Esoteric Political Language

Politics in the modern age was symbolic, as much as practical, as the state had grown so large that meaningful change was going to be gradual. In fact, change was so slow that it transcended generations. One generation of politicians would tinker around with the rules and the next generation would realize the consequences. By the time the consequences of Johnson’s Great Society were felt, the people who pushed it were mostly out of office, so it was the successors who had to deal with the ramifications.

In the post-modern age, some may call it the technological age, political language is becoming esoteric, rather than symbolic. The language and discourse is not supposed to be sensible, but rather designed to test the boundaries of the formal political language. It is a game, of sorts, to figure out how to insert bits of heresy and forbidden topics into the political discourse, in a way that is only obvious to the people doing it. The point of the effort is to get people talking obliquely about forbidden topics and themes.

The most recent and best example of this is the Pepe the frog stuff in 2016. It was not just a pointless gag. It was about testing limits. Initially, it was about getting forbidden subjects into the mainstream of social media in a way that the designer could understand, but that made little sense to others. Eventually, a general awareness of what was happening turned the Pepe image into a symbol. Clownish political hucksters then adopted it as a symbol of their edginess, because it carried with it an implication of radicalism.

Another great example of this is the word “cuckservative” that got going around the same time as Pepe. One of the more amusing things during that period was watching members of Conservative Inc. come to understand what it meant. These are people who thought they were the face of dissident America, so they initially did not understand the term was a slur against them. Slowly, they understood and then the term moved from an esoteric insider gag to a symbol, denoting a line between dissidents and conservatives.

Currently, a similar dynamic is at work with the long shot candidacy of Andrew Yang, the Taiwanese businessman running in the Democratic primary. Dissidents, unhappy with Trump, initially landed on Tulsi Gabbard, due to her anti-war positions. The trouble with Gabbard, though, is her positions are explicit, rather than symbolic or esoteric, so supporting her does not serve the purpose of dissident actors using esoteric political language to test limits. That’s where Yang’s UBI proposal comes in.

The Universal Basic Income is a dumb idea, but that’s part of its appeal to those engaged in esoteric politics. The point of backing it and Andrew Yang is to take the reality of modern politics, that it is a bust-out, where non-white tribes loot the country, and pushing it to the limit. If non-whites have their snout in the trough, then everyone should have their snout in the trough. It’s also an oblique way of introducing white identity politics into the discussion. White Nationalists want their thousand bucks.

The Yang phenomenon is more than just an internet fad. According to 538, Yang is now a serious candidate and as such he is getting serious attention. It is the epitome of esoteric politics that an Asian candidate will become a cat’s paw for a wide range of issues important to white Americans, but forbidden in conventional discourse. You can be an open white nationalist, by sporting a YangGang ball cap, while BoomerCons are getting beat up for wearing their old MAGA hats to their grand kid’s ballgame.

Esoteric political language is not simply about camouflaging taboo subjects. That’s never worked, as evidence by the collapse of libertarianism. That was always the truth about libertarian politics. Outside of the weirdos and potheads, people identified with libertarian ideas as a form of implicit whiteness. Free markets and meritocracy assume that biological reality will take care of the rest, leading to a restoration of heritage America, but the obviousness of this is why it never got very far and is now a joke.

That’s what is different with things like the UBI support among white nationalists. It’s not just a proxy for white identity. It takes the logic of identity politics as practiced by the ruling class and pushes it to the boundary. It’s going to be hard for them to dismiss Yang as a white supremacist or his UBI idea as some sort of honky plot against the browns. In fact, any effort to do so will make them look ridiculous. That’s the point of esoteric political language. At its best, its critics confirm what they wish to deny.

It’s possible that esoteric political language is a natural result of democracy. In the Cold War, threat of nuclear annihilate meant politics remained grounded in the real, even as it relied on symbolism to communicate ideas. After the Cold War, the Clinton years were mostly about symbolism. The Bush years started the same way, but then curdled into a blend of symbolism and mendacity. Bush was the opposite of what he claimed. In the Obama years politics became an absurdist pantomime.

Perhaps this phase we’re entering is something new, where the dull-witted masses participate in democracy, but have no practical influence, because they are manipulated by the smart fraction using esoteric language to avoid plunging into the abyss. Maybe it is just another facet of late-stage liberal democracy. Maybe it is just the death rattle of empire, where practical politics is nothing but frightening choices, so the political language descends into a weird competition to reach some absurd limit.

The Fiction Of Democracy

Some on this side of the great divide have come to accept that the West is not going to vote itself out of its current decline. If the West is to survive, it will require a radical change in the political arrangements outside the democratic apparatus. Not everyone on this side accepts that. Some still cling to the hope that the ruling class will have an epiphany and begin to accept reality. Others think that if enough of the public wakes up to what’s happening, this will force the political class to yield.

It is an interesting question as to how people in the West, particularly heritage populations, really think about democracy. The new comers mostly think democracy is free stuff and a comfortable lifestyle, but the heritage population still has the residue of civic nationalism The Left, of course, despises democracy, despite their yelping about it. They see democracy as a means to an end. The rest have been conditioned to say they think liberal democracy is the best, but how many really believe it is unknown.

It is a worthwhile question to consider when watching the Brexit drama unfold over the next two weeks. The official version of this process is the British people had a referendum and they voted to leave the EU. The law put March 31, 2019 as the deadline for leaving and Parliament had until that date to work out a deal with the EU. If there was no deal, then Britain unconditionally leaves the EU. A deal to leave slowly and gently, however, would need to pass through Parliament. That was the orderly process laid out for Brexit.

