Saturday, August 12, 2017

Defending racism

I have to ask, is defending racism (and sexism, religious bigotry, etc. ad nauseam; all the arguments here apply mutatis mutandis to other forms of discrimination), even if not in substance but only procedurally, the hill that liberals want to die on? Should we extend the most robust free speech protection to racists?

As far as I know, the state has not in recent memory put anyone in jail, has not fined anyone, has not permitted anyone to be sued in civil court, has not used any direct state power to punish anyone for racist speech. The state has not disbanded or punished any organization, publication, or association for racist speech, or forbidden any organization to publish racist speech. And, as far as I know, any demand for such state suppression of racist speech has been with nothing more than bemused refusal. I think the state shouldn't do these things, and they seem to agree: they're not doing these things. So, strictly speaking, racist speech is just not a First Amendment issue.

However, the "hammer of the state" is not the only form of coercion. Employers can coerce their employees by threatening to fire them and would-be employees by refusing to hire them. Universities can coerce students by suspending them, expelling them, altering their grades, or refusing to graduate them. A social group can expel or shame a member. I can coerce my friends by threatening to withhold my friendship. (I've done so, unapologetically: there are some views that disqualify someone from my good opinion, regardless of their other qualities). I disagree with how coercion is structured, but I am not an anarchist: I do not argue for the abolition of structures of coercion, but for the establishment of different structures. But that's an argument for another day. Our liberal democratic-republic capitalist has set up these structures of coercion, so how should we use them? Should we use the actually existing non-state structures of coercion against racism?

Any time we employ coercion, we will ruin some people's lives. That's the whole point: if you do X, we'll ruin your life, so don't fucking do it. I don't think anyone has actually starved to death because they've been denied employment for racist speech, but I'm sure that some people have been relegated to the hell of low-wage employment that liberal democratic-republican capitalism has set up to punish deviants.

The state itself should not regulate the "marketplace of ideas" (beyond the usual prohibitions of libel, slander, incitement to riot, conspiracy, and treason), but that doesn't mean that the marketplace should be absolutely free. To extend the metaphor, the marketplace of ideas requires an "entry fee", especially when we're talking about ideas in academia, because the intellectual function of academia is to legitimize ideas. And the entry fee is that you have to establish at least a foothold of evidence and argument.

Because we are a society founded on slavery, we grandfathered in racism. Academia has exhaustively examined the idea of racism. And we have found that not only is racism oppressive, it is absolutely, completely, thoroughly, totally, without intellectual and evidentiary merit. It has not paid the entry fee, and thus does not deserve inclusion in the marketplace of ideas. Racism not does not deserve (further) critical inquiry because there is literally nothing there to critically engage with, just a steaming mound of fetid horseshit.

And, because racism is actually oppressive, racist speech should not only be excluded, but actively punished.

So too for sexism, for homophobia, for transphobia, for religious bigotry. These are not even ideas, these are just ignorant superstitions, without a shred of intellectual merit. If someone holds these ideas, he or she should express them only with the blinds closed. Say them in public, and they should be well and truly fucked in civilized society.

If that makes me a heretic against liberalism, well, I'm not a liberal, I'm a communist. If the liberal ideal of free speech requires giving a free hand to racist assholes, who want drive people of color off campus and out of good jobs, to drive them out of the labor aristocracy, the professional-managerial class, and the capitalist class and confine them to the exploited working class, then liberals can go fuck themselves.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The detective

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But [in a detective novel] down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.

If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.

-- Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Why the democrats cannot be progressive

Color me unsurprised: Dem campaign chief vows no litmus test on abortion, via PZ Myers, who says,
I have this crazy idea that America really needs a political party that supports labor, women, and minorities, and that is dedicated to helping all people rise up. It should favor causes that improve civil rights and distributes power widely and works on making America better, rather than claiming it is already the best. It ought to have a platform that states clearly that it wants to promote the general welfare and strengthens every level of society, and that encourages greater autonomy of individuals, no matter how poor or wealthy they are. [emphasis added]
Sadly, it really is a crazy idea, mostly because of the emphasized passage above. The fundamental rule of capitalism is don't fuck with rich people's money. Don't take it, don't tax it, don't fine them. Don't enact policies that will substantially transfer income or wealth to the undeserving poor (i.e. not obscenely rich).

