There was another news story that came my way, and I felt I had to talk about it because it has rather grave implications for liberty. It has been less than three months since the Bharatiya Janata Party was re-elected as the dominant party in the Lok Sabha in the Indian general election, with Narendra Modi securing his position of Prime Minister by an even larger margin than he did in 2014. Since then, there have been signs that India is moving in a direction that can only be described as George W. Bush’s America on crack.
In July of 2018, Shashi Tharoor, a liberal Congress MP, stated that a BJP victory in this year’s election would result in the creation of what he called a Hindu Pakistan. He predicted that the BJP will replace the current constitution of India with a new constitution, one that will affirm their desired state of India as a Hindu Rashtra, meaning a Hindu state (which is not only theocratic in the sense of being built on the rule of the Hindu faith, but also ethnocratic in that it is based on the idea of the “Hindu race”), and that when this Hindu Rashtra is erected it will bring an end to any semblance, or even pretence, of social equality. Now, just a few days ago, a court in Kolkata issued a warrant for Tharoor’s arrest over the remarks he made last year after a man named Sumeet Chowdary filed a case against him. One wonders why Chowdary did not see fit to do so when the remarks were originally made. For their part, the BJP appears to be supporting this decision. BJP spokesperson Sreenath Sheshdari stated that he believes Tharoor’s remarks were “anti-Indian” (which should immediately be your first red flag), claiming that the BJP has nothing to do with the goal of the Hindu Rashtra, saying “We have talked about the culture, not about Hinduism as a religion”.
Now, putting aside the obvious lies that the BJP marshalls in defence of Tharoor’s arrest warrant, just take stock into the fact that a man, let alone a sitting MP, is being arrested for criticizing the government. This is normally the kind of thing we would consider unthinkable in Western countries. We rightly call this out as the sign of prevailing authoritarainism or even totalitarianism. But that’s what’s happening in India right now. A man is being arrested for criticizing the ambitions of the government and its ruling ideology. And given recent events concerning India-Pakistan relations (namely the revocation of Kashmir and Jammu’s autonomy and the blackouts being imposed by the government), it seems safe to assume that this repression is directly tied to the government’s ambitions for Pakistan. They want to invade Pakistan in order to realize the Hindu Rashtra, and lock up those who criticize them.
And the BJP can try all they like with their meager arguments to obfuscate the reality of the situation, but it is not possible to truly hide it. Violence against religious minorities is more of a prevalent phenomenon in Indian society than it was before, with pro-Hindutva thugs attacking Christians, Muslims, and Dalit Buddhists seemingly every other few weeks or so. And as for their claims that they don’t want a Hindu Rashtra? They are the direct product of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who in fact are notable for their ambitions of a Hindu Rashtra. They’re just not willing to obfuscate their ambitions in the way that the BJP does nowadays. So, functionally speaking, the BJP are lying to you. But then they also lied about there being terrorists in Balatok after they struck the area, so what else can we expect from them but to lie about their ambitions.
In any case, if Tharoor is arrested over his remarks, and I don’t trust the BJP government to not prosecute him, then India will be in the process of transforming into, let’s not beat around the bush here, a totalitarian or just plain dictatorial state. If you thought Bush’s America was bad, what with the Patriot Act and all, just wait because Modi’s India is going to be much worse, with the government issuing arrest warrants to more critics and Hindutva street violence against people who oppose their politics, which I can assure you the BJP will not be interested in cracking down on. And all a prelude to the invasion of Pakistan.
And, by the way, let me just stress this for my American readership: this is the country Tulsi Gabbard thinks the US should maintain good relations with. This is what she’s covering for when she defends Modi and the Hindutva movement from criticism with her pallid cries of bigotry or “Hinduphobia”. And if you want Tulsi Gabbard to win the nomination and become President, that’s what you’re prepared to countenance as well.
George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 is often misunderstood by all corners as a generic cry against either censorship or just state regulation. One detail that its conservative admirers often miss out on is that the whole point of 1984 is that there is seemingly perpetual war between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, and Oceania’s totalitarian dictatorship is ultimately centered on controlling the masses so that they will not resist the cycle of perpetual war that Oceania subjects its people to. Through constant misinformation the masses are condition into supporting a war machine that fights for the purpose of extending authority and power and undercutting social and economic equality and freedom. What we see in India may well be the beginning of this process.
Imagine, if you will, a country so enamored with the Christian religion, a religion which it has nurtured arguably since its foundation, that it imbibes a moral panic centering around how that religion is facing persecution at the hands of the social fabric, despite Christianity having been a protected institution for as long as we can remember. Imagine also that this country is enacting laws in response to this panic, laws designed to entrench the security of Christianity as an institution in a manner that flies in the face of the secularism that country likes to hold itself to.
Now here’s the kicker: you probably think I’m talking about the United States of America don’t you?
Well, you’d be forgiven for guessing as such, but I’m actually talking about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; or, just Britain.
I’ve been seeing the phrase “Christianphobia” crop up in recent times, not only from the American right as one might expect, but from British conservatives. Only a few years ago a phrase like “Christianphobia” really would just be the product of the American religious right, and it still is invoked by the American right at times, but now it seems like American fear-mongering about Christianity has been exported to the UK. An example of this is how Carl Benjamin (a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad) actually gave a speech for the big tent national-populist party known as UKIP (of which he is a member), about how Christians are being actively persecuted by the British state, and he says this despite being an avowed secular atheist.
The general idea is not just confined to the nascent new right either, or to Christian fundamentalists, but actually appears to have some traction in the halls of power. Recently Jeremy Hunt, the other guy vying to become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, stated that the UK needs to adopt a legal definition of “anti-Christian discrimination” similar to certain definitions of “Islamophobia” and anti-semitism. Let’s just stop here and think about that for a moment. There are definitions of anti-semitism being pushed for that deem criticism of Israel as being equal to hatred of the Jewish race – a definition that is very convenient for people who want to cover for the crimes committed by the state of Israel under its Likud government – and the term “Islamophobia”, while intended to refer to racial prejudice (as though Muslims are somehow a race unto themselves), is often leveraged to refer to strident criticisms of Islam (many atheists, for example, are derided as “Islamophobes” for criticizing Islam in a manner that is consistent with their criticisms of Christianity or Judaism). The fact that Jeremy Hunt wants us to adopt a definition of “anti-Christian discrimination” along those lines suggests to me a clear attempt to attack freedom of speech by making Christianity a protected class in the same manner as the Islamic and the ideology of Zionism, which makes the fact that Hunt whines about liberal political correctness all the more ironic.
What is very interesting to me is the way that, in the Guardian article discussing this, we learn of a report ordered by Hunt that stresses that Christianity is not simply an expression of white privilege on the grounds that there are many Christians in the global south. This to me is a strange point to emphasize. Very few people actually treat Christianity as a form of “white privilege” besides a few contingents of the post-colonial “left”, and anyone who knows anything about Africa knows that many African countries are very Christian, with both Christianity and Islam making up the two largest religions on the continent (which is also a source of religious conflict). It seems like a strange thing to have to point out, and it seems to be very obvious that there’s a much more cynical political agenda at work, aimed at a very niche issue within the hard right (although the report conspicuously takes care to stress that their report is take to be taken as a stick for the “Islamophobic right” to beat Islam with).
