Roland Barthes’ essay Death of the Author is required reading for many students who wish to study the humanities, such as English Literature. The general thesis of the essay is that narrative intent from the author cannot be discovered as it is impossible to know what the author’s thoughts were at the time of writing. Thus, Death of the Author can be understood to mean “art without the artist” – by the reader is the only true reading. The authority of the author, and therefore the author himself, perishes.
It is an interesting and incredibly influential essay that has played a large part in the development of critical theory over the course of the 20th century. Using this as a basis, it is my belief that we can take the theory further.
Rather than experience the art in a passive way, accepting what the author produces as is, and making our own interpretations from that point, I propose that we instead take an active participation in taking art from the artist and use it to our own ends. This is much easier to do thanks to the internet, and the emergence of meme culture.
It is from meme culture that murdering the author rises. 2016 can be seen as the black swan moment for this with the election of Donald Trump and the reignition of right-wing populism. In this moment, a new breed of meme was born, and it is one of these memes that I think best exemplifies how effective murdering the author can be.
In 2017 MGMT released their song “Little Dark Age”, a protest song lamenting the election of Trump. As the title suggests, the zeitgeist as the artist saw it was regressing back into a period of ignorance, ultimately taking the past 70 years of Progress with it. As recent as 2021 however, the meme remixes of this song have become increasingly popular. The song is used as a backdrop over footage designed to ignite reactionary pride – praise of Christianity and the heroic spirit are commonplace within this. My personal favourites are the ones that glorify the British Empire.
The popularity of the meme is an example of the remix culture unique to the internet, an issue with 21st century creations in general. 21st century art is stunted, and we can only find creative outlets in what has come before. This is a problem with all art and culture in the West, but has been commented on before so I will not belabour the point, except to say that our obsession with nostalgia seems to have left us bereft of creating our own cultural milieu and we are forced to stand blindly on the shoulders of giants.
We are indeed in a little dark age, and MGMT clearly felt that. It just isn’t the dark age they think it is. For a generation of people brought up in countries whose hour of greatness was over, and on whom all the world’s ills could be blamed, it is little surprise that a song like Little Dark Age could be used in the way it did. With lyrics like “Forgiving who you are for what you stand to gain/Just know that if you hide it doesn’t go away”, the song seems to be calling out to those who are trodden on by the current regime, such as political dissidents, delivering the Evolian message of riding the tiger. In the remix culture that epitomises internet trends, this is an example of destroying the meaning of a talented, well intended but misinformed artist and rewiring it for a different purpose.
No matter how MGMT feels about the current political and cultural climate, the fact remains that Little Dark Age is reactionary. It speaks of cultural degradation, inauthenticity – the sense of something being lost. MGMT have put their finger on the pulse, and their diagnosis seems apt – but the wrong patient has died.
Their anger is correct but misdirected, which is why we on the right see the song as something to be hijacked. We are not witnessing the death of the author here – instead, we are the author’s murderers. We are Lenin storming the Tsar’s palace in 1917. We take what is theirs and subvert it to our own ends.
The fact is that reactionary media, be it music, film, literature or television, is entirely hegemonic to the left’s favour. Reactionary discourse is repeatedly shut out of the Overton window, which is panned by boomeresque false idols on one side and comical Marxist villains on the other. In order to make a point, we must use the tools of the enemy. We must be the Vietcong stealing M16s from a US military base. We take from the author what is theirs, deconstruct their arms and create something entirely new using the skeleton of their works.
We are the murderers of the author and this is our strongest weapon.
You Might also like
By Robert Masterson — 2 weeks ago
It’s hardly a novel take at this point to notice that something is fundamentally “off”, to put it lightly, with the way politics and society are currently operating. The events of the last year and a half have demonstrated a distinct lack of consistency in terms of virtually everything. Groups of rioters tearing down and/or vandalising historical monuments have operated virtually unimpeded, whilst a peaceful vigil for a woman murdered by a police officer was met with unwarranted violence, and the once obscene conspiracy theory that COVID originated from a Chinese lab has now been deemed not only acceptable, but plausible by the political elite. Perhaps the worst part is, no matter how uneasy this situation makes us, there is nothing “off” or abnormal about it; it is simply politics operating exactly how it should, whether we like it or not.