We tried this once. In the early 1930s, the rich people lost all their money. The professional-managerial class stepped in, took state power, and fixed the economy by actually giving money to poor people. The PMC made it very difficult for the capitalist class to get their money back and restore their relative economic power. The PMC has made a lot of egregious mistakes, especially the Vietnam war, but it's pretty clear that the capitalist class is utterly incompetent at political rule and cannot manage a national economy more complicated than that of the 1820s, much less a global economy.

But they did not destroy the capitalist class. Both Lenin and Mao discovered that destroying the capitalist class is a very difficult task, which they failed to complete.

It might have been possible to destroy the capitalist class in an already-industrialized country such as the United States, but again, as we saw in mid 19th-century Europe, that too is a difficult task: the capitalist class has a lot of power and no scruples: they're willing to kill hundreds of millions of people not only to keep their power but also just to make an extra buck. How do honest, moral revolutionaries confront such monstrosity without becoming monsters ourselves?

So one cannot really blame the PMC for blinking. They thought they could make a deal with the capitalists: let us run the state, do what needs to be done to keep the economy from failing and the people from revolting, and you get to keep running the businesses, make reasonable money, and live in comfort. Faced with an angry mob whom the capitalists feared might take up torches and pitchforks, the capitalists agreed, but when the mob dispersed, the capitalist class was having none of it. They didn't want to suffer egregious oppression under the boot-heels of the professional-managerial class: they wanted their money back. All of it. And more. And they'll get it.

Both the Democrats and Republicans were caught off-guard by Trump and Sanders. Trump won the Republican nomination because the Republicans knew he wouldn't get in the way of the capitalist agenda; Sanders lost precisely because he would have been a little bit progressive, and the capitalist class would not stand for it. But they didn't take Sanders seriously enough early enough, and he got close to winning the Democratic nomination; he might have defeated Trump. The capitalist class will not make the same mistake twice, and the Democratic party is eagerly helping, pushing the line that socialism is sexist and racist.

The professional-managerial class — and the PMC's Democratic party — still cannot comprehend that the capitalist class wants all the power, no matter and damn the consequences. Fiat justitia ruat cælum. The PMC keeps making concessions to the capitalist class, but the capitalists don't want a bigger piece of the pie, they want to be the ones cutting the pie and handing out slices.

But why should we expect Democrats to comprehend the capitalist class's will to power? There are only two alternatives — give up and commit political suicide or foment revolution — both unthinkable to those who have more than a minimal stake in the system. (It's easy for me to contemplate revolution; I have nothing to lose either way: I'll be dead before the capitalists completely ruin the university system.)

The Democratic party as an organ of the PMC died with the election of Trump. The professional-managerial class will never wield any political or economic power, and the Democratic party will probably be tasked with destroying the intellectual and political legitimacy of socialism. But even the slightly less assholy capitalists are still politically and macroeconomically incompetent, and they are about to crash the global economy so hard that the global financial crisis and lesser depression of 2007 to present, the Long Depression, even the Great Depression look like mild downturns. The capitalist class knows their enemy, and they will not allow the professional-managerial class to save them from themselves.

So everything is about to collapse, the relatively smart and well-educated people in the PMC can neither halt nor help recover from the collapse. Marx's prediction is about to become true: society will become divided between the capitalist class (and their now-subservient minions in the PMC) and the working class.

However, the working class can be dominated, at least for a while. They will go to war and die by the millions, tolerate near-starvation, material deprivation, and disease, they will submit to the most brutal authoritarian rule. Remember that the German people never revolted against the Nazis, and that even after the most brutal deprivation, the Bolsheviks took power only because of Lenin's intellect and will; without Lenin himself, Russia would have devolved into chaos. (Mao is a little more complicated.)

And we probably will. After Trump, le déluge. I am completely convinced that the Sanders-Warren wing of the Democratic party that is at least condescendingly charitable towards the working class has zero chance of taking state power after Trump (or Pence, if Trump resigns or is impeached and convicted). Regardless of who is president, we will have a capitalist Republican Congress, and a majority of Republican state governments; the president will either be a Republican or an ineffectual Democrat. Just a few more Republican (or Blue Dog Democratic) state governments and the capitalist class can amend the Constitution; they will be sure to do so. (See e.g. Hungary.)

We will have a wave of nationalistic patriotism supporting some big war, perhaps against the Middle East, perhaps against Russia. We will have food rationing, gas rationing, medical rationing, and the working class will tolerate it. At least for a while. No one can predict what will happen then: we could all die, a socialist utopia might emerge, or anything in between.