Now, let me just make something perfectly clear. I’m not at all saying that Christians are not being persecuted anywhere in the world. In fact, there are actually quite a few parts of the world where Christians face real and often violent persecution, often at the hands of Islamic zealots. But you know where Christians aren’t being persecuted for their religion, where they aren’t actively marginalized as a religion? Western countries, which for centuries until after the Enlightenment have actively nurtured Christianity as a veritable social institution. Here in Britain, although we are officially a secular country and about half of the population is formally irreligious, we are techincally ruled by the Church of England in the sense that our head of state is also the head of the Church of England. For those who might be on the other side of the pond, we Brits operate under what’s called a constitutional monarchy, a system wherein we are governed a parliamentary representative democracy (well, bourgeois democracy in this case but I digress) but we have a monarch that still exercises sovereign authority over that democratic system, although typically wields ceremonial power more than concrete political power (except of course for the fact that the monarch is the commander in chief of the armed forces). So if we consider the effective head of state is also the head of the Church of England, and there’s no evidence of credible persecution in the UK let alone other Western countries, the whole thing just comes across as a weird virtue signal about the global south, a cheap exploitation of the real struggles of Christians in the third world leveraged solely as a plank of conservative political correctness against liberal political correctness.
This opportunism cannot go unopposed by those who seek to maintain a secular order based in freedom of speech.
The last month has been very eventful for freedom of speech on the Internet, and not for good cause. Last week, Tumblr announced a total ban on pornography would be implemented on December 17th. As has often been the case in past moral crusades against pornography, the impetus for this is a classic “think of the children!” scenario. In a statement, Tumblr makes it explicitly clear that their underlying motivation is to crack down on child pornography. But, it should be obvious to us that this excuse is a hollow in its self-righteousness. First of all if it was truly only child pornography they were concerned with, they would not be so focused on removing all adult content on the website. Secondly, despite the website’s claims to still allow free discussion about sexuality, the new move appears to present a credible threat to various sexual subcultures, sex-positive activists and sex workers by targeting their content even if it is not overtly pornographic.
I cannot ignore the irony of all this. The First Amendment is supposed to be America’s ironclad guarantor of freedom of speech and expression in the United States, the example of such for the free world (in contrast to my country where we don’t even have a written constitution). But the powers that be can effectively subvert it in the name of a substanceless moral panic disguising the expansion of unitary power over free expression. This applies not only to pornography and sex-positive communities (not to mention online LGBT groups), but also, as I’ve pointed out months ago, criticism of Israel. America, for its pretense to care about freedom of speech, is quite prepared to destroy it in as many ways as it can get away with in order to sanitize public discussion on the Internet.
It has been a while since I’ve talked about The Satanic Temple, and it seems there have been new developments taking place pertaining to that organization. Unfortunately, none of them are good. Here I will attempt to examine them one-by-one and give my commentary on the subject.
The Satanic Temple vs Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
About a month ago, The Satanic Temple decided to sue Warner Bros and Netflix, the producers of a television show named Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which seems to be a reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, on the grounds that the show uses a copy of their statue of Satan entitled Baphomet in their show. The head of the organization, Lucien Greaves, claimed that the design was copyrighted, and therefore Netflix had illegitimately appropriated it, and also claimed that the show was using their design in order to demonize Satanism and promote some sort of Satanic Panic agenda through the show.
There’s a certain irony to Lucien Greaves’ stance on this particular issue. As will be discussed later on in this post, he has stated in the past that he supports freedom of speech even for opinions and ideas he disagrees with, yet in suing Netflix over their interpretation of their Baphomet statue they seemed to be coming to against the freedom of expression on the part of the producers of the show because it makes Satanism look villainous. Of course, when someone on Twitter pointed this out, Lucien said that it wasn’t really freedom of speech because, as he claims, Netflix’s use of their statue amounted to theft of intellectual property. Rather convenient, and rather dubious considering all Baphomet is TST’s interpretation of Satan, a figure that has been interpreted in numerous ways for a few thousand years now.
Now, there is some good news that came out of this: namely, that The Satanic Temple have decided on Thursday to settle the lawsuit with Warner Bros and Netflix, with the organization announcing that “The unique elements of the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue will be acknowledged in the credits of episodes which have already been filmed. The remaining terms of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement.”. However, in true Lucien Greaves fashion, Lucien Greaves casts himself as the victim in a sense, bemoaning the whole affair as “one of the most overpublicized of copyright claims”, which is rather interesting considering it was he and his organization who first leveled the claim to begin with. If you didn’t want this sort of press, and it wasn’t that big a deal after all, why go through all the trouble? To protect a symbol? Seems rather pathetic to whine about the whole affair after having effectively started it yourself.
The Satanic Temple vs Antifa
Another development that happened in relation to The Satanic Temple this month is that they were accused of being aligned with fascism and the alt-right by Antifa movements. To be fair, this has been a thing for a while now, with websites like It’s Going Down accusing The Satanic Temple of harbouring a creeping fascism in its ranks. However, this month, the accusations have resurfaced in a three-part series of blog posts by Trident City Antifa, who believe The Satanic Temple is either an agent of fascism or adjacent to fascism.
The reasoning for their accusations can be summarized by the following claims:
Lucien Greaves’ defence of Milo Yiannopolous over the Berkeley riots last year, with Antifa claiming that said defence amounts to allowing him to oppress minorities with his speech, or something.
Lucien Greaves’ general support for freedom of speech, even for fascists or supposed fascists, and disdain for the “Punch Nazis” strategy.
The Satanic Temple’s hiring of Marc Randazza, a lawyer known for defending the likes of Alex Jones, Andrew Anglin, Mike Cernovich and members of the alt-right, to represent them in their suit against Twitter for allegedly censoring religious minorities, a decision which caused one local branch to distance themselves from the organization in response.
Greg Stevens being on The Satanic Temple’s National Council, which is deemed problematic because of his apparent friendship with Mike Cernovich and Milo Yiannopoulous.
Lucien Greaves’ friendship with Shane Bugbee, who is accused of being a transphobe.
Lucien Greaves’ association with Adam Parfrey, who in turn was also apparently associated with a fourth-positionist named James Porazzo and apparent fascist author Robert Stark.
Lucien Greaves’ general opposition to Antifa.
There’s a lot to cover here, but all in all the accusation that Greaves is pro-fascist can be summarized in a few words: the guilt by association fallacy.
Think about it: let’s start with Marc Randazza. Yes, the man defended Alex Jones, and Mike Cernovich, and Andrew Anglin, and there is a reason why he did. He’s a First Amendment attorney, he argues in defense of sometimes bad people typically on the grounds of speech, and Lucien Greaves, in looking for someone to represent The Satanic Temple, must have seen that in him as an ideal candidate to defend his organization. He is also known as a prolific defender of the porn industry. Greaves probably chose Randazza because Randazza was what I guess you’d call a free speech warrior, not because of his supposed fascism. The same concern for freedom of speech, rather than ideological alignment, is the obvious impetus for Greaves’ defense of Milo Yiannopoulos. Then there’s Greg Stevens, who as far as I know seems to be something of a liberal, something like what Dave Rubin was when he started saying he was a classical liberal but before he descended into just straight up conservative libertarianism, and his only link to the alt-right is him being apparent friends with Mike Cernovich and Milo, of whom only one likely seriously shares any deeply-held ethnonationalist political beliefs with the alt-right.
