Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Tears In A Bucket

Why am I, a privileged minority living in the West, upset about the Charlie Hebdo killings yet not upset (not as upset?) about 2000 Nigerians dead at the hands of Boko Haram?

Why do I think it's brave to publish a Mohammed cartoon yet I don't endorse the publication of Carlos Latuff's bordering on anti-Semitic cartoons?

Whenever the left is confronted with something that they have to acknowledge, like the anger over the Charlie Hebdo killings, they dismiss it by finding an inconsistency. Conservatives aren't really fiscal hawks because conservatives somewhere aren't fiscal hawks. Conservatives are racist because they saw something racist on Fox News. Mike Harris did a thing, so we will never never never never vote PC. When a conservative somewhere drops the ball, everything every conservative says or has said is forever wrong.

Here's the problem, though: I (and Mike Harris) cannot have completely consistent position on anything, because I'm not a robot. I, like everyone, subdivide humanity into friendlies and threats. What's the bigger threat to me? What's the bigger benefit to me? These are questions that people, including judgy leftists on Twitter, ask themselves.

I would love to have as much empathy for autistic transgender otherkin who use "ze" and "zim" pronouns as I do for people who look like me. Unfortunately, when ISIS says, "I want you dead because you exist," I believe them. When my paycheque shrinks or when my commute time increases because Kathleen Wynne can't manage a province properly, it affects me personally and it makes me less likely to like her and less likely to think about the problems of autistic transgender otherkin besides.

Leftists ascribe this to the dehumanizing effects of capitalism, because doing that is easy. It's much harder to ask themselves if they can separate capitalists from capitalism, and hate one without hating the other in a love the sinner but hate the sin sort of way. If dudes don't think building a building with a one-to-one ratio of male to female bathrooms reinforces sexism, and it is known (if you are a leftist) that this sort of blind spot is unconscious, then it should be a simple exercise in logic to understand that yelling at the dudes is counterproductive, because they don't know what they did. Yet the yelling and the bathing in male tears continues unabated.

Why is this? It is because leftists and right wingers like me are both people, deciding what is most beneficial and what is most threatening to us. Not being particularly good myself with edged weapons or guns, I like to use my writing skills to defend myself against ISIS, or at least make myself believe that I'm doing that, and the leftists are focused on potty parity. The heart wants what it wants. That's the conservative position, and it is totally unacceptable to leftists who are suddenly not OK with differences of opinion when it comes to stuff they're emotionally invested in. That's why they're busy pointing out all of the things that are worse than Charlie Hebdo cartoonists being murdered. In an ideal world they would admit that they just don't care as much about the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists the same way I admit that I find it hard to care that much about some stuff, but.....

The experiments of the left are doomed to fail because it is impossible for anyone to be totally sympathetic to every single random concern out there. We can file this under the heading of "Uncomfortably True Conservative Truths." Being empathetic to the concerns of people you don't know is really, really hard. It requires (as per the leftists) lots and lots of education, and even then you are at risk of making social errors and being destroyed. Wait a second....that sounds like a pretty conservative worldview as well, what with the world being a threatening place and people needing to be on guard about those threats. Dammit.

Hmmmm....right, OK. It has to do with privilege. See, if I point out problems in the Muslim world, I'm criticizing an a underprivileged minority. So who's supposed to fix these problems? Muslims? No, I can't ask Muslims to fix their own problems because that's victim blaming. I and other privileged people need to fix the problems I'm.... not supposed to be pointing out....yeesh...

Now how the hell do I do that? Reassure Muslims that I stand with them and don't condone a backlash against them? No, because when ordinary Australians started the #illridewithyou hashtag after the Sydney cafe attacks, that just perpetuated racism against Muslims because it's patronizing. Well yeah...I'm not a fan of hashtag activism either. How about world leaders and the Pope speaking out against a backlash? Yeah, that's nice....but what about all the other things these people are doing wrong, like marching in a parade with the leaders of oppressive regimes, or not endorsing same sex marriage?!?! So we're back to square one with the good stuff not mattering because of all the other bad stuff. Which kind of makes you question the need to reach out in the first place.....which is something a conservative would say! Not again!!!

Why does everything these people do prove the correctness of the conservative worldview?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chained Reaction

Last week, because the conservative movement most emphatically does not exist, we were forced to ask questions that should never have had to be asked. We asked things like, "In some insane possible world, could murder be a response to being offended by things? Could this somehow be a thing that people do? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?" 