As of this writing, the government of Theresa May has tried several times to get the deal she struck with the EU through parliament. The deal is an insult to the intelligence of the average British subject, so it has failed to get through parliament. The deal she cut is to leave the EU in name only. Britain would continue to allow Brussels to dictate terms on things like regulation, trade and most especially immigration policy. Those rooting for democracy have to be appalled by the craven cynicism of this ploy.

The Commons Speaker, which is like the head parliamentarian, ruled that Theresa May cannot submit her deal for a vote again, unless it is substantially altered, which is an impossibility at this point. That would mean Britain is headed for a hard Brexit at the end of this month. It would also mean that a responsible democratic government would now be moving to inform and prepare the public for that eventuality. Instead, the government is scheming with the EU to delay everything so they can have a second referendum.

Americans are familiar with this gag. Back in the dark days when marriage was linked to biological reality, left-wing agitators would get homosexual marriage initiatives onto state ballots. These initiatives would fail, but the agitators would get them on the ballot again the next election. The Left sees democracy as a bus. Once it takes you to your desired stop, you get off. That means they demand people keep voting on their issues until the people get the correct result. Once that happens, no more democracy.

This is the scheme the “Remainers”  have always had in their back pocket. It’s why they have been happy to drag out this process for years, right to the deadline. This week, they will argue that the country is not prepared to meet the legal deadline, so there has to be a delay in the process. Of course, the point of the delay is to then get a second vote setup for later in the year. If that vote goes their way, that’s it. If they lose again, then the whole process begins anew as they scheme to undermine the results.

For Americans, watching this unfold is useful in understanding why Trump has become Jeb Bush. After the 2016 election, we saw a parade of Washington politicians stagger around shell-shocked at the result. What we did not see is how they immediately got to work plotting with one another as to how to undermine the new administration and the will of the public. Just as the political class in Britain has spent the last few years undermining the Brexit result, official Washington has worked tirelessly to undermine Trump.

Democracy can only work if the people in elected office and the political system see the will of the people as legitimate. They have to respect the system as much as the voters, in order for the system to function as designed. The trouble is, democracy selects for the cynically ambitious and sociopaths. The former sees the public as suckers to be fleeced, while the latter simply enjoys lying and deceiving. For democratic politicians, democracy is mostly just a game they play to amuse themselves.

For the public, democracy inevitably becomes a weird game of Russian roulette. In every election, no matter how hard they study the choices, the results are almost random. You vote to leave the EU, and three years later you’re voting on the same issue again or maybe the vote was ignored entirely. People forget that the French voted several times on joining the EU and all of those votes were ignored. In fact, most of what we see happening in the West has never seen any ballot anywhere. Immigration is an obvious example.

At some point, the absurd uncertainty of voting becomes obvious to even the most delusional civic nationalist. It’s why democracy always ends in authoritarianism. The certainty of a dictator, even a bad one, beats the randomness and uncertainty of the democratic process. There are probably plenty of Brits who would welcome the monarch taking control of the government again. Even the daffy Prince Charles is an upgrade over the circus of Parliament. At least the ceremonies would be fun.

The Sound And The Fury

American politics operates on two stages of existence. There is the moral stage, where most of the action takes place. Here, various versions of the standard narrative play out in front of the national audience. The story is always the same, but the reaction of the crowd changes from performance to performance. American political theater is interactive, not just a ceremony or ritual for the people to observe. How the crowd responds will often direct how the players on the stage respond, depending upon the performance.

Then there is the empirical stage, where some minor dramas are acted out and new props are created for the main stage. This stage mostly serves as a support system for the actors on the main stage. The policy experts come up with “solutions” to “problems” and those “solutions” are maybe used by the main players on the big stage. Most of the time, what happens on this stage is a pantomime, where the players pretend they have the ability to implement their solutions or influence those who can implement them.

The way the drama of American politics usually works is the Left finds some issue, or maybe invents it, that they claim is a threat to the community. They have a variety of words and phrases to mean community. Currently, they are fond of “democracy” but there are plenty of others. This threat to the community can be real or imaginary, it does not matter. What matters is their reaction to it. This reaction is intended to gain the attention of the audience, exaggerate the danger and draw in the other players to the drama.

Now, once the threat is identified, the Left announces their scheme to address the threat and declares that “doing nothing is not acceptable.” This is the critical point in the drama, as the new character(s) on stage, the Right, always seeks to dismiss the danger. That’s their primary role at this stage. This legitimizes the debate over the issue. Is it a threat or is it not? Should something be done or nothing? The debate itself makes the alleged danger the focus of the drama, which makes it impossible to dismiss.

At this point, elements of the Right break ranks. The Right divides over whether this threat is real and needs addressing or is not real and should be ignored. Of course, the elements who think something should be done, have to have a plan, so they come up with an alternative to what the Left has offered as the default. This creates a nice triangle. The “soft” Right gets to pose as more concerned and moderate than the “hard’ Right and at the same time pose as more practical and sober minded than the Left.

This is where the empirical stage serves its role. On this level, the minor players argue about the new props used on the main stage. The policy commentators, wonks and experts wrangle over “new” ideas for solving the new problem. Sometimes they replay the old debates about old problems. This stage operates like off-Broadway or maybe a community theater. This is where the Right prefers to spend most of his time, working on policy arguments that will be nothing more than props on the main stage.