Then there’s Adam Parfrey. Greaves is tied to fascism through Parfrey because Parfrey was apparently associated with Greaves, who was somewhat fond of Parfrey on the grounds that Parfrey supported his work and was the curator of TST’s first art exhibition. The fact that Greaves doesn’t appear to endorse Parfrey’s apparent fascist associations should be a red flag a bad sign for Trident City Antifa’s narrative already. Parfrey’s main link to fascism seems to be him being a member of Boyd Rice’s think tank, the Abraxas Foundation, which I think I’ve shitted on before on this blog because of its fascistic tendencies, and that his label, Feral House, often publishes works from the likes of Robert Stark and Michael Moynihan, and, I won’t lie, the evidence of Parfrey’s fascistic associations seems pretty damning, especially if you check out the “Long Live Death” section of his book Apocalypse Culture. But, this hardly makes Lucien Greaves a fascist because, although he was seemingly chummy with him, he was never sympathetic to the underground fascism that Parfrey liked to play with.
Then there’s Shane Bugbee who is accused of transphobia, racism and homophobia, for which Trident City Antifa have not provided evidence. They’ve provided evidence of Shane talking about how he doesn’t care about 9/11 and there’s mention of how he bragged about a “rape book”, but that’s it. I’ve looked outside the blog as well and haven’t found much. Again, though, besides the guilt by association, this is pretty much invoking a time when Lucien was very much a different person – it is very much worth noting that he renounces the philosophy of Might Makes Right, the book that he drew covers for and liked to talk about with Shane Bugbee.
Finally, let’s address Trident City Antifa’s objection to Lucien Greaves’ overall stance regarding freedom of speech and punching Nazis, which will also allow me to address my problems with Antifa in a much broader sense from the perspective of political praxis. First of all, if their contention is that the consistent application of freedom of speech as a principle to in alignment with fascism or alt-right beliefs, they should consider that both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have both made brilliant defences of freedom of speech in their day, as have Anton Pannekoek as well as much of the Praxis School. Should these people therefore be considered in alignment with fascism, even though the bases of their shared worldviews would be counted in opposition to fascism and the alt-right? Secondly, as to the idea that punching people on the streets makes for viable praxis, it would be a terrible shame if someone on the radical left pointed out the futility of such disorganized violence – except for the fact that somebody did, over a century ago no less. Not to mention, the far-right has for a couple of years now been organizing training camps and are already more or less more militarily prepared for violent confrontation than much of Antifa are (Unite the Right 2017 for instance saw Oathkeepers dressed in full military uniform with assault rifles for heaven’s sake), so I would argue Antifa are poorly prepared for what’s inevitably coming in the future, where there will be nothing to lose.
The underlying errors of Antifa’s praxis also hinge on a very broad definition of fascism, broad enough to include edgier forms of what is essentially baseline conservatism, hell broad enough to include just about anyone who complains about immigration in my books. Hell, they probably think leftists like Angela Nagle and Anna Khachiyan are actually fascists because of various statements on immigration and culture that they found too conservative for them. There is a broadness of definition with their understanding of fascism, and that is a problem because fascism is a very specific ideological tendency, defined by very specific political ideas – central among them the totalitarian state which exists as the sole domain in political life and which exists to govern the flow of capital in the context of private ownership of the means of production. Rather than understand fascism and fascist movements based on a proper theoretical understanding of it based on the ideological text of fascism, they do, like many liberals do, treat fascism as an abstract phenomenon broad enough to fit as many movements and individuals as is desirable. What doesn’t help matters is that there’s a sense of vigilantism about the way Antifa conducts itself, which is important to note because, as we all know, vigilantism has surely never backfired.
It’s this, coupled with the permeation of guilt by association-based assumptions that underpin Antifa’s analysis of whether or not The Satanic Temple is alt-right, and frankly it’s a very sensationalist analysis.
But, in spite of all that, there’s one detail the Antifa people have brought up that perhaps can’t be ignored: one that, while it doesn’t really make them fascist or alt-right or whatever, does raise serious questions about the group’s integrity.
The Satanic Temple vs whistleblowers
Within the last few months, part of The Satanic Temple’s non-disclosure agreement had apparently been leaked, and one detail in particular stands out above the rest:
Recipient agrees that Recipient shall not make any statements, or take any other actions whatsoever, that disparage the goodwill, name, brand, or reputation of the Disclosing Party or its current or former founders, directors, employees, independent contractors, volunteers, donors, supporters, or contributors. For purposes of this Section, “disparage” shall mean any critical or negative statement, whether written or oral, about the foregoing parties. Examples of disparaging statements include, but are in no way limited to, statements that the aforenamed parties have been dishonest, acted fraudulently, misused funds, or otherwise engaged in unethical or dishonest behavior, or are associated with parties who engage in such behavior. This obligation shall be in effect at all times following the Effective Date of this Agreement, both during and after the termination of the Recipient’s relationship with Disclosing Party (in whatever capacity).
While Lucien Greaves claims that it was broadly worded at the advice of their lawyer (apparently not Marc Randazza), this is very clearly a prohibition against public criticism of the organization, and this is important to note considering that Nikki Moungo had come out back in August about a litany of apparent wrongdoings. This would effectively mean that Lucien Greaves’ defence of freedom of speech turned out to be hypocritical in practice for The Satanic Temple’s operation.
It is worth noting, of course, that Lucien Greaves has announced back in September that this non-disclosure agreement will be revised, but it is worth keeping in mind also that this has been a recent development, rather transparently following the controversy surrounding the hiring of Marc Randazza. So, unfortunately, the situation is still Lucien Greaves being caught with his pants down.
All in all, it’s been a very shitty couple of months for The Satanic Temple.
I remember back in 2015-2016 there were many things going on within both American and British colleges/universities. The safe spaces, the loud minority of people who came to be referred to as social justice warriors, the trigger warnings, anti-racist protesters who demand the removal of some speakers, and people like Michelle Click, painted the picture of the modern university as a repressive environment (though I always thought it weird how this was never the case for my university as such). This put together with a confluence of narratives surrounding left-liberal intellectual hegemony within wider society, made it easy to believe that there was some kind of authoritarian left dominance of the campus space at the expense of intellectual diversity and freedom. You’ll find this narrative parroted to this day by the likes of Jonathan Haidt, Jonah Goldberg, David Frum, Douglas Murray, Jonathan Chait, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Bret and Eric Weinstein (the latter of whom works for Peter Thiel and supported the NXIVM-backed The Knife Media), Dave Rubin (himself backed by the Koch Brothers), Dennis Prager (from the outright Pravda organisation known as Prager University), Charles Murray, Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk (from another Pravda organisation and living meme known as Turning Point USA), as well as the people who comprised the GamerGate crowd, including Carl Benjamin. It’s so ubiquitous an idea that even former president Barack Obama referenced it in a speech about free speech on college campuses. As much sense as it seemed to make at the time, some data has recently emerged that casts doubt on the narrative we’re used to.