In Concept of the Political, German jurist and philosopher Carl Schmitt attempted to precisely define the term “political”; indeed, the more one thinks about it, the harder this task appears. If you asked twenty random people off the street what “politics” actually means, I’d bet a modest pittance you’d get around twenty different answers. From experience, it would range from “the practice of governing/making laws”, to “ruling over people”, to “compromising to reach a universally acceptable outcome.” Schmitt would have fundamentally disagreed with all of these propositions, more-so the last assertion for the crime of being egregiously wishy-washy.
Instead, politics, like all spheres of human activity, is defined by a dichotomic distinction. In the sphere of morality there is “good” and “evil”, in aesthetics “beauty” and “ugliness”, and in economics “profitable” and “unprofitable.” For politics, “the specific [distinction] to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” The “enemy” in the political sense is not a business competitor, or the villain of a petty private rivalry, but a public enemy, or “hostis.” As Schmitt explains,
“An enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity. The enemy is solely the public enemy, because everything that has a relationship to such a collectivity of men, particularly to a whole nation, becomes public by virtue of such a relationship.”
Politics then, is driven by group-based loyalties; ideology, nationality, ethnicity, etc., any means of finding commonality amongst otherwise isolated individuals. Of course, this reductively alludes to the sentiment of “strength in numbers”, but it also appeals to the human disposition towards a common purpose greater than themselves, fostering a sense of camaraderie between those who share in it. These are the friends, and those who do not share the values and goals of the group, or hold loyalties elsewhere, are enemies. For the safety and security of the friend group and its institutions, enemies must be defined, outed, and crushed.
Historians and theorists continue to debate whether Schmitt’s “concept [or definition] of the political” drew from his tendency towards authoritarianism and later National Socialism. Despite this, one cannot ignore that Schmitt’s definition is universally observable both in the past and present. Having formed the Second Triumvirate, Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus instigated brutal proscriptions to ensure their most high-profile enemies were disposed of. In the words of Ronald Syme, “the Triumvirs were pitiless, logical, and concordant. On the list of the prescriptions all said they set one hundred and thirty senators and a great number of Roman knights.” They were not motivated by personal disdain or savage revenge, rather “their victory was the victory of a party”; the supremacy of the Caesarean cause against its threats. Lenin too was political in this sense, evident, among other places, in State and Revolution:
“the ‘special repressive force’ of the bourgeoisie for the suppression of the proletariat, of the millions of workers by a handful of the rich, must be replaced by a “special repressive force” of the proletariat for the suppression of the bourgeoisie.”
This is essentially a high-brow version of “it’s okay when we do it”; the destruction of the bourgeoisie (the enemy group) through violent means is perfectly acceptable, nay necessary, but violence used by the bourgeoisie against the proletariat (the friend group) is unjust. Even Joe Biden began his presidency in this manner, declaring those who stormed the Capitol Building on January 6th (something which both the elite and faux leftist rebels are still seething over) to be “extremists dedicated to lawlessness” who “do not represent a true America.” Whether it be the most brutal dictatorship or the smiliest liberal democracy, every successful regime refuses to suffer the presence of those who wish to undermine it. Regardless of what we think of Schmitt’s motivations and endeavours, or indeed the notion of group/identity-based politics in itself, the friend-enemy distinction rings true to those in power.