Now, on the main stage, once the three characters have emerged fully, the “soft” Right and Left direct the audience to boo and hiss at the “hard” right for being callous about this great threat to our community. After the “hard” right has been booed off the stage, the drama reaches its final scene. The two remaining characters argue over the right course of action, with the Right now repeatedly offering up solutions to the Left, which are rejected until finally one meets the Left’s satisfaction. The music plays and the curtain falls.

There are some variations to this formula. Sometimes the danger to the community gets a speaking part. This is where variations on the devil character get a shot on the main stage. These days, neo-Nazis and white supremacists are popular. Eager for a shot in the lime light, these players are always ready to answer the call. They are even willing to dress up in the costumes laid out for them by the Left. They relish being booed by the crowd as they make their entrance and final exist.  It’s show business!

There can be other bad guys, as we saw with the #metoo stuff. In that case, the bad guy was the Jewish Hollywood type, lusting after the shiksas, using his power to force her into compromising herself. Since there is no role for the white knight to save the damsel in distress, the crowd was encouraged to cheer the brave shiksas, so they could summon the courage to vanquish the lusty Shlomo. The dramatic scene is the heroine finally speaking out as the bad Shlomo shrinks in terror at the empowered woman.

The key part of the American drama is like a real play, there’s nothing left of it after it is finished, other than memories of the performance. Homosexual marriage had a long run on the main stage, but now it is only performed, if at all, at the local level. The crisis, drama and resolution have been forgotten. Abortion is another drama that had its day, but is now largely forgotten. Once in a while a revival comes to town for the entertainment of old white women long past the point where abortion is a practical issue for them.

American theater is an essential element for the Left. It is what holds them together and gives them purpose. Like a theater group or traveling circus, the need to perform is what keeps them from splintering apart. For everyone else, it is like real show business. That is, a life that leads only to degeneracy, misery and the loss of self-respect. Whether it is the Right or the Devil, going on the stage to be the foil of the Left can only lead to failure, because that is role carved out by the writers. The drama always ends the same way.

Recently, as the crowd has become less enthusiastic for the performance, the producers have taken to inviting in new audience members from over the horizon. These newcomers are often called up on stage as props, but their main purpose is to cheer the show and shame the old audience into cheering along with them. The chorus of “This is who we are” is the cue to let the new audience lecture the old audience. As to be expected, the newcomers often flub their lines, as in the case of Ilhan Omar recently.

Now, the bitter players on the empirical stage are prone to howling about all of this being nothing but bread and circuses. That’s true, of course, but it misses an important point about social organization. The job of the people in charge of any society is to keep the people fat and happy. Otherwise, they get crazy ideas in their head. There must always been a narrative performance to keep the people focused on that which works in the favor of the ruling class. The rulers must always put on a good show for the crowd.

The novelty of this age is that the producers of our national drama have decided they are tired of playing to the old crowd. They want a new audience, one that is more grateful and appreciative of their efforts. Rather than take the show on the road, they are bringing the road to the show. The old audience, still focused on the show, or maybe busy watching the action on the empirical stage, has yet to notice their seats are slowly be taking up by new audience members, with VIP tickets issued by the producers.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke, the Irish playboy who tried passing himself off as a Mexican in his run against Ted Cruz in 2018, has declared for President. The boomers in the Progressive commentariat are rushing to their fainting couches, as they are sure he is the Hispanic-ish John F. Kennedy or Robert F. Kennedy, depending upon which end of the 60’s they remember best. Watching a geriatric old fool like Chris Mathews fawn over O’Rourke is a reminder why the Germans gave the world the word fremdschämen.

It’s a good reminder that the Left is more burdened with yesterday men than right-side of the political divide. Even the cuckiest conservative is not comparing a guy like Ben Sasse to Reagan, Goldwater or Eisenhower. Progressive boomers still have a bust of JFK in their house and talk about where they were when he was shot. They are a walking, talking museum displays of a bygone era. That’s why they are gushing over O’Rourke. He’s the last white man of any standing in the Democrat Party.

The funny thing is though, the comparison between O’Rourke and the Kennedy brothers is useful in understanding the current age. John F. Kennedy was, despite lots of revisionism, a man’s man who lived a full live. He served in the war, liked adventure, enjoyed a drink under extreme social pressure and liked women. He was like an Irish version of Theodore Roosevelt. RFK never saw action, but he served and like his brother, he was a man who lived to the fullest. Whatever you may think of their politics or ethics, they were men.

Beto O’Rourke, in contrast, is a bum. His family never had Kennedy money, but they were well-enough-off to send him to a boarding school in Virginia. According to his bio, he was a slacker with a taste for murder porn. He headed off to Columbia to major in English, as that required the least amount of effort. After college, he remained a bum, drinking and working as a live-in caretaker and art mover. Then he got a job working for an ISP, after which is family apparently set him up in his own business in Texas.

That’s hardly a heroic back story. His father was deep into Texas politics, so he got him into the business. His first office was a spot on the El Paso City Council then after a few years he upgraded to the US House of Representatives. Like most of this generation’s political class, Beto O’Rourke ran for office because he was unqualified to do anything useful in the private sector. Rather than go on welfare or resort to a life of crime, he rents himself out as a spokesmodel for whatever political interests will hire him.

The difference between art and ornamentation is that art seeks to imitate life, while ornamentation seeks to decorate life. The great artist works to capture the spirit of his age or if he is really ambitious, the spirit of God. It’s an effort to reach for that which is unattainable, representing the same yearning in the culture of the artist. The guy making pretty pictures, on the other hand, is not trying to capture anything. His sole purpose, his reason to exist, is to make something someone thinks will look cool in the den.