Vox recently released an article about some data drawn from studies conducted by Georgetown University back in March, and the Niskanen Center in April. The overall picture, contrary to popular imagination and the odd New York Times column, is that it is actually left-leaning individuals who face the most censorship. In the Niskanen Center study, you will find a graph sourced from The US Faculty Termination for Political Speech Database which shows that it is actually liberal/left-leaning faculty members who are terminated over political speech more often than their conservative/right-wing counterparts. Not only that, if you look at the graph, you’ll notice a curious trend: starting at 2015, you do indeed find that it is conservative academics who are more likely to be terminated, but when you get to 2016, not only do we see liberals/lefties get fired more, but the number of liberals/lefties getting fired for political speech skyrockets over the next year, while the number of conservatives getting fired flatlines from 2016 onwards. If conservatives were really getting persecuted for political speech across the board, that trend would be reversed.
The Georgetown University study points out that while there are definitely high-profile instances of right-wing speakers being shut down (Gavin McInnes, Milo Yiannopolous, Ben Shapiro et al), there are just as surely incidents of (at least seemingly) left-leaning individuals who faced censure and don’t get nearly the same coverage: there was Lars Maischak (a professor of American history at California State University) who was fired for tweeting that Donald Trump should be hanged, there was Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (a professor at Princeton University) who was forced to cancel speeches in Washington and California because of death threats following a commencement speech where she called Trump a racist, sexist megalomaniac, there was Sarah Bond (a professor of classics at the University of Iowa) who faced death threats from white supremacists for suggesting that the ancient marble statues of Greece and Rome became white because of age and were originally painted in colour (because apparently suggesting that Greek statues were painted is some kind of Cultural Marxist agenda for white genocide), and there was a student named Dee Dee Simpson (a graduate of Sonoma State University in California) who was reprimanded for reciting a poem during graduation in which he condemns the violence that occurs against African-Americans.
Let that last part sink in: a student in what we’re all told is a left-dominated academic environment was reprimanded for condemning violence against African-Americans. That alone should cast doubt on the narrative concerning academic political correctness.
I should also mention John Summa from the University of Vermont (who is not mentioned in the study), who tried to teach his students alternative economics and critiques of neoclassical economics and whose contract was not renewed, and has had to fight for his career in order to continue teaching. But you will not see self-proclaimed “free speech warriors” take the side of any of those people, because they do not care. It is typically only when non-left-leaning or non-progressive figures face silence that they sound the horn of outrage. And sometimes they even call for the censorship of people they disagree with, as was the case for George-Ciccariello Maher (over his white genocide tweet). Not to mention, Fox News openly calls for the censorship of anyone in academia, college or high school, who insults a Republican or whatever it is they care about, chiding them for basically committing hate speech (funny how conservatives can’t even be consistent in their opposition to the concept of hate speech), such as the example of Gregory Salcido who bashed the military and was accused of bullying and snitched on by some snowflake students. Ironic, isn’t it?
And if that’s not enough, even the basic premise of this authoritarian far-left dominance of academia is not supported by data. Last year, InsideHigherEd looked into the subject, and one of the things they found was that academia was actually dominated by self-identified moderates. 46.1% of faculty members identify as moderates, 44.1% identify as liberal or left-leaning, and just 9.2% identify as conservative or right-leaning. This would mean that, technically, left-leaning academics are not in fact the dominant force in universities. Hell, even the narrative of academic dominance has shifted over the years. According to the Niskanen study, even the number of conservatives who believe that universities are hostile towards their speech has gone down within the last two years, while now it’s liberals/lefties who believe that universities are hostile towards them.
While we’re still here, I’ve also discovered some research conducted by a political scientist named Justin Murphy, specifically an article titled “Who Is Afraid of Free Speech in the United States?”, and it turns out that the far-left are nowhere near as averse to freedom of speech as you would be lead to believe nowadays. His research showed that “extreme liberals” (possibly referring to hard-leftists given America’s bastardized political lexicon) are actually the most supportive of freedom of speech within the broad political spectrum, and that the centre-left (or slightly left) and the far-right, not the far-left, are the groups most opposed to freedom of speech. In a way this finding kind of dovetails with a recent New York Times article which showed that centrists, rather than extremists, are statistically the least supportive towards democracy (which is ironic considering the New York Times is one of the archetypal liberal centrist outlets).
So, in broad summary, the narrative of overbearing dominance of academia by crazy left-wing ideologues and the suppression of academic freedom by them is a myth, based on lies by omission and popular anecdotes concerning political correctness on campus, pushed predominantly by conservative ideologues for the purpose of delegitimizing both left-wing and liberal movements, increasing support for right-wing political causes and politicians, getting liberal media outlets to hire conservative writers (whilst they hardly ever practice the same intellectual diversity with liberals for their own outlets) and generally projecting their own sense of victimhood. Yes, you heard me: much of this has been a self-serving victim narrative this entire time. The SJWs you see make up a loud minority that can be used to paint the left in general with a broad brush by those who want to accuse them of being fascists.
All this in mind, I would like to add some historical context to the basic premise I’ve described as well, because it is actually an old narrative within American politics. Right-wing pundits have been complaining about what they termed political correctness for past few decades, arguably beginning with the release of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, Roger Kimball’s Tenured Radicals and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education. Even centrists embraced it at the time, with publications such as The Atlantic and New York Magazine running such cover stories as “Better Watch What You Say!” and “Are You Politically Correct?” as far back as 1991. Furthermore, as John K Wilson pointed out in The Myth of Political Correctness, the Olin Foundation gave thousands of dollars not only to Dinesh D’Souza, Charlie Sykes, The New Criterion (a conservative art journal edited by Roger Kimball), Peter Collier, David Horowitz (both of whom wrote a journal called Heterodoxy dedicated to “exposing” excessive political correctness), and Carol Iannone, but also supposedly liberal and centrist figures such as Christina Hoff Sommers and Richard Bernstein (the latter of whom worked for the New York Times), in order to promote the idea that authoritarian, politically correct left-wingers are attacking academic freedom. While the modern outrage over political correctness seems grassroots, and arguably sort of is (which I will touch on later), back then the whole political correctness thing was very much a mainstream media narrative backed up by right-wing think tank money. But this isn’t even the beginning of the trope. That honour goes to William F Buckley Jr, probably the grandfather of modern American right, and his 1951 book God and Man at Yale, which argued Yale was forcing left-wing ideology on its students and suppressing conservative (not to mention, Christian) thought on campus, and incidentally was also published by Regnery Publishing (owned by the financiers of the National Policy Institute). Huh, it seems even in the beginning there was right wing money behind it.
In broad terms, what we are seeing now is a repeat of the academic debates surrounding political correctness and alleged suppression of intellectual diversity that occurred in the late 1980s and the 1990s. Since there is no evidence of a takeover of authoritarian left-wing politics between the 1990s and the 2010s in the United States (I mean, unless somehow a secretive Bolshevik cabal successfully infiltrated the American government), we can conclude that the discussion of back then proved to be just a moral panic, and can speculate from here that the modern discussion surrounding academic political correctness will likely prove to be a moral panic as well.
