The Last Wave


In a pretty good piece on Brexit and Trumpism, in Salon, Ben Norton writes:

Liberals smugly blaming the Brexit vote on stupidity, making fun of working-class Leave supporters for (falsely) googling E.U. after the fact and actively downplaying the serious economic concerns behind the vote only further plays into right-wing hatred of elites.

It also conveniently absolves establishment liberals of responsibility for supporting policies that fueled the rise of the far-right.

We live in an incredibly dangerous moment. It is not hyperbolic to say Europe is going through political changes similar to those of the post-Depression 1930s, when fascism was on the rise for the first time.

Brexit is a big victory for neo-fascist forces throughout the West — actual neo-fascist parties and politicians. And there is no sign that the far-right will decline anytime soon.

Demagogues like Trump in the U.S., or Marine Le Pen in France, or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, may lose the upcoming election, but there will be many more elections after that, and the far-right will only continue to gain strength — unless it faces a real challenge.

The problem is that neoliberals already know this – and don’t care. Austerity creates misery which in turn creates populism. Populism grows and splits into its left and right hemispheres, which buys the neoliberals more time (every moment of austerity makes them money, ratholed away in a Costa Rican bank). Eventually they will get their populist comeuppance, but all the neoliberals care about is from which direction; they’d of course like to never endure populism of any sort but they damn sure won’t tolerate it from the left.

Sanders was constantly smeared, roadblocked, cheated by the neoliberal centrists — and still almost won. Corbyn is getting the same treatment; his fate is unclear. Neoliberals consider populism of the left more dangerous than of the right, crushes or cheats it, allowing right populism to take root or even triumph. With Sanders out and Clinton’s victory in the general election highly likely, neoliberals have their preferred Worse Case Scenario: the only populist who could win is Trump, who is often described as a neo-, proto-, or crypto-fascist. It would be a major upset and neoliberals wouldn’t like it on cultural grounds, but they will make their deal with him and keep their precious low tax rates. Their bourgeois Lifestyle Liberal publicists in the media will be livid and histrionic, declaring every stupid-asshole thing Trump says the start of a pogrom, but they will get over it; after all, for the donor class these people are just the hired help.

Misery will deepen no matter who wins in November. Trump is a supply-side Reaganite with perhaps insincere Buchananite protectionist tendencies; HRC is a woke version of Thatcher, a warmongering austeritarian monster. Neoliberal economy will triumph either way. And the longer it continues, the uglier people will get. More and more will fall out of the middle class into poverty; more people will rob and steal from the remaining middle class just to make ends meet. More suicides, drug addiction, mass despair. Scapegoating, tribalism, and racism will be more extreme, widespread, mainstream. Terry Eagleton, a while back in The Guardian, described Zizek’s take on the same dynamic, though the context for them was the failed/thwarted Arab Spring revolutions:

One lesson of the Egyptian revolt, Žižek argues in Trouble in Paradise, is that if moderate liberal forces continue to ignore the radical left, “they will generate an unsurmountable fundamentalist wave”. Toppling tyrants, which all good liberals applaud, is simply a prelude to the hard work of radical social transformation, without which fundamentalism will return. In a world everywhere under the heel of capital, only radical politics can retrieve what is worth saving in the liberal legacy.

The neoliberal elite likes its cheap domestic immigrant help and social liberalism. They like the financial windfall from austeritarian policy more. They’d like to keep both and with HRC they will, but if they have to keep just one, their choice is obvious. And the people in another five or ten years of such conditions? Then will come the fascism, without any mitigating prefixes, nothing quasi about it – if, that is, we haven’t already all been killed in a war by then.

The Slow Wokeists

Zizek talks about The Fast Runner and wokeAF film critics:

I’m not giving you this multi-cultural bullshit, ‘ooh, native Americans, Inuit, what a great nation,’ no, [The Fast Runner] is simply a good movie. Did you see [it]? I simply enjoyed it. And I hope I can repeat a story why I like it….it was a big lesson against superficial leftist critique….some people who were friends with the producers sent me a box of all the materials about the movie….the director* of the movie (who now unfortunately [has] died), you know the story so I won’t go into it; but some idiot – I mean white, liberal, politically correct — ….reproached the movie for succumbing to Hollywood commercialization, because you know the movie stages an old Inuit legend, and the movie changes the ending. I read [that] the original Inuit legend ends tragically; they all more or less kill each other. In the movie [however] it’s just that the two bad guys are not even killed, they’re just excommunicated and so on; it’s a much softer, open ending.