That same comparison works for Kennedy and his brother’s doppelganger, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. Again, whatever you may think of their politics, the Kennedy brothers had a reason to reach for the top. They were young men in a young culture, seeking the absolute limit of itself. They were the expression of a triumphant and confident America, breathing in life as it stood atop the world it had just conquered. The Kennedy brothers represented that culture. They were Faustian men.

O’Rourke, in contrast, represents a dying culture of old men, whose best days are long in the past, but still trying to maintain appearances. Unlike those young men from the young culture trying to live life to the fullest, Beto has always been an old man, just trying to avoid doing anything that requires risk or effort. If the Kennedy boys were the marble statue of the idealized man of their age, Beto is the decorative codpiece that a feminist uses in her installation art, which will be thrown away when the exhibit closes.

This decorative quality probably explains the soy face so common with the Gen-X politician on both sides of the political class. The old guys can still work up a good snarl or even a confident smile on occasion. Guys like Beto O’Rourke and Ben Sasse always look like they just got wind of a bad smell. They have the look, because for them, life is never going to be a great adventure full of risk taking. Instead, their lives are an inconvenience, something they just tolerate, because they lack the courage to swallow their gun.

That said, Beto is the last white man of the Left. The Democratic field is women and non-whites. If Biden runs he’ll be the second white man in the field, a nice bookend to O’Rourke. On the one end you have an old man inspired into politics by a culture that was full of life. At the other end, you have a man who got into politics because he needed work and his dad had some connections. One is a vague memory of the confident young man with swagger, while the other, the younger one, is the old man in the winter of his life.


Maybe it is me, but our side of the great divide seems a bit down the last few weeks, with all the bad news coming from various quarters. President Fink backtracking on his promises, the rising brown tide pouring over the border, the book banning and so forth is taking a toll on morale. This is just part of the game probably. In the midst of all great societal upheavals, the participants have had their dark moments. I find myself watching videos of otters on YouTube more often than normal, just to keep the spirits up.

What I decided to do this week is talk about some of the great underdog victories from our history, as a bit of a pick me up. Now, I’m not a historian and this is not a history podcast, so it is not going to be like that. I’m not Dan Carlin, so there are no dramatic readings from ancient texts, although that would be pretty cool to do. Instead, I just picked a few that I know about and talked about those this week. It’s a bit outside my normal pattern, so a bit of a risk, but life is full risk. Picasso had his blue period, I have my podcast.

One of the interesting things about researching this topic is that there are a lot of great examples of underdogs either avoiding defeat or beating the Goliath. Sure, the bigger foe wins most of the time, but the little guy has won more than expected. The other thing is I could probably do a few hours on each of these subjects. I really struggled to keep them within the normal time length. Maybe when I run out of clever ideas, I’ll come back and do one hour shows, just on these sorts of narrow bits of history.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below. I have been de-platformed by Spotify, because they feared I was poisoning the minds of their Millennial customers.

This Week’s Show


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Propaganda 2.0

Many of us have had that strange experience where the media is suddenly interested in something about which we either have involvement or have direct knowledge. It is a strange exhilarating thing to see people on TV or at a major media site covering something or someone you know. In most cases, that moment of exhilaration is then followed by a brief moment of confusion, then irritation and then maybe anger. Without fail, no matter how simple the topic, the media will get the important parts wrong in some way.

My first experience with this was in the early days of the internet. This was right around when the first ISP’s were mailing people diskettes with offers to try this new thing called the internet. I was on a sports statistics mailing list and somehow the local news got wind that there was a “secret cable operating on the dark internet.” Apparently, someone showed one of the lunkheads an e-mail from the list and they reacted as if they witnessed black magic. Whatever the cause, it was suddenly a media story.

The person assigned to “report” on this secret cabal on the dark internet went on television and said a bunch of things that were obviously not true. In fact, it was clear to me the person had made the whole thing up. What was fascinating to me is they made up some anecdotes to add color to their tale. In other words, this was not just laziness, but a calculated decision to create a fictional tale, rather than report the news. Given the way TV news works, it also meant everyone at the station was in on the scam.

It was a moment of clarity, but as Theodore Dalrymple wrote about last week, even knowing the news is all fake, I still have to fight the urge to believe it. When they report on what I know, the rational part of the brain is jolted into action and I can see straight away that they are spinning fabulous tales. Maybe I will go on-line and point out the nonsense to those who may care about it. When the topic is outside my sphere of knowledge, I’m tempted to just accept what is being presented without thinking too much about it.

The reason the plutocrats prefer narrative journalism over actual reporting, of course, is it lets them set public opinion. We’ll get a dose of that this weekend as the actors and actresses of cable news explain to the world why we must go to war with Venezuela to stave off a humanitarian crisis. Most people know little about Venezuela, other than the fact our rulers are mad at the local ruler. That leaves the press to fill in those massive gaps with made up tales of horror from so-called experts on the subject.

As Dalrymple pointed out toward the end of his post, “One cannot live in a state of permanent skepticism about everything.” Most people are trusting and most people are wired to trust authority. That’s why we have propaganda. It works on that innate trust people have in authority. It’s not limitless, of course. The people living in the old Soviet Bloc evolved a morose cynicism, after decades of being lied to by the authorities. The same thing is happening in America, as people adapt to the reality of fake news.