Of course, while not identical in nature, the narrative also dovetails nicely with the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, which has been a thing since the late 1980s, originally propounded by far-right thinkers such as William Lind, Paul Weyrich (who along with Jerry Falwell started the Moral Majority movement in the late 1970s, and was also the founder of the Heritage Foundation), Pat Buchanan, and Paul Gottfried, and largely took off after the Cold War. The theory goes that the Frankfurt School infiltrated academic institutions across the West in order to displace classical Western philosophy and “Judeo-Christian values” in order to subvert the political stability of the West, and also something about Jewish subversion. No seriously, guys like Lind and Buchanan ascribed “Cultural Marxism” to the Jewish race, and Lind himself even said “they are also, to a man, Jewish” when describing the Frankfurt School in a speech to Accuracy in Academia, which is probably no accident considering that the general theory of Jewish Marxists subverting culture and academia is essentially an echo of the Nazi ideology of Kulturbolshevismus (or Cultural Bolshevism), where just about anything that wasn’t romantic fascist culture that promoted the Nazi party and ideology was deemed the product of Marxist and Jewish subversion. This is an idea that continues to be prominent within the far-right, and hasn’t died out with the Nazis. In fact, the mythology of Cultural Marxism in some form is espoused today not just by hardline right-wingers, but also self-described libertarians and classical liberals, and one Jordan Peterson (who repackages it as “postmodern neo-Marxism” because he doesn’t understand any of the ideologies he’s trying to reference). Oh, and the notorious fascist terrorist Anders Breivik, whose massacre of students in Norway brought the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory back into the spotlight.
According to the modern version of Cultural Marxism, the SJWs and the already nebulous and non-empirical notion of illiberal progressive dominance of academia, not to mention the liberal media, is actually part of a long standing, ongoing conspiracy by Marxists to destroy not just traditional values (this time) but also the liberal democratic values of the Enlightenment as a quest to destroy all forms of meaning and value and replace them with mindless intellectual anarchy so that they can create a populace ripe for control by elites. Oh, and if you believe the whole package for long enough, it still involves Jews. It’s still a revival of a fascist conspiracy theory, and because it got spread around as an explanation for modern political correctness, many people on supposedly liberal circles who found themselves opposed to the SJWs ended up adopting the term to describe modern liberal-progressive tendencies and the SJWs, though not always believing it wholesale.
I think I’ve said enough on this point, but it’s worth considering how the mythology of academic political correctness and thought suppression became a thing in the 2010s. Like I said earlier, I think it can still be argued that the modern outrage about political correctness had a somewhat grassroots source, and I do stand by that. While it is true that right-wing money is still there and a powerful player in all this (Turning Point USA, for instance, is sponsored by Dennis Prager and the NRA, and Dave Rubin is sponsored by Learn Liberty, a division of the Institute for Human Studies which is partly run by one of the Koch Brothers), I do believe there are people in both academic and online circles who have encountered people who are progressive and/or liberal but possess an authoritarian mindset or controlling personality, and their activities and personalities may have moved a number of people to the right or at least away from the left. Not to mention, we can’t erase the well-documented incidents of SJWs doing what they do best – namely intimidate and harass people and disrupt events by shouting at them about privilege. A lot of this probably has something to do with the way GamerGate exploded into a wider “culture war” of sorts against progressives, and while the original impetus of the movement began with 4chan chat logs, it did trigger a lot of grassroots support drawn towards it. Not to mention, the broad concept of political correctness does sometimes apply to real phenomenon, such as the cases of the Rotherham and Rochdale grooming gangs and how they were handled by the authorities. Finally, while, academia is dominated by moderates, there is still a large enough presence of left-leaning academics and there is much said about said left-leaning academics in various media circles that can lead you to think that left-leaning thought is dominant.
Taken together, there are good reasons you can find yourself falling into this popular myth about academic suppression based on political correctness. If there is a lesson to take from this besides the main point, it’s the simple fact that people and their worldviews are formed and shaped by the environments they are in and the information they take in about it (which is often limited, either by circumstance or willful denial stemming from personal bias). And so for many Americans at least, their experience at university could well lead them into the worldview they have now. It’s also worth addressing how a lot of grassroots sentiment can be picked up by big moneyed political interests when it aligns with their own pre-existing goals. It happened with The Tea Party and the Koch Brothers, it’s been going on with the Mercers supporting nationalism, right-populism and the alt-right, it happened with Occupy Wall Street where a surprising number of the bourgeoisie supported it, and we’re seeing a lot of the “free speech warrior” crowd line up with conservatism and find the support of Turning Point USA, which is financially tied to Dennis Prager and is even known for trying to funnel money to conservative causes. In fact, there are several conservative think tanks operating on college campuses in America funneling dark money to conservative causes, suggesting that what’s been going on back in the 1990’s is still happening today, and that these dark money groups see, in the modern liberal outrage against SJWs, a golden goose opportunity to infiltrate universities and swing disaffected liberals over to the Republican Party and the right wing. All the same though, it would be a mistake to think this is some sort of anti-establishment sentiment. In fact, as I’ve established, far from being a sentiment that exists chiefly on the rebellious fringes of Internet politics, the mythology of academic political correctness is not only a long-held right-wing trope but also an embedded idea of the neoliberal-neoconservative-centrist alliance for decades.
That’s all I have to say on this. I do regret focusing so much on the American situation without saying anything about the British situation, but there honestly isn’t much to say about the situation here in the UK, or at least it’s far less pronounced than in America where there is dark money everywhere. However, I would not be too surprised if I found that there are right wing think tanks operating in colleges in the UK and doing similar things to what the American think tanks are doing. What happens in America never really stays there. As a final point, let me just say that political correctness as a broad concept is still a thing. It’s overplayed and mythologized to merry fuck by right wing capitalists who want to take over higher education, but it can used to refer to many things in political life pertaining to some semblance of unspoken manners of conduct, though hardly the monolithic progressive ideology that certain reactionary ideologues portray it as in order to smear left-wingers as totalitarians-in-waiting. But the narrative of this concerted left wing effort to silence free speech on college campuses is simply not supported by data. In fact, it is empirically clear that it is the liberals of the center who are among the real authoritarians, who ally with the right wing in order to suppress dissident voices in the name of capital and power on behalf of the establishment, for they don’t really value freedom of speech like they claim to, at least not universally.
So, in closing, if you are for freedom of speech, you must realize that the left, for the most part, are not your enemies. The evidence is clear on this matter. It is time to stop treating them as such. The real enemies are the coalitions of capitalists who funnel money towards right-wing causes and the centrists who cry free speech in one breath while silencing opposing voices in the next, and the rapid expansion of state power in the Western world that threatens freedom of speech for everybody. The narrative that the left are the real authoritarians is a way for the American liberal-conservative alliance to maintain power and clout and push back the influence of social-democratic and progressive politics in America, which is no coincidence given the rise of social democracy in the 2010s.