So the reproach was, ‘you’re not faithful to the original, you’ve succumbed to Hollywood commercialism and so on.’ Oh my god. The guy, the Inuit director, gave a perfect answer. He said, ‘no, you are a white racist here….because you don’t see that retelling the story always in a different way to fit the present circumstances [is] our Inuit tradition. Your notion of “being faithful to the original” theory is your white people’s ideology. You don’t get…how our original native logic works; it’s very opportunistic. We – because we are the original traditional people – don’t fetishize our culture into the original tradition; we manipulate it to tell the story always in a new way.’

*- Zizek said director but I think he’s referring to the movie’s writer/producer, Paul Angilirq.

How Do You Dooley?

I’d never heard of Mr. Dooley, “a fictional Irish immigrant bartender created by American journalist Finley Peter Dunne,” before but ‘he’ was the subject of the wikipedia article of the day, so I clicked. I’m glad I did.

Apparently Dooley didn’t much care for the late-Gilded Age plutocrats who reigned during the Cleveland administration:

Commerce from the Columbian Exposition had helped shield Chicago from the gloom of the economic Panic of 1893, which enveloped much of the rest of the nation, but after the exposition closed, the winter of 1893–94 saw much unemployment, suffering and starvation. As Irish immigrants were disproportionately employed as laborers, and had less education than other ethnic groups, Bridgeport was hit especially hard by the depression, and this was reflected in the columns. Dunne’s anger especially focused on George Pullman, whose wage cuts for his workers (while not cutting the rents of their houses, which his company owned) helped provoke the Pullman Strike of 1894.[28][29] In his column of August 25, Dunne wrote,

Mr. Dooley swabbed the bar in a melancholy manner and turned again with the remark, “But what’s it all to Pullman? When God quarried his heart a happy man was made. He cares no more for them little matters of life or death than I do for O’Connor’s [bar] tab. ‘The women and children are dying of hunger,’ they say, ‘will you not put out your hand to help them?,’ they say. ‘Ah, what the hell,’ says George. ‘What the hell’, he says. ‘James,’ he says, ‘a bottle of champagne and a piece of cranberry pie. What the hell, what the hell, what the hell’.”

“I heard two died yesterday,” said Mr. McKenna. “Two women.”

“Poor things, poor things. But,” said Mr. Dooley, once more swabbing the bar, “what the hell.”[a]

Dunne brought this column into the Post’s composing room to be set in type. When he returned later to check the proof, the typesetters began to drum their sticks on their cases, and then burst into lengthy applause, an experience Dunne described as the most moving of his life.”[30]

This is also good:

Although [Dooley] applauded….acts of individual charity, Dunne through Dooley denigrated charitable organizations, wondering that “a man can square himself with his conscience by giving one thousand dollars to a policeman and telling him to distribute it! Why don’t they get the poor up in a cage in Lincoln Park and hand them food on the end of a window pole, if they’re afraid they’ll bite[?]”

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Or, All This Has Happened Before; All This Will Happen Again. The problems, critiques, solutions, and fake solutions (eg, charity is bullshit) of their Gilded Age are the same as those of our own. But I’d rather not wait another thirty to forty years for a new New Deal. To countermand a phrase from the monster who hijacked it: faster, please.

Purity Control*

A fantastic passage from Yukio Mishima’s Runaway Horses:

Isao looked into the inspector’s eyes once more, and the latter answered his unspoken question: “Yes. It’s a Red. Stubborn ones bring this kind of thing on themselves.”

Obviously the police intended to make him realize that, in contrast, he was being treated with the utmost gentleness, that the kindly law was showering benefits upon him. But it had the opposite effect. At that moment Isao felt a choking of anger and humiliation. “My ideas–what do they amount to?” he asked himself in a rage. “If real ideas have to be beaten like that, are mine supposed to be unreal?” Isao was vexed with frustration: despite the enormity of what he plotted, there had been no adequate reaction. If they realized the core of terrible purity within him, he thought, they would surely hate him. On the other hand, however, if their ignorance persisted, his ideas would never gain the weight of flesh, never grow wet with agonized sweat. And, as a consequence, they would never give out the loud cries of beaten flesh.

Isao glared at his cross-examiner and shouted: “Torture me! Torture me right now. Why can’t you do the same thing to me? Can you tell me why not?”

“Easy now. Calm down, don’t be foolish. It’s very simple. You don’t give us any trouble.”

“And that’s because my ideas are rightist?”

“That’s part of it. But rightist or leftist, anyone who gives us trouble is going to pay for it. Still, when all is said and done, those Reds…”

“Is it because the Reds won’t accept our national structure?”

