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Populism is just resistance

The US economy is having a Wile E Coyote moment | Financial Times

 

 

I am mystified by the the word “populism”. What is the opposite of populism? Elitism? Does the term ‘populism’ have any use other than as an insult? What is the matter with pursuing policies that have the support of most of the people? Does a carbon tax become a populist measure if it is opposed by most people, but remains a sensible proposal if supported by centrist parties or the elites?

The term is like smoke. It has no substance. We may feel we know what it means, but it means anything the Left says it means. Mostly it means people or policies they don’t like.

A constitutionally elected Prime Minister like the Hungarian Viktor Orban is described as an ‘authoritarian’, yet he holds a majority in the Hungarian Parliament, and would be out of power if he lost a majority in the house.  A ruthless dictator like Putin is described as an ‘authoritarian’, yet he hardly refers to or depends on the Russian Duma at all. A Prime Minister of Canada holds a majority in the House of Commons thanks to an parliamentary coalition with the fourth largest party.  He seeks to pass legislation crushing the possibility of free expression on the Internet, through a revised Broadcasting Act that makes most Internet expression into a state-licensed activity, and by an on-line harms bill, which says that only certain groups can be offended, and further seeks to control the press by a scheme of compulsory compensation from the large platforms to Canadian newspapers on conditions approved by the CRTC. Does Trudeau escape being labelled an authoritarian because he leaves speech control to regulatory agencies? Or because he effectively emotes a false compassion? It is a mystery.

 

Simon Jenkyns writes in the Guardian that

The message is that party is being supplanted by personality and identity. As relative prosperity rises, voters are taking recourse in prejudice and emotional security. They can distrust outsiders. They can hate globalists, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and liberals, however defined. They want to feel control over their own lives…This populism has torn the left-right spectrum apart.

It is not Simon Jenkyns’ finest article; but he is trying to warn the Left of the seriousness of the opposition to elite consensus politics. What Jenkyns and other self-styled progressives are trying to warn about is that issues are going to be contested in the next few years as they have not been since the 1970s or perhaps since the 1930s. Inflation, the COVID shut down, the lies about vaccines (safe! effective! mandatory!), global warming catastrophism (carbon neutral policies, taxes,  subsidizing electric cars, messing with people’s access to heating fuels), gender policy, LGBTQQ+ and its attendant speech controls: the vast panoply of governmental management of the economy, nudging of behaviour and thought control is shortly to be contested. The political elites have engaged in grotesque over-reach and, like Wile E. Coyote treading air over the desert floor, they are showing signs they know they may have gone too far.

 

 

 

 

What the right gets right about the trucker revolt

A left-wing writer on the trucker rebellion is fascinating. She looks at the trucker revolt as “right wing”, though I am sure the organizers of the trucker blockade of Ottawa streets have no such conception of themselves, and would reject it if they were called it. It also has a strange flavour of a person who lives in a bubble peering out from it dimly to discern, as Bob Dylan said many years ago, “something happening here an’ you don’t know what it is, do you? Mr. Jones”

Emma Jackson writes:

“Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s a lot that the anti-mandate movement is getting right from an organizing and movement-building perspective.

“For starters, in stark contrast to the Left, the past few days have revealed how much better the Right is at meeting people where they’re at.

“Instead of building an insular movement restricted to people who agree with each other 93 per cent of the time, the Right has successfully tapped into widely held resentment and built a mass on-ramp for people with highly divergent views. It’s why the Freedom Convoy isn’t just being ardently defended by white supremacists on Rebel News, but also by anti-vaccine Green Party supporters in the inboxes of mainstream environmental organizations.”

<snip>

Imagine the power that comes from not insisting that everyone agree on everything before you agree to act together! Who knew?

“In the anti-mandate movement, everyone’s participation is welcome. Of course, this also extends to participants brandishing yellow star pins, thin blue line badges, and flags with swastikas—a level of acceptance that should never be tolerated.

“But the degree to which thousands are willing to come to the defense of the movement the second its racist and antisemitic elements are exposed—insisting that they’re just a “few bad apples”—is telling. It proves their commitment to building and defending the biggest possible “we,” against the smallest possible “them”—in this case, the liberal establishment, mainstream media, and those of us naïve enough to be under the spell of both.

It’s also evidence of their collective disdain for any whiff of social elitism—something that is likely only being exacerbated by the urban left’s impulse to wag our fingers at these “backward, selfish people.”

Translating from the wokish, they are open, and anti-snobbish and to borrow her phrase, committed to the biggest possible “we”.

“In order to actively and constantly be recruiting everyday working people into your base (i.e. build power), you actually have to talk to them and ground your recruitment in the everyday institutions and networks they belong to. It’s obvious that the anti-mandate and anti-vaccine crowd is doing just that by engaging in one-on-one conversations with their neighbors, co-workers, and complete strangers, and listening to their collective grievances.

“But the anti-mandate movement isn’t just recruiting participants one-by-one, they’re also successfully bringing entire institutions into the movement and providing them with opportunities to visibly show their support. They’ve successfully recruited evangelical churches, private trucker associations, and far-right outlets like Rebel News, all of whom are fueling the movement—whether by distributing ham sandwiches at rest stops or amplifying their message to hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube.”