Well isn’t this funny. Not too soon after I write a post where I mention Alex Jones and now I find myself talking about him again. I have received news that yesterday Facebook, iTunes, YouTube and Spotify have all removed Alex Jones’ show and channel from their respective platforms, effectively banning him from being able to broadcast on their platforms. The main reasons being given for this decision seem be that InfoWars violated the websites’ guidelines concerning hate speech, but I’m not entirely sure what specific action triggered this decision. I have heard from one source that it was over a podcast in which he seemingly threatened Robert Mueller and fantasized about killing him on his show, or how he seemingly threatened homosexuals, transgender individuals and drag queens and called for them to be burned alive, but I’m not quite sure what did it for Apple, Facebook, Spotify and Google. It’s possible, however, that his recent efforts to put his podcast on Spotify might have sealed the deal, with Spotify users apparently threatening to cancel paid subscriptions to the platform if they continue to host Infowars.
Now, why am I talking about this? Well for one thing, I think we in the Satanist and Luciferians circles are all too familiar with his shtick: him peddling conspiracy theories wherein politicians and media personalities he doesn’t like are basically demons from the pit of hell who want to kill Christians, enslave mankind and take over the world. You know, fundamentalist Christianity jacked up on ketamine, and with a bunch of other weird conspiracy theories on top of it (like gay frogs, chemtrails, and NASA allegedly running a pedophile ring on Mars). So he’s been on our radar for some time now, and imagine many of us aren’t really shedding a tear for him at this moment. And for another thing, I think there are points to make about freedom of speech and incitement.
I, honestly, am quite neutral on this issue. I know that might seem strange for someone as pro-free speech as I am, but do hear me out.
In summary, Alex Jones frequently skirts the line, sometimes even outright crosses the line, into incitement to violence for individuals he doesn’t like, usually while layering a sense of plausible deniability on top of his grandiose and vulgar threats. With Robert Mueller for instance, he insists that he’s going to get him “politically” in his rant. Because you know, he doesn’t really want to shoot him, even though he says he’s a pedophile who should be shot. Classy. But then there is a peculiar question we must ask, and I think some journalists have asked the same question: why hasn’t Alex Jones been deplatformed sooner given his particular history?
To be honest, I think the answer to that is probably to do with the ways in which Jones can give a sense of plausible deniability to himself. Besides the kind of thing I already mentioned, when Alex Jones was sued for custody of his kids by his ex-wife Kelly, his lawyer defended him by claiming that Alex Jones is a performance artist playing a fictional character. This is a very effective way of granting plausible deniability to his threats – after all, if it’s all just an act, then those threats aren’t really threats, they’re just part of the act; just a meme bro. It’s also a convenient falsehood, given that Alex Jones tends to double down on his conspiracy theories when pressed on the subject, and he will insist that what he believes is the truth outside of his show.
There is another issue with the subject of his deplatforming however, one that cannot be overlooked. I have heard the argument that after Alex Jones’ deplatforming, it is only a matter of time before the media begins to deplatform others who are accused of promoting conspiracy theories – not just right-wing nutjobs like Alex Jones who actually promote conspiracy theories, but left-leaning guys like Kyle Kulinski and Jimmy Dore who are both critical of the Russiagate canard and are considered to be conspiracy theorists and fake news promoters by their centrist opponents. On the one hand it’s easy to the logic: America is already at a point where it looks like Silicon Valley capitalists can generate a monopoly on what is considered true and false because of their entrenchment within mainstream political circles. This may partly explain why they have wanted Alex Jones gone for some time now, because they believe he is spreading fake news (which, to be fair, he is and that’s his business model). On the other hand, I do have to stress again that Jones has a record of incitement, and I believe this sets him apart from people like Kyle Kulinski and Jimmy Dore, who never come close to inciting anything.
Another argument you could make, one that I think might have more weight, is that deplatforming Alex Jones will only give people more reason to believe his ideas or give them credence, as The Guardian’s Sam Levin has argued. It makes sense because the removal can seen by devotees or sympathizers of the conspiracy theorists as proof that they are trying to shut that person down for his ideas, even in cases where that’s not actually true and you can point to cases of incitement to violence as a reason for their deplatforming.
Regardless, I will say this to any self-proclaimed free speech warriors thinking of unequivocally defending him. Why is it that someone like Alex Jones, who skirts the line between free speech and incitement to violence, worthy of defence in the name of free speech, and someone like Jake Flores, a comedian who made a joke on Twitter about ICE agents getting killed, gets his door knocked down by the US government is treated to radio silence? Keep in mind, when Count Dankula made jokingly taught his dog to give Nazi salutes, you guys rightly defended him. But when the US government bust down someone’s door over a joke, I don’t see you guys saying anything, and not only that but some of you guys defend the very state organization that violates your free speech principles. The Spanish government also arrests people for joking about public officials being assassinated and insulting the monarchy, and I have never, ever seen anyone outside the left talk about that. And aren’t you usually the people who, when you’re not talking about people you like getting deplatformed by private companies, you defend the very architecture of capital and private property that allows social media companies to have flagrant disregard for your freedom of speech? Well, even within that premise, why does Alex Jones getting deplatformed elicit moral outrage, but not when Facebook targets pro-Palestine groups at the behest of Israel and the US government? Is it because Alex Jones is somehow anti-establishment? Never mind of course that Alex Jones defends the people now in power in America on a regular basis, says nothing about the detention camps that ICE has implemented since the Obama administration even though he was the same guy who claimed Barack Obama was going to implement FEMA camps on his way out of office, and no matter how many times Trumps bombs Syria and goes against his supposedly non-interventionist America First program, he will always go back to supporting him out of Republican partisanship. Or is it simply because of some sort of partisanship wherein if it happens anyone who isn’t to your left you don’t care? Gee, it really gets my almonds going when even fundamentalist right-wing Christians like Rick Wiles decide that Alex Jones is going too far their liking, but the average online “free speech warrior” takes Alex Jones’ side.
Overall, this for me is not about hate speech. I oppose the concept of hate speech, but I also oppose incitement to violence. I can’t take Alex Jones’ side on this one. I’m not gonna cheer for his apparent censorship, but I’m not going to shed a tear either because I think Alex Jones might have ultimately brought this on himself.
I know I already released a blog post this afternoon, but I feel I must release one quick blog post because I have just learned that in my country, the YouTube personality known as Count Dankula has officially been found guilty of hate crime. That is, in his case, the “crime” of uploading a “grossly offensive” video of him teaching his pet dog to do the Nazi salute and say “gas the Jews” as a joke. This trial has been a long and protracted affair, with Dankula having to appear in court numerous times before now being found guilty, and even now he will not officially be sentenced until April 23rd. It is also possible that Dankula may have a Restriction of Liberty Order placed upon him, which would entail him being placed under house arrest with a GPS tracking device attached to him.
In my opinion, the Scottish court has no idea what kind of horrible precedent it has set, not just for Scotland but also Britain at large. Today, it has been decided that you can be put in jail for uploading a comedic video on YouTube just to annoy your girlfriend and have a laugh out of it, simply because it has been deemed as offensive. I can only see this ending in the Scottish, indeed the British government as a whole, sending people to prison for similar activities, hell simply for writing posts on Twitter (as the Scottish police at one point already said they’d do anyway) because other people have judged them offensive. It is my view that we are not going in a free society for much longer, and that the British government is now very much on track to becoming one of the most authoritarian democracies in the Western world that I can think of.
YouTube has recently put out a new set guidelines aimed at ensuring that the videos that get uploaded by users are more “advertiser-friendly”. This means that people on YouTube can get videos de-listed for monetization, meaning they will be unable to generate ad revenue for those videos, because those videos aren’t considered “friendly” to advertisers.