“That’s it. In comparison to them, Iinuma, you and your friends are patriots. Your thoughts are in the right direction. It’s only that you’re young. The trouble is, you’re too pure, so you went to extremes. Your purpose is good. It’s your methods. What about making them more gradual, toning them down a bit? If you made them a little more flexible, everything would be fine.”

“No,” Isao retorted, his body trembling all over. “If we made them a little more flexible, it wouldn’t be the same. That ‘little’ is the point. Purity can’t be toned down a little. If you make it a bit flexible, just a bit, it becomes a totally different idea, not the kind we hold. So if our ideas can’t be watered down, and if they’re a threat to the nation the way they are, that means our ideas are just as dangerous as those of the Reds. So go ahead and torture me. You have no reason not to.”

“You’re quite a debater, aren’t you? Now, don’t get so excited. I’ll tell you just one thing that would be good for you to know. There’s not a man among those Reds who asked to be tortured, as you’re doing. They take it if they have to. They’re not like you, they don’t respond to us even if we torture them.”

The setting here is 1930s Japan. Mishima does two shrewd things in ideological comment: he shows the conservative nationalist interrogator’s relatively friendly attitude – even in the context of torture – to the fascist, Isao, as compared to the communists in the other room; and he shows that fascism is an idealistic, self-sacrificing death cult, its kernel a ruthless quest for purity. These are timeless truths.

Mishima ended his life – spectacularly – believing in an ideology very much like Isao’s. Every reference to Mishima in Vidal’s and Hitchens’s essays when I read them in my 90s youth were interesting so of course I saw Schrader’s excellent movie about the man; eventually I read The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, a stealthily creepy novel I more enjoy having read than I enjoyed reading. Coming across the above passage in the comment section of a shady blog (thus no link) reminds me that I should read more.

Obviously I don’t share his politics, but when my time comes (hopefully many decades in the future) I, too, hope to go out with an ostentatiously dramatic statement, a bang rather than a whimper.



Brad DeLong yesterday on twitter, mourning how establishment Republicans used to be all like:


It’s not like that faith is gone with the wind. Someone still vehemently believes in all those classic Chamber of Commerce GOP things, plus trade deals and outsourcing (with social liberalism, too, in a minor difference); someone still hates the economic left with religious and eliminationist intensity; someone still praises business, growth, deregulation with sunshiney Reaganite enthusiasm and in total denial of the persistent corruption, failure, and moral bankruptcy of same; and that someone is the current neoliberal Democratic Party elite, of which Brad DeLong is a prominent member.

This 2004 General Glut post is evergreen:

The Republican “grown-ups”, aka “moderates”, which [Reihan Salam, Kevin Drum, and Brad DeLong] long for left their Party a while back and took over the Democratic Party — which is now the Party of Moderate Republicanism. Compare John Anderson’s 1980 platform to the Dems of today and get a micrometer to measure the differences. The Drezner types and their admirers in the Democratic Party are upset because they fit into the Democrats’ corporate flank very nicely but feel uncomfortable cozying up to the working class. But they don’t like the cultural conservatives in the GOP, either. Poor boys!

Why not start their own party? They could all gather together and call it Sensible Cosmopolitan Elites for a Technocratic Future.

And here’s Norman Mailer making a similar observation, casting the migration of elites from Rs to Ds in terms of hostile/covert takeover and sabotage:

The Republicans said to themselves, ‘we’re in terrible trouble, they’re on to us, we’ve….got to send a few of our best people into the Democratic Party and get them to run it’ sort of as undercover people all these years. And I think they’ve succeeded. Look at the results.

The postelection corporation coddling, trade dealing, and labor crushing, with attendant austerity intensification program, in which the remnants of the American working and lower-middle classes’ wealth will be effectively transferred up to the global elite with a bit thrown down to the Chinese and Indian bourgies, will feel like classic, soul destroying, technocratic Rockefeller Republicanism because that’s what it basically is – cold stagflation style neoliberalism, carefully stripped of any national interest, but with a smiley, inclusive, mass migration-welcoming, diversity reflecting, human face. (The postelection hippie-punch from Clintonoids to Sanders supporters that DeLong himself telegraphed a few months ago, however, will be a GOP throwback of a different sort: pure Nixonism.)

Like Zizka told me years ago, Brad DeLong himself is the good Republican he’s always looking for. When DeLong mourns the old ‘respectable’ GOP it’s a gesture of piety in front of a mirror.

