someone draws up a process, describing the various inputs and sub-processes. Somewhere toward the end of the diagram is a box into which all of this stuff flows. What comes out of the box is the desired result of the entire process. That box at the end, where all the good stuff happens, is labeled something like “magical happens here.”

It is a stale gag, but a persistent one as it is a very good way to simplify a project for the people who put the magic in the box. The people who will get the magic really don’t need to know what happens inside the box. That’s not their concern. That’s the job of the technical people to solve. In fact, the whole point of the exercise is to make sure everyone shares the same understanding of all the other stuff. The users of the process must trust that the technical people put the right magic in the box.

It does not always go that way through. Even the simplest processes have peculiarities that are not appreciated until you start monkeying around with them. The combination of inputs may create conflicts that require immensely complicated solutions inside the box in order to get the desired result. It’s why after the meeting ends, the technical people erase the board and spend a lot of time figuring out exactly what form of magic will have to go into that box. Magic is not as easy at looks.

This concept is one to keep in mind when evaluating the responses to the virus panic and soon the economic consequences of it. Loads of people on both sides of the great divide think something momentous has happened. They see the flood of changes that have been imposed and rightly assume that it will have a profound long term effect on the country and the West in general. They are probably right, but they disagree as to what will come out of the magic box that is this panic.

The most obvious starting place is with the people demanding we take this extreme measure to stop the virus.  As has been discussed at length here now, they fail to consider the consequences. Instead, their response is something like, “The economy is not important. That will fix itself.” In other words, something magical will happen and things will get back to normal. The magic box will not only fix all the damage done to civil life, it will restore everything back to where it was before the panic.

It’s possible that things bounce back to where they were to start the year. No one knows, because this has never been done. Maybe in a year this whole episode will be forgotten, like the Kavanaugh hearings or the Russia hoax. On the other hand, we could be facing a long depression. The blows to the system could be so profound they cannot magically heal themselves. Instead, things remain broken. In other words, maybe the magic in that box is bad magic, the very worst kind of magic.

That brings up another camp that is now deeply invested in the magic box. There are a lot of people on this side of the great divide that are cheering the lock down. They think it will forever discredit the things they don’t like. The consequences of globalism and the neoliberal order will flow into the hive brain of the public and what comes out the other side is a rejection of all of it. Magically, everyone will come to the conclusions many people on this side held before the panic and subsequent results.

It’s possible that some of those things Greg Johnson lists will come true. It’s also possible that none of them will happen.  People are remarkably resilient to reality, as we see with the panic. If your first response to the prospects of a pandemic are to fill your basement with toilet paper, you are unlikely to draw the best lessons from this panic and its results. The ruling class, the people who triggered this panic, are also unlikely to abandon all the things that allow them to be in power.

The point here is not to take issue with Greg or his post. Greg’s lessons are correct, but they were correct before the panic. He is assuming this sudden crisis will be the magic box that transforms everything. The last half century of history is flowing into this panic and the resulting turmoil. What will come out the other side is a great awakening, as the scales fall from the eyes of everyone wondering how they will pay their rent and feed their kids. The coronavirus panic is the magic box.

Similarly, there is a subset of this thinking that exists in fringe socialist circles, like the remnants of the old alt-right and the Bernie Sanders camp. They cheer the coming collapse, because they think the prophesies will finally come true. America will become Weimar Germany. One version of the game has Richard Spencer delivering his first speech to the new Ethno-Reichstag. The other side thinks they will finally be free to punch those Nazis that secretly control the world.

It is an interesting key value pair. Both camps think their political ideology is timeless and forever relevant. Both sides think history must repeat in the exact same way it happened 90 years ago in Europe. It’s like coordinates on a map. Because the coordinates never change, their place on the great map of human history never changes either. It’s a form of mysticism. In this case, they assume an economic collapse must magically result in conditions most favorable to them.

Again, that magic box may not contain what they imagine. The most likely result is the increased power of the tech oligarchs. They are now helping government track people, all in the name of safety, of course. A world in which drones are used to police citizens identified through their mobile phone as having stood next to the wrong person is not favorable to the revolution. You see, the people in charge have been planning for the arrival of you-know-who for a very long time as well.

In fairness, maybe the critics of the response to this virus are engaging in magic box thinking as well. To assume lots of bad things come out of the other end of the box is just as presumptuous as assuming only good things will emerge. Maybe the great reorder that will occur after this will be better for the Nazis and Bolsheviks camped out in the pumpkin patch. Maybe people will wake up to the reality of neoliberal order and demand changes. Maybe things get back to normal in a hurry.

The one true thing in all of this is no one knows what is inside the box that events appear to be leading us. The panic itself is unprecedented in the modern age, so we are left to guess about what follows. What’s happening with the global financial system is less novel, but the scale is unprecedented. No one can know if the economy will spin back up, as no one has tried to turn it off and then back on. We are in the world of unknown unknowns, the part of the diagram labeled “Magic.”