The thought of having to spend one millisecond considering being killed amongst the possible responses to saying things caused grievous and irreparable damage to what remained of my sanity, and so I took the plunge headlong into the writings of the neo-reactionary movement- something I've been avoiding for weeks. 

You may have even heard of this so-called Dark Enlightenment and how it's the next big thing in conservative politics even though it's a massive stretch to call them conservatives and they'd probably punch you in the mouth for calling them that. The movement defies easy categorization (of course) but it's a mix-and-match of various going concerns in out and around the conservative movement. Men's Rights Activism. Pissed off #Gamergaters. People who use scientific graphs to explain racial differences in IQ. Transhumanists (people who think the human body is a cage and want to be Johnny Depp in Transcendence). People who want closed borders. People who want open access to the Internet for everyone. Christian apologetics. The Thoreau-ians who just want to withdraw from society that always seem to gravitate to movements like this. Women who don't think feminism speaks for them. I, and most likely you, like one or two of these things sometimes, don't like others, and don't understand the rest. 

They like to write long-ass blogposts trying to explain themselves and how all of the above is supposed to fit together and how modern democracy has failed and we need to set up a system of pseudoautonomous benevolent dictatorships that stop trying to advance a society that apparently doesn't want to be advanced. There's something called "The Cathedral" which is basically Kathleen Wynne's ultimate political fantasy and all the stuff we don't like and which they oppose. 

Looking at it all, I felt exactly the same way I've felt at hundreds of pub sittings and breakout policy sessions (oh, how I hate that phrase) where everyone tries to figure out some common ground but mostly it devolves into arguments about what people consider themselves to be. "I consider myself a libertarian with anarchist leanings!" "Well I consider myself a social conservative who wants weed legalized!" "Well, I consider myself a Red Tory who wants free porn, supports the monarchy and concealed carry laws, and wants the LCBO abolished!"

Then of course there's the multiple marketing fails and bizarre codespeak, hallmarks of any good right-wing movement. Nobody seems to have pointed out, for example, that the central metaphor- The Cathedral- doesn't make any sense. What is so Cathedralish about a group of social terrorists who want to kill you because you don't validate their feelings? An out of control bureaucracy with no idea what it's doing to the people it's trying to help calls to mind an image of a Blind Idiot God, but these guys went with something pretty like "The Cathedral" to describe their hated enemies.  

But the biggest problem with the neoreactionary movement is the same problem with the libertarian movement, with the objectivist movement, with the conservative movement, with any of these silly non-movements, is that the things it considers to be important and the things normal people consider to be important are almost entirely separate. 

You know what isn't completely separate from the things normal people consider to be important? Beyonce's performance at the VMA's where she had FEMINIST in big letters behind her. 

One word. One image. No 3,742 word blogpost, no lecture on the principles of liberty, no Atlas Shrugged

This is the reason why the culture moves inexorably to the left. This is why we have to censor ourselves when talking about Charlie Hebdo. It's not because of a conspiracy. It's not because of the liberal media. It's not because of "The Cathedral." 

It's because of big frogs in a small pond, crabs in a bucket, cocoonery. 

Everyone here is interested in proving how much smarter they are than everyone else. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You Can't Change The Direction Of The Wind, But You Can Adjust The Sales

"Conservative movement." More and more, I think that statement is a contradiction in terms.

Not the first part. There are plenty of self-styled conservatives out there. The problem is with the second word. What is happening cannot be called "movement."

Movements have direction, and they move continuously in that direction. This is why the left is so successful. They want to do things like transform society to the point that we look weird and scary to everyone else, and they know exactly how to do that- by imposing their collective will on the rest of us.  

Meanwhile, conservatives spend so much time being down that anything else looks like up to them. I have always hated this tendency of right wingers to act like horny high schoolers, looking for that one moment where someone will look past how pathetic they are and take them seriously.

This is why so-called Principled Conservatives, who might even be otherwise intelligent individuals, still believe against all evidence to the contrary that Kathleen Wynne will somehow realize that she can't spend money forever and say "My God, what have I done?" instead of realizing that she is deliberately crashing the economy because she prizes people's feelings over actual fiscal realities. 

It's also why, for four years, these same people forgave whatever Rob Ford did "so long as he cuts my taxes", and why we have a PC Party of Ontario leadership race where Team Nicey-Nice are currently the prospective frontrunners. 

In all three cases Conservatives are so grateful that they aren't being ignored that they are ignoring the massive truck-sized problem in favour of something completely beside the point, which is the 100% no-fail method I use for determining when something terrible is about to happen. 