Even so, some portion of the public can be counted on to believe what they are told, no matter how absurd. The Left has always relied on this to hold their ranks together. The people inclined to radical politics are in search of salvation, so they are inclined to believe more than most. The confirmation they find among their radical soulmates on the Left keeps them in the fold, even when their leaders are revealed to be frauds or contradict themselves on matters of faith. Belief is a powerful narcotic.

That raises an interesting corollary to Dalrymple’s line about living in a state of perpetual skepticism. Can a society exist in a state of perpetual fiction? We seem to be managing it, as most of what fills the public space these days is made up, either by our rulers or the various scammers allowed to work the crowd. The public space is now just a sea of nonsense and lies that no one can trust. We live in an age where even the weather forecasts are created to sell ads. Yet, the people manage to bugger on.

Maybe that’s what we are seeing in the information age. It’s Propaganda 2.0. Instead of trying to mobilize the crowd in support of the rulers, the point is to atomize the mob by turning everyone into a cynic. After all, if you can’t trust anyone, even the people in charge, then how can you conspire with anyone? Even if you find some safe space to conspire, how can you get others to join the conspiracy? In order to prevent resistance to their rule, the rulers have eliminated the social medium it requires to thrive.

Of course, by vaporizing social trust, the people in charge have eliminated an important medium through which they can maintain power. On the other hand, maybe soft-power has evolved to the point where social trust is no longer useful. Look at Venezuela. It’s clear that the US is slowly squeezing the life out of the country’s ruling class. They are doing so in a way that will cause the public to blame those bad rulers and welcome the handpicked good ruler, even though everyone knows he is a puppet.

It’s a great example of how social war has evolved. The local rulers are using the old methods of information control. They have state media repeating statements from the ruler, blaming some outside trouble makers and all the usual stuff. The US is not saying much, other than pointing out how awful it is that the power grid keeps failing. Of course, the US is probably behind the sudden rash of explosions, but that’s not important. What matters is Juan sitting in the dark, wondering when he charge his mobile again.

The Black Poodle

There have always been certain issues that function as litmus tests, in that there is a factually correct position and many factually incorrect positions. Those wrong position, however, tell us things about the person holding them. Gun control is the best example. The right position is based on a mountain of data collected over generations. The wrong positions range from uninformed to the mendacious. As a result, the gun issues is a good litmus test. A person wrong on guns is telling us things about themselves.

The universal basic income is shaping up to be another one of those litmus test issues, where the self-righteous and fashionable use it to advertise their virtue and edginess, but also tell us about their ignorance. The other day, the leader of America’s hipster intellectuals, Claire Lehmann dramatically announced she is now on board with the universal basic income. In fact, Andrew Yang’s goofy Asian hipster populism platform is starting to become the cool thing among our edgy trend setters.

The giveaway at this point, with this issue, is in that linked Quillette post. “There are reasonable arguments to be leveled in good faith against the UBI platform, which Yang has dubbed “The Freedom Dividend,” but what was once considered a utopian pipe-dream is beginning to sound more plausible in light of the unfolding tectonic economic and technological shifts.” Are there reasonable arguments made in bad faith? That line makes clear that one side is virtue signaling, hoping the other side plays the role of skeptic.

What’s shaping up is the UBI is going to be the hipster beard for the politically active millennials, who dream of living as the Eloi. As was brilliantly explained before, it can’t possibly work as expected, but that is part of the attraction. That’s always part of the appeal to utopianism. The believers are emotionally wedded to the idea because the Promised Land always feels just out of reach. The world without work, where everyone is free to self-actualize and get a gold star from teacher is the millennial dream.

The math of UBI is really not worth discussing, however, as the people excited by it are incapable of grasping it anyway. They are simply using the issue to stake out what they think is the moral high ground. Yang is a very smart guy, who grew up studying the people now flocking to these sorts of ideas. The alt-right thinks they meme’d him into existence, but Yang looks a lot like an East Asian Obama. That is, he is the sort of minority who flatters upper-middle class white Progressives just be existing.

The real problem with the UBI is it is part of the larger trend of infantilizing people, turning them into wards of the custodial state. A society where everyone is watched, where everyone has their speech monitored, where everyone is on an allowance, is called a prison. That’s how prisons work. Given the tender sensibilities of the next generation, this world is evolving into a daycare center. Ideas like UBI are not about economics. They are about normalizing the custodial state. UBI is Faust’s poodle.

The problems that UBI are supposed to address are real and concerning. Automation is replacing labor at an alarming rate. Sure, the robot future is wildly exaggerated, mostly by people who have no experience in the real world. Most people reading this, for example, will not live to see robot trucks roaming the highways. Still automation is a serious issue facing the West. The consequences are frightening, not for material reasons, but because they will force the West to face up to the reality of culture and social organization.

You’ll note that in the linked Quillette article, there is no mention of immigration. The latest data show that Trump’s alleged jobs boom is mostly just a boom in migrants finding work in America. End immigration and automation suddenly is a different issue. In fact, it becomes a tolerable issue, because a society willing and able to put its own interest ahead of strangers is able to rationally address the sorts of welfare schemes required to support friends and neighbors. That’s the fear that truly haunts our ruling class.

In fact, the fear of facing up to the basic questions every society must address is what is behind the fear of automation and technology. When Tucker Carlson told Ben Shapiro that he would happily ban certain forms of automation, Shapiro nearly burst into tears because he lives in fear of ever having to face the questions Carlson raised. When you face the questions “Who are we and what sort of society do we want?”, things like automation and social welfare become less frightening. UBI is a way to avoid facing those questions.