Below is a list of content that YouTube deems inappropriate for advertising:
Content that is considered “not advertiser-friendly” includes, but is not limited to:
Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
Inappropriate language, including vulgar harassment, swearing and vulgar language
Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use, and abuse of such items
Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.
What this ultimately amounts to is that your videos can be de-listed for monetization if you not only talk about the wrong things (like social justice warriors, terrorism and Hillary Clinton) and possibly hold the wrong opinion but even so much as make a raunchy joke or shout “fuck”. This can’t be good for the AVGN I assume.
It’s not even a level playing field either, as the likes of CNN can still generate ad revenue from videos that surely violate this policy. I suspect this is an attempt on the part of YouTube to discourage those who generate income from YouTube videos from holding the wrong opinion or saying the wrong things, or just to create a nice habitat – nay, safe space! – for advertisers.
Not to mention, here’s an example I found of just how insane this policy is.
I would also like to address the inevitable “YouTube is a private company therefore they can do whatever they want”. Can big private companies do whatever they want? I’m not so sure of that, even though I identify as a libertarian. I would think that there are certain things that private businesses and corporations aren’t allowed to do. After all, are they not subject to the law just as private individuals are? And the thing is, I don’t think the people who are defending the right of big social media companies to ban people for having the wrong opinion or talking about the wrong sort of subject matter would be so keen to defend Chick-fil-A for refusing to serve gay people because they don’t believe in same sex marriage, or McDonald’s for allowing people the choice to eat unhealthy fast foods, or GM for making veritable death cabs and selling them on the market, or companies like Halliburton for being able to profiteer off of the Iraq War, or big tech companies that dump hardware in places like Ghana where it creates e-waste that releases toxic chemicals when burned in landfills. It seems fairly obvious, then, that the people defending big social media only do so out of convenience, based on the fact that the people being censored, delisted or banned are usually people with opinions they don’t like.
I am of the opinion that social media companies need to uphold the freedom of speech of all its users for the simple reason that they are a very large platform for speech. Millions of people around the world use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and they need it in order to connect with others in the modern world as well as to succeed. I, personally, need Facebook in order to stay in contact with my fellow game design students when I am at home so that we can discuss the project and help each other do our work. They are that important to everyday life nowadays, and they create a massive platform for anyone to express themselves freely. When you remove people for wrongthink on your social media platform, you end up creating a culture of censorship on that platform. At that point, it’s only a matter of time before people start leaving that platform. This has already been happening to Twitter, and I am convinced it will happen to Facebook and YouTube as well. Not to mention, a culture of censorship is cancerous to a free and open society. People will be afraid to think for themselves and express themselves openly, while an increasingly authoritarian or at least soft-minded culture will eventually influence the government to cater to its whims and erode the freedom of society as a whole. I do not want to see this happen. At all.
So, no. I don’t think big social media companies should be allowed to get away with this.
When I heard that Anjem Choudary had been convicted yesterday (or rather it was revealed that he had been convicted last month, it struck me at first as an issue that I have actually had to wrestle with and needed some clarification on.
For those who don’t know who Anjem Choudarey is, he is a notorious British Salafist Muslim preacher and activist known for his advocacy of the implementation of sharia law in the UK and his demonstrations against Western civilization. He, along with Islamist cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad, founded such radical Islamic organizations as Al-Muhajiroun, Al Ghurabaa and Islam4UK, and was a prominent and divisive figure in the Islamic world who made many TV appearances. He was known to have spoken out in support of jihad as an obligation for Muslims to fulfill, and in 2014 he went so far as to pledge allegiance to ISIL and encourage others to do so – the latter of which to lead to him being arrested. He is seen as a hate preacher, and I don’t doubt that many people (especially people who are of a socially conservative disposition) wanted him banned. I also have no doubt there were and still are a lot of Muslims who distance themselves from Choudary and claim this man is an enemy of Islam – to which Choudary would probably respond by saying that it is in fact they who are the enemies of Islam.
What annoyed me was how the much of the mainstream media and Ella Whelan from Spiked looked at Choudary’s conviction and seemed to paint this as a free speech issue – that the man was arrested solely because of inciting and preaching “hate”. Him being a hate preacher, one who spews “bile and hate”, and the prospect of him being “gagged” and “shut up” is the primary focus of it for much of the media, to the point that is makes me think that the man was being convicted solely for hate speech. Don’t get me started on The Independent, which their “free speech has its limits” shit. That mantra almost had me defending Choudary. Ella Whelan from Spiked was just as bad, because on the day Choudary was convicted she talked about how censoring Choudary’s views was a bad thing, and the next day she appeared on a Sky News debate to talk about this from a pro-free speech lens.
But let me tell you what I have come to understand: this is not a free speech issue. Both the people who support freedom of speech and the people who thinking it should be curtailed are looking at the issue the wrong way. From what I have read, Choudary actually has a history of recruiting people and indoctrinating them. He recruited people to fight for Osama bin Laden. Al-Muhajiroun, one of his organizations, had been known to actually radicalize individuals who would then go out to commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist attacks. Examples include the shoe bomber Richard Reid, the dirty bomber Dhiren Barot, the 7/7 bombers, the Transatlantic Bomb plotter and the men who murdered Lee Rigby. Choudary also taught six of the nine men who planned to send mail bombs to various targets, radicalized a young man named Brustroth Ziamani and he had been in contact with a teenager in Australia who was planning to carry out an attack on Anzac Day last year. To my mind, him protesting and talking about Islamism wasn’t the only thing he was doing. He had indeed been in contact with individuals who would then go on to carry out attacks, and he had been recruiting and helping to radicalize individuals so that they can carry out terrorist attacks and murders in the name of Allah. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that when he contacts potential radicals he is teaching, instructing and radicalizing them giving that he actually supports the spread of Islamism by force. Really, the term “hate preacher” simply doesn’t do him justice, for he was more than that – he was a recruiter. I wish the media would use the term “terror recruiter” or “jihad recruiter” more often than they use the term “hate preacher”.
Put simply, this is not a free speech issue. It’s a terrorism issue. If all Choudary had been doing was organizing protests and appearing on TV to preach his views, I would have no major issue other than with his views. But it’s not as simple as that. He was actively recruiting, radicalizing and training people to fight and wage jihad. So anyone who thinks this is about freedom of speech, whether from a pro or anti perspective, is simply in the wrong. While I do feel that Choudary’s conviction should not be used to justify an increase in censorship no matter how abhorrent your views are, there can be no doubt that Choudary crossed the line by directing people to commit violence let alone encourage support for ISIL. Not to mention the fact that the organization he founded is a jihadist organization with the intent of spreading sharia law through, well, encouraging jihad.
The fight to preserve the values of liberal democracy won’t be fought in the battlefield where the armed forces of the Western world are currently engaged in conflict or will be in the future, nor will it be fought on our behalf by the state. It can only be fought by all of us as individuals on the battleground of ideas, where all of the other culture wars fought in our societies are fought. For make no mistake, this is in truth a culture war.
