True Diversity of Perspective Means Looking Left

In the United States, the political landscape ranges from moderate right to right wing. No one is talking about socialism, which is defined by state ownership of the means of production, even though we have many institutions that have characteristics of socialism, e.g., the U.S. military, police departments, utilities, etc. It’s rare to find any critique of capitalism in any kind of mainstream media. Marxist ideas, such as the theory of surplus value, are never discussed in an accessible format. Want to talk about anarchism? You’ll get laughed out of the room in almost every instance.

Yet, there is this narrative that the default position of the world is “left” that is maintained by U.S. conservatives, where “left” is defined by the Democratic Party, a party of moderate conservatives. Among Democrats, who talks about socialism, communism or socialism? Bernie Sanders is the resident token.

And, the argument goes, since so much of the world is “left,” you really should take a look at diverse points of view to have a broad-minded outlook. You really need to read more conservative points of view.

The goal is obvious. If you engage more with conservative ideas, you are more likely to adopt them. Further, the Internet is a propaganda tool par excellence and it will slowly surface the most extreme views since they are more likely to garner attention and commentary. So, as you engage, you are pulled slowly in the direction of the more radical conservative mental landscape.

Freedom of speech and a diversity of viewpoints are cover. Are these folks reading leftist thinkers such as David Harvey, James C. Scott, etc.? Do they have anything meaningful to say about Noam Chomsky? They don’t. It shows that diversity of viewpoint is neither a goal nor a value of these folks. Ideas that don’t fit on the continuum of Democrat/Republican continue to be “News From Neptune.”

And, the default is not “left” but “right”. In any public forum on the Internet, you’ll find legions of “conservatives” promulgating and proselytizing for conservative viewpoints while under the delusion that their ideas are an “alternative” that everyone desperately needs to hear.

Dude, and they are almost all dudes, there’s someone like you on every site on the Internet. I know your viewpoint. I’ve seen free market fundamentalism, and every variety of right-wing idea that is in common and uncommon currency. I know you’ve been baptized by conservative Jesus, but everyone doesn’t want to hear about it.

The simple fact is that there are some ideas that are simply stupid or hateful. I didn’t need to read “the other side” on issues like vaccinations, Flat earth, whether the Bible relates the true story of the creation of mankind, Aquatic Apes, and the whole host of other equally bad ideas. If you want to talk about Soros, you’re probably an anti-semite trying out arguments that are older than The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I don’t need to look at it. Have an Epstein theory? Great, keep it to yourself.

You could waste your whole life looking at these viewpoints. And, you’d be a lot dumber at the end of your effort.

Diversity of viewpoints is a great idea. You just need to look at the whole spectrum rather than pretend the Overton window is all there is and that the fringe right of allowable discourse – with its attendant racism, sexism, and other X-isms – is somehow under-represented or worth spending much time reading rationalizations in their favor. These are the default, gents, and diversity would be looking at viewpoints critiquing them, and those are found primarily by reading thinkers on the left.

The Cost of the Club

I was reading Glenn Greenwald’s article in The Intercept today, and he makes an interesting point about how support for wars of adventure in the United States do not line up along any principled lines. The lines they tend to track are political party lines.

I have long thought that the fundamental disconnect in the worldview of the United States conservative is trying to square the circle of having both “small government” with “low taxes”, however defined, and a global war-fighting capability. You obviously cannot have both.

But, I realized today that this is also a criticism that could be levied against the United States liberal as well. If you believe that it is the responsibility of the state to provide education, healthcare and so forth, you have to prioritize those things above global war-fighting. The “Third Way”, “Blue Dog” and other, so called “centrists” of the Democratic Party don’t. It’s only on the fringe “far left” where conversation of limiting our military involvements around the world gets some play, and often very little there.

Spending trillions of dollars fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and proxy wars around the globe means that you have to tax to pay for those conflicts. It also means you cannot use that money to provide services to your population.

Fighting wars abroad is a project with bi-partisan support in the United States. Obama started with the rhetoric of getting out and then reversed himself once he got into office. Trump’s declaration that he was going to pull troops from Syria is another example. He made this announcement, and now, it is being walked back by the establishment.

Without a doubt, pulling troops from the Middle East, Africa and Asia lessens the influence of the United States in these countries. It also has real consequences for people living there, such as the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. But, the question is rarely asked about whether the amounts we are spending on global security are appropriate to the goals we aim to achieve.

Often, there are no goals. When a rare stated objective is in the mix, it is never subject to rigorous, open debate factoring in competing values. Instead, it comes down to party affiliation. Democrats and Republicans support their party’s politicians. The only thing they can seem to agree on is war, and the wars, with their spending, continue. Reducing government/taxes or increasing services to the population be damned.