Litmus tests like gun control or now UBI offer an opportunity to introduce the subjects that our betters would prefer not to discuss. UBI is a door that opens to a debate about who we are and what kind of society we want. That inevitably leads to the question of who gets to decide and why. That debate is always a part of what defines a society. For the modern West, it is a part that has no conscious place in our political life. Talking about the details may not be a lot of fun, but even a deal with the devil has opportunities.

The Safe Space

The “safe space” on the college campus is a place for “individuals, who feel marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization.” Alternatively, it can be the area around someone in authority, like a teacher, who “does not tolerate violence, harassment, hate speech or dissenting views, thereby creating a safe place for all people.” Another aspect of the safe space is that those, who should be excluded from it, react scornfully or negatively to the idea of the safe space.

It is a good example of how insider language works. To those into left-wing identity politics, the term makes perfect sense. A part of how they define themselves, even though they hold the whip hand on the college campus, is in terms of their victim status. The more you need the safe space, the more marginalized you are from the imaginary core, which is supposedly dominated by guys named Chad and Dylan. On the other hand, the outsiders find the whole idea weird and amusing. They don’t get it, because they don’t need it.

Of course, like everything with the Left, the opposite of what they say is always a good place to start when trying to understand what is really happening. In this case, the people who need the safe space are those with the dissenting opinions. If you are a one-legged trans woman of color, the campus is your safe space. If you are a normal person, you have to live like a white guy in a black ghetto. Everything you say and do is watched, as they look for a chance to pounce. You have no safe space, even in your head.

The idea of the safe space gets scoffed at by the so-called right, because that’s the role designed for them, so they play it enthusiastically. They never bother to examine it in any detail or wonder if there is more to it. Their cartoon existence is entirely reactionary and uncritical of the world created for them by the Left. The chubby, blue-haired lesbian starts screaming about the need for a safe space and Ben Shapiro callously mocks her. That’s the choreographed drama that pretty much explains all of our politics.

The thing is though, this safe space idea is not just a goofy college campus thing. It is spreading across the ruling class layer. For example, the left-wing cable chat shows are almost entirely free of dissent these days. What little is tolerated, must strictly adhere to that role of the callous, unfeeling face of the core, sneering at the marginalized. That person is the all-purpose foil for the other players on the stage to point, hiss and show their moral indignation. That person is never allowed to ask a useful question.

More ominously, our politics has become a safe space. No left-wing politician is ever exposed to a dissenting opinion. The closest we get is indignant chattering skulls giving someone like Ilhan Omar the business from a great distance. Maybe they try to have a proxy challenge someone like Tulsi Gabbard in a fake town hall meeting. You’ll note that these town hall style candidate forums are a safe space for the participants. The whole point of the event is to make sure no one utters a discouraging word.

The so-called conservatives are getting in on the act too. The intellectual dark web is really just a safe space for the NPC’s and stock characters of the so-called Right to mingle with one another. It’s like the hospitality tent for the never ending drama, but reserved for the non-liberal characters and their fans. They get to play make believe, pretending they are challenging conventional wisdom and disrupting the status quo, when in reality they are just warming up their lungs for their time on the main stage.

That’s another aspect of the safe space. It’s not a place to hide. It is place where those inside get to play make believe. Chad and Dylan are not just outside the door. They are banished from the earth. That leaves the freaks, weirdos and dullards to frolic in the sun, without fearing the ogres of normality. If you want to believe you are a unicorn, you are free to do so. If you want to pretend you are an intellectual challenging the status quo, you can do that to. You’re free to pretend to be what you like in the safe space.

Take a look at the intellectual dark web. Claire Lehmann is one of the intellectual leaders of this group. According to their talking points, these are people “determined to resist parroting what’s politically convenient.” Lehmann is probably a nice person, but her opinions would feel at home on most left-wing websites. In her favor, she is not demanding we burn down libraries and execute biologists, which is now the default position of the Left, but no curious person would confuse Lehmann with a dissident intellectual.

Consider Ben Shapiro, who markets himself as the super-intelligent right-wing slayer of liberal pundits. There are lots of clips on YouTube of Ben supposedly “destroying a liberal” in a debate. Yet, all of the clips are of him smacking around a dopey coed or maybe a third tier cable airhead. Everything about him is manufactured, but he is able to thrive because he exists in a safe space. He’s never going to have to sit across the table from someone, who can handle themselves, forcing him to defend his positions.

Of course, this is why the “opponents” of the Left are just as enthusiastic about defending the safe space as the Left. It’s not the money or even a fear of the people outside the walls of the safe space. That certainly plays a part. It’s that the people inside cannot exist without the safe space. They are hothouse flowers, who would wither and die if exposed to the outside world. Ben Shapiro is the assistant credit manager at a mid-sized company in real life. In the safe space he is an intellectual giant.

This concept of the safe space has evolved to the point where the political class now lives within a safe space, at the center of the larger safe space of the media. Two decades ago, your congressman would show up a few times a year to hear from constituents. Then he would show up and be interviewed on stage by some media people. Now, if he has any influence, he does not show up at all. Instead, you see him on TV or read about him being asked questions by someone from the media. Politics is now the ultimate safe space.