It should not have escaped your notice that the illiberal (nay, anti-liberal) identity politics championed by the likes of feminists and Black Lives Matter is not just endorsed by celebrities and the mainstream media, but in America’s case it is also being endorsed by the current president Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That to me suggests that politics and the state is dancing to the tune of prevailing identitarian progressivism and the division that it engenders, perhaps because the people who support it are the loudest voices. But the prevalence of progressive identity politics is not the only problem. The values of Western liberal democracy are being eroded culturally by other factors as well. And again, not so much by the state but by the people, even though they stand to benefit from these values prevailing in our society.
For instance, freedom of expression. We have witnessed several instances in the Western world where artistic media and advertisement can be censored by the whim of public outrage, even if that outrage is in the minority like in the case of the Protein World ad saga. In Australia Grand Theft Auto V got banned at Target Australia by a large number of people who have never played any Grand Theft Auto game but presume to know what it is about. When DC Comics released a Batgirl comic depicting the Joker holding, tons of people. When video game companies like Lionhead Studios and Obsidian Entertainment have intended joke content in their games (like the a depiction of a woman with large breasts in Fable III for National Cleavage Day, and a poem about a Don Juan type character named Firedorn Lightbringer within Pillars of Eternity) that happens to offend someone on Twitter, the people on Twitter take it upon themselves to shame them into changing or removing that content and eventually the companies capitulate and apologize for content that they made as a joke. And don’t criticize social justice warriors Stephanie Guthrie for shaming the creator of an Anita Sarkeesian face-punch game, or you could be the center of a witch-hunt and be accused of harassment simply for disagreeing with her. On YouTube, you can actually have a video removed for the ever-vague notions of hate speech. And more recently, after everyone’s favorite gay super-villain Milo Yiannopoulos published a scathing review of the new Ghostbusters movie on Breitbart, actress Leslie Jones reported Milo and now there’s a hashtag campaign aimed at getting Twitter to ban Milo Yiannopoulos. And it worked: Twitter has recently suspended Milo Yiannopoulos, and I can only assume he has been getting the blame for the ire directed at Leslie Jones.
It seems to be lost on the people advocating that Milo be suspended that while he can be censored for a scathing movie review, and perhaps blamed for the actions of those who might have harassed Leslie Jones, there are examples of people who threaten others with violence publicly, and yet they have not been banned. Indeed, I can’t say if any of the people shouting for killing police officers in the wake of Alton Sterling have been banned yet either. It is thus entirely obvious that people with the wrong opinion in the eyes of the Twitterati are punished with censorship and accused of harassing other people, while people who actually call for violence against individuals remain active on Twitter.
The power of social pressure is such that a man can land a spacecraft on a comet, but he can be reduced to tears because of constant pressure and shaming by a large number of feminists for nothing more than the fact that he was wearing a T-shirt with a lot of scantily-clad women on it. If a public figure makes so much as an innocuous joke that offends the wrong people, they’re harassed and shamed by people with puritan mindsets and too much time on their hands. Like Tim Hunt’s joke about female scientists, or Richard Dawkin’s sharing of a video by SyeTenAtheist on Sargon of Akkad’s channel. In the former case, Tim Hunt lost his job. In the latter, Richard Dawkins may well have suffered a stroke brought on by the stress of being constantly harassed by SJWs shaming him for sharing the video. And sometimes it happened to private individuals who weren’t so famous before, like Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications at IAC who posted a sarcastic tweet about AIDS during a trip to South Africa and found herself publicly shamed and trending on Twitter as a result.
It’s also at a point where the phenomenon of “trial by Twitter” is fairly well-documented. That’s right, online social pressure is even valued above the rule of law – one of the cornerstones of any liberal democracy worth its salt. Like in the case of Kesha’s attempted to sue produce Dr. Luke, accusing him of sexually, physically and emotionally abusing her. She was denied a temporary injunction, and tons of people sided with her and condemned Dr. Luke simply because Kesha broke into tears over being denied that injunction, and despite a lack of hard evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Luke. There’s also the case of Afrika Bambaataa, who was accused of sexual assault by several individuals who claim he abused them in the 1980’s when they were underaged, including a Democrat activist who released a video accusing him of rape (apparently for the purpose of “emotional healing”, seemingly as a substitute for calling the police). There has been no criminal conviction against Bambaataa, at least not as of yet, and unfortunately the case can’t be tried in court and police investigations are apparently not possible due to New York’s statutes of limitation, but despite this there have been calls for Cornell University to discard their collection of records released by Bambaataa and he has been effectively disavowed by the public and Zulu Nation. When Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian radio personality accused of rape, was acquitted, the Twitterati were outraged that people chose not to automatically believe the plaintiff, and there were even voices suggesting that the premise of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, along with the adversarial legal system, be abandoned entirely.
To me, it seems that the power of social pressure magnified by social media has not been lost on people living in the age of social media. Indeed, I think it seems like social media either has too much power or gives too many people too much power to coerce private entities and individuals or just shame them.
Another force that working against the values of liberal democracy is cultural relativism – the idea that there are no greater or lesser cultures, just different ones that are all equal. The problem with this prevailing is obvious. Every time, nowadays, when there is a serious terrorist attack committed by someone shown to identify with radical Islam, there are too many people unwilling to address the culture within which they are raised or raise themselves. In fact, we too often have a media and politicians who want to turn us away from the motives of the culprit. Not to mention, in the UK, there are actually sharia courts in operation and it is feared that they basically operate as sub-legal or parallel legal courts, similar to how the Khap Panchayats operate in India. And I’m sure the phenomenon of Salafist Muslims taking to the street to agitate for the supremacy of sharia law is well-known. It seems evident to me that the idea of individuals from different cultural backgrounds existing under a common banner is fading in the West, and we are actively allowing this by not questioning any aspect of it whatsoever. And it is worse in Europe, where it is starting to feel like there’s going to be a new Islam-inspired terrorist attack that takes the lives of tens of innocents every month or so. And every time it happens, people are discouraged from talking about a radical Islamic culture that has been fostering for a long time and currently inspires future terrorists whilst going unchallenged by a society that seems uninterested or unable to tell them . And all because of the bizarre conflation of the Islamic religion with the Arab ethnicity or race, despite the obvious fact that being a Muslim and being an Arab are not the same thing – one is a religion you can be raised in or choose to be part of, the other is a race, something you are born as.
I believe that all of the following needs to happen in the West if the values of liberal democracy are to be saved.
Private companies must exert their right to refuse to censor themselves in order to suit the whims of social justice warriors.
Individuals must not allow themselves to be silenced by the same social justice warriors.
Social media companies need to show that freedom of speech and expression is a right guaranteed to all.
Private media companies should refuse to cave to social pressure and refuse to fire people for saying the wrong thing.
We must delegitimatize the phenomenon of “trial by Twitter” in which people are “tried” by court of public opinion via social media, and instead trumpet the rule of law.
We must reject cultural relativism, and embrace the values of secular liberal democracy as a common banner under which we all live under instead of encouraging self-segregation.
We must challenge bad ideas in forum of public debate and the media, especially the bad ideas that have inspired an increasing number of terrorist attacks.
People who are easily triggered need to just block people who harass them instead of further stoking the flames. Better yet, get off social media for a little bit or turn off the phone.
If none of these things happen, then I predict that the values of liberal democracy will be eroded, and Western civilization will truly decline.