I'm coming back to the Danielle Smith defection for just a moment (another outrage which has become old news because the conservative movement cannot walk and chew gum at the same time), to remind everyone of the reason she gave for why she did it. In her warped mind, she had done everything she had set out to do, which was apparently getting Jim Prentice to pretend like he cared about balancing the budget. Once Prentice stopped treating the Wild Rose with Redfordian contempt, well, that's it then. The government was actually doing something that resembled listening, and that meant the show was over and there was no need to pay lip service to this ridiculous notion about being a movement. 

It looks increasingly like the whole point of the Wild Rose, or the PC Party of Ontario, or the Manning Centre, or any of the other unaffiliated, out-of-power, barely there conservative "movements" is to make big, stinky tantrums about crankish non-issues under the pretense of "holding the government's feet to the fire." If you can get your big, stinky tantrum on Sun News or in the National Post or on some held-together-with-tape-and-popsicle-sticks conservative news site so that people will give you a few donations for your trouble, you've basically won the lottery. That's about as much as your poor little abused mind can handle for the next few months.

And now, with all this preamble in mind, let's get to the point. As you all know, 12 French journalists were murdered because violent and stupid individuals took exception to Mohammed being mocked in cartoon form. And even though the usual gang of idiots vilified the MSM for jumping on the #JeSuisCharlie bandwagon, I think an equally good case can be made for the fact that the conservative media decided they were going to have themselves a great, huge, Category-5 big stinky tantrum instead of taking the legitimate anger felt by everyone who wasn't a committed social justice warrior over the attack on Charlie Hebdo and building a movement that would answer the very valid question that was, "What the hell are we doing to send a message to these murderers that they'd better not try it again?" 

Or maybe the conservative movement would rather they tried it again. It makes for great ratings on Sun News. Ezra and Mark Steyn can get really fired up, Rush can have a great rant, and for a couple of days people will actually not be overtly hostile to the idea of freedom of speech. Quick! Let's ask for donations to "keep the fight alive" before everyone forgets about Charlie Hebdo and starts talking about the Kardashians again! 

Meanwhile the social justice warriors, undeterred and (comparably) unconcerned about donations, got on their Twitters and Tumblrs and stuck to their guns.

No, Islam is not the problem- anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe is the problem.

No, freedom of speech is not what we should be talking about- instead we should be talking about that NAACP office that was bombed on the same day.

No, Charlie Hebdo was not actually a bastion of free speech- they fired a guy for being an anti-Semite. Also, double standards about free speech exist, apparently, so the whole argument in favour of it is invalid. 

My favourite of these was how the same people who will tear you to shreds for implying that a woman who was assaulted was asking for it because of the way she dressed were saying that well, nobody's condoning murder or anything, but maybe the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists shouldn't have been so darn racist if they didn't want trouble.

Think about for a minute, because the social justice warriors won't- you must understand that their movement is moving so fast that they have no time. 

And so, when Charlie Hebdo published its next issue, it should have not surprised anyone that the opinions of everyone that mattered lined up with those of the social justice warriors, and news outlets showed the magazine with the cover duly blurred out (if they showed it at all). The end result was, no, the consequences for speech should not include being murdered except yes they kind of do now.Terrorists win!

But that's OK, because the marginal right wingers who did publish the cartoons can be proud of themselves for winning a moral victory which isn't a victory at all, and they can ask their base for more donations, which is really all you can do, isn't it? 

Once upon a time, I had the privilege to hear Patrick Muttart, the former Deputy Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, tell a story about the 2004 federal election. The story goes that some brilliant strategist had the idea that Harper would fly above what I think was the Toronto waterfront in a helicopter before landing and making an announcement. And when Harper did land and spoke to reporters, the first question they asked him was about abortion. The second question was about abortion. The third, fourth, and fifth questions were about abortion. It was, as Muttart memorably described it, "a press conference about abortion with a helicopter blade turning slowly in the background." 

That's the conservative movement a decade ago, and, majority government nothwithstanding, that's the conservative movement now. Stuck in one place. Aimless. Getting asked awkward questions about issues we can't and don't win on, having no response. 

In some pocket dimension, possibly his own personal hell, Harper is standing there still with reporters asking him if he would keep women from terminating their pregnancies instead of asking whether the Liberals were mostly corrupt, slightly corrupt, or all the way corrupt, as that ridiculous helicopter blade twirls in an endless circle.

And that's why the Charlie Hebdo killings were not the wake-up call the conservative media so fervently hoped they'd be. They sit around waiting for the moment when people say enough is enough. While they sit, a lot more people are going to die, and a lot more donations are going to be made.