This is why our political class is immune to what’s happening far outside their safe space, where the voters live. Most Congressman, for example are unaware of the damage caused by indentured servants. They have no clue about how companies replace their American workers with visa holders from over the rainbow. That never makes it into the media safe space, so it never penetrates the political safe space. It’s also why Trump seemed like a howling lunatic when he used to talk about these subjects.

Can the global world be run by people living in an insulated fantasy land? It seems unlikely, but the very notion of a safe space seemed ridiculous not so long ago. Perhaps when the West passed the post-scarcity threshold, none of this matters anymore. The system is now a form of defense in-depth, so even delusional morons can run it, without causing the whole thing to collapse. Perhaps it is just a matter of the right crisis coming along to breech the walls of the safe space, so reality can pour through.

The Great Drama

For all of human history, the people in charge of society have had to both publicly demonstrate their piety and enforce public morality. Maybe the ruler got the blessing of the religious leaders and ruled according to their doctrines. Maybe the ruler was the head of the religion or even considered a god. His decrees were in support of his rule, but also the faith over which he ruled. In all cases, public ritual has always been an integral part of how the ruler relates to the ruled and how the ruled understand their society.

The ritual aspects of public life often go unnoticed, because the rituals are a part of the shared reality of the people. The ceremonies and rituals of society objectify this shared reality in the form of roles, mores and values. These rituals bind the private life of the citizen to the public life of society, creating a shared reality we think of as culture. For the people in a society, this shared reality is just reality. The public projections of shared morality are simply part of the commonly accepted structure of life.

Just as important, the people participate in this reality by playing their roles as part of how they are incorporated into the public space. The rulers do the things rulers do, while the spiritual leaders perform the roles and ceremonies for their role. The people respond according their role and bear witness to these public displays. By performing these ceremonies, rituals and customs, the people in the various roles are reinforced as that element of the shared reality. The public performance provides cultural meaning.

Think of the rituals of primitive people. The songs, dances and costumes are not part of a causal relationship. They are not performing X ritual because it will lead to Y result. They perform their rituals, because to not do so would separate them from what defines them as a people. The ritual is a part of their core and it binds the members, even those on the fringe, to that core. It is upon that core that their other social structures are built. To those inside, it is deeply meaningful. To those outside it is entirely meaningless.

In modern America, the political ritual has replaced religion and even regional culture, with a narrative that plays out on television and the internet every day. This narrative is a repetition of an old rhythm that dates to the founding. There is the sense of communal responsibility. There is the threat to the community that is spiritually well understood, but otherwise ill-defined. Within this construct, there are the roles for the moral leaders, the purely secular and the internal threat that binds with the external threat.

The template for this is the old New England town, living in fear of Old Scratch, the eternal tempter, who exists on the fringe of society. His presence defines the righteous, but is ignored by those only concerned with daily life. Troubles in the village, a bad harvest or maybe some unusual behavior, set the righteous against the secular, allowing them to maintain the moral high ground in society. At some point, the one cavorting with Old Scratch is found and is ritualistically punished for putting the community at risk.

Today, the word “democracy” is used instead of community. It transcends the literal definition to include the shared spiritual, cultural and emotional habitat. A threat to democracy is not someone rigging an election or causing the tabulation equipment to malfunction. In this age, a threat to democracy is a threat to our existence, in the same way a threat to the mother of small children is a threat to her small children. These threats are best understood as a threat to the emotional logic that operates our society.

As a result, our political theater is an endless loop of the Left declaring some threat to democracy, while the Right is either skeptical or insufficiently enthusiastic for defending democracy against this new threat. The threat itself can be nothing particular, as it is just a stock character in the drama. The Left warns, the Right scoffs, the threat inside our democracy is found and the Left demands punishment in blood. This is a narrative that is replayed on all stages of public life, both small and large. It is our shared narrative.

As is any drama, the characters are all interdependent. Instead of these being written into our national morality tale by clever writers, they are created and perpetuated by the players themselves. The Left is conditioned to create some version of the secular, materialistic Right, as well as the spiritual threat to the community. For its part, the Right is conditioned to seek out and play their role as well. As soon as the Left conjures a new version of Old Scratch, the Right responds by dismissing it in some way.

The roles of tempter and collaborator are also performed voluntarily. Take, for example, the alt-right a few years ago. They immediately went for the taboo iconography in order to make themselves both the thing the Left fears and the collaborator with that threat. You had suburban white boys from good families, dressing up as Nazis, while holding torch light processions. It was entirely symbolic. It was a plea to have a larger part in the national morality play, like a child’s plea for attention from a parent.

It’s why this summer we will probably have a long running drama about reparations to the descendants of slaves. It has nothing to do with the blacks. It is simply a casting call for all of the best performers to show up and perform their role. There will be plenty of self-righteous Progressives. On the Right, the skeptical, but tormented right-winger and the selfish and obtuse right-winger will have roles. The crowd will divide among those who prize spiritual fulfillment and those obsessed with material happiness.

Of course, it does not have to be about reparations. There are many possible themes around which to build the narrative this year. Ilhan Omar has given the usual suspects a reason to fret over antisemitism. Elizabeth Warren wants it to be about the threat of big business to our democracy. Ocasio-Cortez would like a dramatic performance of democratic socialism. The subject is no important, as the Left and the Right know their roles so well, they can play off of one another without a script.

This national narrative is why outsider politics never gains traction. There is no role for a second moralistic character. There can only be one righteous main figure in this tale, as to have others would suggest alternative moralities. The whole point of the performance is reinforce the only allowable morality. That leaves the other roles, which is why anything that is an authentic alternative either drifts into the role of the materialist Right or the roles of Old Scratch and his subversive tools within the society of the righteous.