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The Garden Gnome Gambit

Everyone is familiar with the garden gnome, the little ornamental figurines that look the dwarfs from children’s stories. Most people assume they originated in Germany, but they have their roots in ancient Rome. Small stone statues depicting the Greco-Roman fertility god Priapus were placed in the garden of Roman citizens. Like many Roman customs, the use of garden statues spread throughout the empire and eventually we got what we now call the garden gnome.

Of course, we use garden gnomes to keep the giraffes out of the garden. Not just any giraffes either. Normal giraffes are not a problem obviously. It is the albino miniature giraffes that attack the suburban garden. The liberal use of the garden gnomes has kept the miniature albino giraffes from terrorizing gardeners for generations. The proof of this, of course, is that we have no problem with miniature albino giraffes. In fact, it has worked so well no one has even seen one of these giraffes.

That may strike you as ridiculous, but it is something to keep in mind over the next few weeks as our leaders figure out how to unwind this virus panic. You see, a month ago they had two possible outcomes. One was the virus spread and killed a bunch of people, which would be very bad for the ruling class. The other possible outcome was a mild spread that got little notice and then it petered out. Heads they got blamed for ignoring a pandemic and tails they get no credit remaining calm about it.

That’s a bad gamble for a politician, which is probably why Tucker Carlson talked Trump into declaring total war on the virus. If all efforts were made to stop the virus, even if it craters the economy, the possibilities get much better. If the virus runs its course without much trouble and goes away like every other virus, Trump can declare war and throw himself a triumph. If the virus turns out to be the Antonine Plague, then Trump can fairly say it would have been much worse if not for his efforts.

What just happened is Trump has flipped the odds on what happens after the panic subsides this summer. In the do-nothing scenario, one outcome was neutral and one outcome was terrible. In the do-everything scenario, the outcomes are reversed. There one great outcome and one mostly neutral one. If it is the Antonine Plague, civilization collapses and none of this matters. Since the most likely outcome under all scenarios was closer to the Honk Kong Flu, this is a neutral result.

This is where the garden gnomes come into the picture. Just as we know that garden gnomes keep miniature albino giraffes from attacking our gardens, we know flattening the curb keeps this virus from becoming the Yellow Death. Anyone questioning these assertions is on the side of the miniature albino giraffes or the virus. The fact that these assertions are nonsense is beside the point. If people can be made to believe it, then these claims are true, as far anyone needs to know or care.

Now, the only way this works is if they can plausibly say they pulled out all the stops to prevent the worst pandemic in human history. If it was a bunch of talk and half-measures, they could get blamed for not doing enough. If the virus was a dud, then they would be accused of over-reacting to a minor event in order to politicize it. The only way to make the garden gnome gambit work is to go heavy on the response, regardless of the consequences. There can be no moderation.

The extreme measures also have the added benefit of swaying the public that the virus is Godzilla attacking Tokyo. This unprecedented shutdown of civic life, which is really just getting started, is the real monster of the story. At this point, you have a better chance to be struck by lightning than to know a virus victim. Even the girls on social media have not started faking infection yet. People look at the massive disruption of daily life and just assume the threat must be genuine.

Now there is one flaw with this approach. The shuttering of the country is going to come with a massive price tag. Current estimates, for example, suggest the rosy scenario for the economy is a 5% contraction in quarter one followed by a 25% contraction in quarter number two. It’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen in the second half of the year, but those are numbers that dwarf the first year of the Great Depression. Maybe after the quarantine is lifted, a massive recovery starts in the summer.

Of course, as soon as the coast is clear and the virus has been defeated, Trump throws himself a triumph and launches a new war on the depression. The people in the breadlines will not be impressed, but if the economy starts to recover in the summer, he can plausibly say the sacrifice was worth it. He can do a bunch of campaign stops at retirement homes to pose with octogenarians spared by the virus. That all sounds terribly cynical, but politics is a cynical business.

Another side benefit of this is the alarmist can claim to be vindicated. Like the people claiming their garden gnomes keep the giraffes away, the alarmists will say these extreme measures headed off an extinction event. By the end of the summer, they will be telling tales about an anthropomorphized virus that was eating men whole. Even if they hate Trump, they will celebrate him for taking their advice. The garden gnome gambit lets everyone be a hero, no matter the results.

Finally, Trump came to Washington as a chaos agent. He created chaos in the primary and the general election. His arrival in Washington set off panic among the establishment that has never subsided. This response to the virus and the ensuing panic it has caused is best suited for someone, who thrives in chaos. The garden gnome gambit is also best employed by someone, who relentlessly boasts about his achievements. Trump is now fully in control of Washington.

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!