Thx, Creeps

I’d struggled with different ways to describe the illiberal “liberal” monsters I hate, for instance:

  • Identitarian neoliberals
  • Social liberalism-only liberals
  • Libertarians with slightly less subhuman faces (sorry, Mr Dubcek, Ms Sontag)
  • Creative class moderates
  • Comfy class gay-friendly tax evaders
  • Judith Butlerian jihadists (sorry, Mr. Herbert)
  • Pronoun-obsessed empire enthusiasts
  • Trust funded tumblr twats
  • Politically correct social Darwinists
  • Intersectional neoconartists
  • Artisanally woke centrists
  • Social justice 1%ers
  • School-privatizing aesthetic Stalinists
  • Austeritarians for over-invested identity politics
  • Inclusive deregulators
  • Speech-policing free traders for greater economic inequality

but they’re all too long. On a blog it doesn’t matter, but on twitter with the 140 character limit it’s difficult to make a point and describe the radically social liberal, warmongering, economically conservative corporate whores who have gained complete media and cultural hegemony and destroyed any chance of social democracy.

You know the kind; like the ChapoTrapHouse boys said, they’re the so insufferably woke people who, as long as they name the latest bunker buster bomb after Sojourner Truth, can sleep well at night. The sort that, like my twitter pal Phillips Pasha says, praises putting Harriet Tubman on the 20$ bill but wants a Grand Bargain on social security. In other words, Hillary Clinton’s cadre.[1]

Now God knows the alt-right has a lot to answer for but to give credit where due they have enriched the political vocabulary; their name for the type of “liberal” described above is SHITLIB. It’s concise, snarly, evocative, righteous — perfect.

So thank you, fascist Shitlords; I appreciate it.

[1] Cf., the conclusion of Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media?: it is full of people who are socially liberal (often extremely so) but conservative on economics and foreign policy. Yes, duh.

Live From Golgotha!

Watch a few Scientology documentaries on youtube and a lot of strange things pop in the suggested videos column. Also, there are treasures – albeit in this case an incomplete one: Harlan Ellison tells the late Robin Williams about being a high school kid who went to New York City and hung out with all the famous mid-century science fiction writers; the Most Contentious Man Alive was there at the Hydra Club when a religion was born:

Lester del Rey… a well-known writer…subsequently became del Rey Books….Lester, in his childhood, had been a stump minister…he had been a revivalist, he was a child evangelist. So, [L.] Ron [Hubbard] was complaining that he was breaking his ass writing and…he was never gonna get [financially ahead]…they were gonna find him slumped over the typewriter one day because there’s no annuity, there’s no insurance, and you can’t keep it up [writing] forever….these guys [writers] knew they had to do something and [Hubbard] said there’s gotta be a better way to make money, so Lester says, “start a religion!” [Laughter] That’s the way to do it, start a religion. And [Hubbard] said, “yeah, not a bad – now what kinda religion?” Well, one guy contributed Reich’s orgone box, another one came up with engrams, which were forgotten-lost memories or whatever it was and sure enough, [Hubbard] went and…cobbled up Dianetics and he wrote this book – has all of that stuff in it…

There the clip ends; I would very much like to hear the rest of their conversation.

Ellison was there, knows all the dirt, drops several names: del Rey, Hubbard, Algis Budrys, Harry Harrison, more, but doesn’t say exactly who contributed the specifics to LRH’s scheme beyond the initial idea. (Incidentally, it’s worth listening just to hear someone overwhelm Robin Williams with verbiage; I’m not sure Williams could have kept pace with Ellison even in his most cocaine-fueled Mork days.) Ellison tells a tangential but interesting anecdote about L. Sprague DeCamp who “looks like somebody out of a Louis Auchincloss novel” but was apparently spergy in the android Data extreme, uncomprehending of how humor worked. And on the Star Trek note, while listening I kept thinking of that DS9 episode (maybe its best) “Far Beyond The Stars,” in which the regular characters are reconstituted as midcentury science fiction writers – Chief O’Brien is an Asimov clone, Dax as a thinly veiled DC Fontana, etc – and trying to insert into my mental scene versions of young Ellison (no, not Wesley Crusher) and middle-aged LRH (guest starring Jeffrey Jones); but it just doesn’t work and it’s not fair to Sisko.

The other thing I’m reminded of with regard to del Rey’s at least half-sarcastic suggestion to LRH is the late Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, in which the central superconspiracy theory or, if you like, Unified Field conspiracy theory is also invented by agnostic nerds (with help of a computer) as a joke and is of course then taken seriously by the desperately credulous to predictably ugly and tragic results.