That is the great struggle for alternative politics. Those seeking to build an authentic alternative must accept that they can never be in that drama, as to do so strips them of their authenticity as outsiders. At the same time, they must guard against being cast as the threat, the tempter, as that is just as ruinous as being the foil of the Left. Instead, like an obscure playwright working on his craft, the authentic alternative must build an alternative narrative that exists outside the defining narrative of the age.

This is what happened in the Enlightenment. The new philosophies of social organization that sprouted in that age, were alternatives to the dominant narrative structure of the age. Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau started from a blank sheet, writing a new understanding of community and their narrative structure. They did not think of it that way, but that is in effect what they were doing when pondering a new origin of human society. A new origin means a new story and that requires a new narrative drama.

The new drama meant the kings and aristocrats had to be swept away in order to install the new narrative. Those roles and symbols were of the old narrative. To preserve the old roles and symbols would mean maintaining the old moral order, at least symbolically. To kill the king was to kill his role and kill the relationship between his character and the drama. The liberal democratic revolution replaced more than institutions. It erased the old narrative and created a new one, with new roles and new national characters.


The news brought word that former Baylor football player Shawn Oakman was acquitted of second-degree felony sexual assault by a Texas jury. He was one of three players charged in the sexual assault panic that gripped Baylor University in 2016. That scandal resulted in mass firings, including the president of the university, Ken Starr. A law firm was hired to investigate the claims and their super-secret report led the board to purge the university of just about anyone connected to the football program.

Despite the rumors and over-heated press accounts, there was never much in the way of details to assess. In addition to Oakman, two other players were charged with crimes related to the panic. One player, Tevin Elliot, was sent away for twenty years, while the other player, Sam Ukwuachu, got 180 days for sexual assault. The case against Elliot was strong, even if a bit exaggerated. The case against Ukwuachu was the more familiar story of foggy memories, questionable claims and female regret.

There were some serious crimes committed by at least one player, so the affair was not without some merit. It’s that the hysteria was always way out of proportion, relative to what actually happened. The final result is one player who did some very bad things. One player who probably used poor judgement and another player who was accused, but acquitted. That hardly warrants dozens of firings, millions of dollars in tribunals and tens of millions in settlements to the people fired from their jobs.

Many of the allegations were so ridiculous, it’s hard to understand how anyone took them seriously. This one is reminiscent of the Virginia rape hoax. On the other hand, this seems to be a part of these sorts of panics. The adults dismiss the crazy talk and then there is a real crime. At that point every coed with a grievance shows up to testify about her night of torment and passion at the hands of some brute. The people in charge convene a tribunal where spectral evidence is presented from a parade of young women.

It is an interesting dynamic. The adults who initially dismiss the vivid claims are not wrong to be skeptical. Probably 95% of these tales are imaginary. Maybe more. On the other hand, the people panicking when a real crime occurs are not unreasonable. Colleges are the safest places on earth, so a real violent predator is like a fox in a hen house. The real victims are perfectly justified in pursuing their claims, even if it sets off a panic. In the moment, everyone is acting in what they think is their best interest.

That said, the aftermath of these panics also follows a pattern. Once everyone has virtue signaled on the issue, the show closes, the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. Then years later we learn that pretty much none of what was reported was true. Maybe a few items were close to right, but most were completely false. That was the case with a similar panic at the University of Colorado in 2001. A co-ed named Lisa Simpson made wild accusations. A panic ensued. Years later, none of it turned out to be true.

These panics are not confined to women having read too many bodice rippers. The hysteria over daycare in the 80’s and 90’s was mostly driven by mothers and quacks in the child psychology rackets. There were a few incidents of actual abuse, but most of the claims were completely absurd. That seems to be a common thread with these panics and hoaxes. The claims need to be salacious and wildly implausible. Simply complaining about a plausible and provable crime is not enough to start a panic.

Of course, the frequency of moral panics, going back to the witch trials, suggests they are a feature of human society, rather than a bug. Even in this age, when we can quickly call back to half a dozen prior panics that look like the one unfolding, there’s no heading these things off once they start. They have to burn themselves out. In fact, efforts to prevent the panic from fully blossoming, simply confirms the fears of the people involved. The lack of proof and the denials of the accused are proof that evils spirits are present.

It would be interesting to see if panics are more or less common in societies with well-defined public rituals and a common culture. It’s possible that panics are an ad hoc adaptation to the lack of public ritual that reinforces a core set of public morals. People in every society need to be reassured that the universe cares for them and they are in good standing with it. Public ritual is a ceremony to capture the spirit of the commonly held beliefs. Mass participation binds the community in those shared beliefs.

In a deracinated society like America, with so much diversity that everyone feels like a stranger, panics could serve as a placeholder for the public ritual. They don’t actually bring society together, but they fill that void, at least temporarily. Right now, the community of people who rule over us are ritualistically demanding the politicians condemn the Somali women for her blasphemy. What she actually said is not the point. What matters is everyone link arms and condemn the bad, in order to celebrate the good.

Another angle to the panic is that they are common at end of cycle times. The Great Fear swept France just before the French Revolution. The old system was falling away, but it was not clear what would replace it. Perhaps the proliferation of hate hoaxes and moral panics we are seeing in America is due to something similar. As old white America passes into history, what comes next is not exactly clear. What new civic religion will bind strangers from strange lands together? No one knows, so everyone is on edge.