<snip>

They have genuine, broad based support. They build coalitions. Who knew?

Emma Jackson continues;

“Labour’s institutional heft is unparalleled, but those of us belonging to other movement threads—climate justice, anti-racism, Indigenous solidarity— must also reflect on how it is that the far-right is doing a better job of recruiting our own family, friends, and co-workers into their movements, than we are into our own.

“Insularity has prevented the left from reaching the mainstream. We have an opportunity to examine our tendency to build organizations that feel more like exclusive clubs for the “already woke,” than they do welcoming spaces for political education and transformation where people feel deeply valued and needed.”

Emma, Emma, listen to Uncle Dalwhinnie:

  1. There is no such thing as the “far right”. The “right” and “the far right” are left wing mental constructions. Those inside the Marxist thought prison imagine that everyone who opposes them is in their own, equally restrictive, thought-prison.  Not so. The only people inside the thought prison are the political left (in my experience) . Other people are quite free to disagree, argue, and have a beer together.  David Horowitz write about this sudden realization when he left the political Left, which he wrote about it “Radical Son”, which is a must-read for all evolving soon to be former Marxists.
  2. Precisely what makes the political left an exclusionary cult is its false but wholly sincere sense of its moral superiority. If you give up believing in your moral superiority, you realize you are a sinner like the rest of the sinners. Then yu are ready to build broad coalitions politically and even religiously.
  3. Living without moral superiority is really difficult. Millions do it every day. If the political Left tried it, they might find themselves being listened to.

Douglas Murray says it all

Things are as they normally are. We have been extremely lucky to have avoided revolution completely and great civil unrest since the 1960s. I could blog all day about BLM, defunding police, anarchists, the Democrats. What I observe is an anti-white anti-rational, anti-Enlightenment cultural and would-be political revolution. That is the part of the elephant that I can feel. It is against standards of any kind, the truth, the possibility of truth, the Enlightenment (viz David Hume). It is generated by malignant forces of the Left (because that is what they call themselves) against the rest of society, which they imagine to be on the brink of fascism. As I look around the principal fascist forces call themselves Antifa.

I think we are in a nearly desperate situation, but I think it can still be turned around. But we are in for a decade of increasing civil disorder, greater poverty, and stresses that will lead to war.

Douglas Murray captures my feelings exactly. We have had it so good for so long that we have tolerated fools and termites  in universities undermining the bases of intellectual and moral standards. By their fruits ye shall know them.

 

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 

 

 

Fatuity

Zuckerberg and Harari – the latter is one of the most over-rated gasbags of the modern world – talk past each other for an hour and a half. Harari is concerned with the implications of Artificial Intelligence, and Zuckerberg with the breakup of the Internet into national jurisdictions. All of which is reasonable from their perspectives.

I am going to say something outrageous here: I do not think these people are all that bright. I invite you to watch the show (I suggest from about 28 minutes into it). Yes I am aware that Harari has three hugely best-selling histories of everything on the market, and he is currently fashionable. And we all know that Zuckerberg is a Master of the Universe with many tens of billions of dollars in his grasp. I have neither the billions nor the best sellers and I could be accused of envy.

Zuckerberg thinks AI is a set of methods that improve processes everywhere. It should not be personified, as Harari does. Perhaps I should not be so harsh on Zuckerberg. He makes a few reasonable points. Nevertheless I find him banal, even if largely right .

Harari thinks the forces of efficiency and morality have split, and this has given a boost to totalitarian regimes. “Some system far away can know me better than my mother”, and that system can be hostile.

This, he says, is a situation we never had to deal with before.

Zuckerberg observes that there is no metric to optimize society. Harari conceives that “free will” is an illusion, and that what people imagine is their own will is an implant, so to speak, of the persuasive arts developed through the Internet.

My understanding of this attitude is shaped by what I heard recently from some left wing academic (I know, a pleonasm). He argues that the “press” needed to become professionalized , that is, turned into a self regulating professional body with powers of certification and disaccreditation, in the manner of lawyers, doctors or occupational therapists. He based his views o the terrible events of recent years, Brexit and the election of Trump.

It is difficult for those of us who look upon Brexit and Trump as perfectly understandable to sympathize with the shock that these two events delivered to the political Left. More even than the fall of Communism in 1989, the fall of Obama/Clinton and their replacement by Trump was their own personal “collapse of Communism”, their god that failed. And Brexit likewise has overturned the rule of the chattering classes in Britain, and they are fighting back as hard as they can to reclaim their accustomed role in ruling opinion.

Harari would argue that the customer is no longer right, because his opinion has been hacked by AI and manipulative algorithms. Zuckerberg, to his credit, demurs. These questions are not new, he says. In that he is perfectly correct. And I also agree with Zuckerberg that that technology has not made this problem more acute now than it has ever been, and thus I think Harari is merely handwringing. But he will not shut up about his concerns. Zuckerberg, by contrast, seems more rooted in the world of practice.