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.

Conversations with Conservatives: Lies We Tell About Ourselves & Others

  1. I was eating at a place that has communal seating. An older white man, mid-70s I’d guess, declares himself a conservative, and later, within the context of another table with, presumably, fellow conservatives says, lightly paraphrased: “Women would rather not work. The only reason they do so is because of economic necessity.”
  2. An older white man, mid-60s I’d guess, starts up a friendly conversation in small town America and quickly turns the conversation to how great a job President Trump is doing. My lack of enthusiasm makes it clear I don’t share his point of view. In a subsequent conversation, he claims he can walk six miles in an hour. As a runner, six miles an hour is a 10 minute per mile pace, which I do on my easy running days. While I’ve heard that there are Olympic race walkers that can do a mile in six minutes, I think there is no chance that this man can walk that fast. I say so. He doubles down and assures me he can do it, and would I like to join him? I tell him if I were to do so, I’d need to run.

These two exchanges got me thinking about the stories we tell ourselves. Does Conservative 1 not have any female family or friends that could let him know that economic independence is an important precondition for many kinds of self-actualization, which is just as important to women as to men?

Conservative 2 raises a more interesting question. Is he making this kind of out-sized claim about his ability because he is insecure? Or, do these kinds of lies serve a signaling function? By pretending that I’m impressed and taking this claim at face value, am I letting him know that I value our relationship over some kind of “objective truth”, which signals that I am part of his political tribe? By not doing it, am I signaling the opposite? Was this the point of this obvious, white lie?

And, is this also going on in the first example? Maybe the point of claiming that women don’t want to work is to shore up the rationalization of patriarchy among conservative men and to form them into a tribe of shared interests? The reality may be besides the point.

Extend this out far enough, and it starts looking like a feature of our times: left, right and center. Aren’t antifa leftists, liberal Democrats, and pretty much everyone else with a political viewpoint basically trying to signal that they buy into a particular narrative? And don’t all of these narratives have winners and losers, with the losers being some kind of Other to the tribe with that particular set of beliefs?

Outer Limits — Real Life

“Today, one of the best predictors of one’s political orientation is the density of the neighborhood they live in; people who live in the suburbs are also more likely to get their news from broadcast and local television. Taken together, this means suburbanites see fewer strangers in their everyday lives, and fill that void with sensationalized accounts of ever-present, creeping danger.

This creates fertile ground for reactionary, conservative political movements. While most suburbanites still get a majority of their news from these older media sources, more of them are getting it from apps like Facebook and Nextdoor, where the ideas broadcast through outlets like Fox can fester person-to-person. In this way the suburbs get the social functions of the city street, but with suburban-style tools of control and segregation.”

—David A. Banks, “Outer Limits.” Real Life. June 20, 2019.

Something that occurs to me is that the prevalence of far-right conservative ideas among the 65 and older set in the United States might be a symptom of loneliness.

If you have few friends and little social connection, are unemployed, and are considered a marginal Other, you might start looking for belonging wherever you can find it. A Ku Klux Klan outfit might give a sense of relevance back to a person who has grown old and has no experience with being marginalized.

Michael Cohen’s GoFundMe: Why Liberals are Giving to Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and Peter Strzok – Vox

“The success of crowdfunding campaigns for anti-Trump figures — even Cohen — seems to be yet another manifestation of the progressive enthusiasm that’s showing up elsewhere. People are angry, upset, and ready to go, and it’s an outlet for them to do something. After Sen. John McCain’s death, one person donated $20 to Cohen’s fund in his name.

‘What it looks like to me is that progressives in particular are engaging in any way you can think of, money being a big one,’ Thomas, from Crowdpac, said.”

—Emily Stewart. “Michael Cohen’s GoFundMe: why liberals are giving to Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and Peter Strzok.” Vox. August 27, 2018.

After reading this article, one has to wonder how contributing to Micheal Cohen’s legal defense fund constitutes a “progressive” outlet for action. Is there not a more worthy cause to contribute your money to than Micheal Cohen’s legal defense fund?

This is just the most recent example where a thinking person has to step back and look at the two party system with its constituent factions and wonder, “What is going on here?”

Progressives, liberals, evangelicals, and Tea Party conservatives are consumed by agendas that are oxymoronic. The classic example: You can have small government. You can have a global war-fighting capability. But, you cannot have both. Modern conservativism pretends you can.

And, it’s not just conservatism. Progressives want government to foster change. But, the more power government has the more attractive it becomes for capture by corporate interests, which uses the government’s power to reenforce the status quo.

Progress, assuming it is possible at all, isn’t driven by the federal government. Exhibit A: alcohol and drug prohibition that was advocated by progressives became tools that turned into the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. In the long run, government power is used to promote elite interests and not any kind of “progress.”

Add in:

  • Free market fundamentalists who believe the free market is the solution to every problem, and neither know of or care about the horrors of the factory systems then and now.
  • Liberal identity politics whose big idea is to put women and people of color in positions of power and maintain the status quo by reigning in the worst abuses.
  • Evangelical literalists that want to return to the social relations of pastoral and agricultural societies while living in an industrialized one.
  • The anything for a Buck crowd that are in it just for the money and influence, i.e., most politicians, regardless of party.

When you look at this dumpster fire, with whom do you wish to associate? Democrat or Republican? Liberal or conservative? The only reasonable answer is none of the above.

I’ll cast my vote for the least worst candidate. But, don’t expect me to pretend to care or believe that it makes much difference.