Therefore, when the elite tells us that tearing down statues is correcting history, or that taking the knee before a sporting event is a heroic stand against injustice, but protesting against lockdowns or waving the flag of your own country is a threat to “our way of life”, they are simply doing what all political entities must do: defining what behaviours and values are and are not acceptable, preserving the sanctity of the friend group against its enemies. Indeed, this sentiment echoes through Samuel Francis’s concept of “anarcho-tyranny”; describing the situation when an authoritarian state, despite its extensive power, is unable to enforce basic law and order, leading it to overregulate the lives of law-abiding citizens instead, rather than attempt to deal with genuine crime. An example of this would be clamping down hard on people travelling too far for a run at the peak of lockdown, but refusing to take any meaningful action on systematic trafficking through grooming gangs.
In the context of the friend-enemy distinction, anarcho-tyranny appears as a political choice rather than risible incompetence; to introduce another of Schmitt’s famous definitions: “sovereign is he who decides on the exception”, holding the power to transcend the restraints of the law such that they may protect the friend group in a state of emergency. “Anarchy” reserved for friends, permitted by the sovereign (ruling elite in this case, rather than single individual) to do as they please because they either pose no real threat to the system and its goals, or are a useful pawn against its enemies. “Tyranny” is imposed upon enemies, whose every move must be monitored to ensure they are not in a position to challenge the system, and swiftly dealt with if they are. However, the problem with liberal democracies is that they are operated by the soft-handed administrators of the managerial elite, who are hesitant to use brute force against their enemies, even at a time of emergency. Make no mistake, the tyranny is still there, it simply takes a subtler form, often involving long-term manipulative tactics rather than outright arresting or executing dissidents, as one would typically expect from an oppressive state.
One of the most powerful of these tactics is “framing.” In this context, framing can be best described using the old adage “you’re either with us, or against us”, a sentiment expressed in one way or another by political icons from Cicero to Lenin and Benito Mussolini to George Bush. As soon as there is the possibility of a middle-ground, or a compromise with the enemy, subversion is all-but certain. Consequently, the slightest disagreement with the status quo can effectively be painted as a potentially system-level threat. Even the mildest of lockdown sceptics, concerned about the effects of shutting the country down on small business, human interaction, or children’s development, can be framed as a threat to public health by placing them, in the mainstream consciousness, as one step away from national enemies such as Piers Corbyn, David Icke, and other such “deranged anti-vaxxers.” When put so reductively it sounds like a laughable exaggeration, yet it works. Understandably, the average person holds no desire to be framed in such a way, given the potential ramifications it could have on their life, leading them too comfortably justify averting the risk and pushing any niggling worries they may have had to the back of their head, slotting comfortably back into “trusting the experts.”
This process also notably applied to UKIP at its peak (perhaps even the entire “populist uprising” more broadly), a party of free-market libertarians who flirted with drug legalisation, yet successfully framed in the media as fellow travellers of the openly fascist and white nationalist BNP; simply because they both claimed to oppose “the establishment” and mass immigration, and didn’t apologise for the Empire every ten minutes. Neither of these examples have been presented to lament their underdog status against a system that hates them, but simply to illustrate that once the powers-that-be determine a group or an idea unacceptable, usually because it threatens their narrative, social pressure will be enough for the average person to cave in and accept the status out of fear of being associated with extremists, and subsequently marginalised. One silver-lining to this practice is that it informs us which opinions truly are dangerous. If you can say something without fear of being called an extremist, chances are it’s neither threatening to the system nor particularly edgy; how many people have lost their jobs or livelihoods for being a Marxist in recent years? If anything, it’ll get you a pretty cosy gig at SAGE.
Returning to Schmitt’s definition of sovereignty, our aforementioned extremists or “threats to the system”, are regularly exaggerated to justify a faux state of emergency or “exception.” The most hardcore COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers, should they by some miracle gain political power, would do some damage to the system, so too would the BNP if it ever got anywhere. Realistically, the chances of either of these happening is so miniscule it seems the media time afforded to them feels somewhat unjustified. What were the odds of the BNP winning an election, even at their peak? Essentially nil. How many people are total COVID deniers who think vaccines are the mark of the beast? An insignificant amount. Yet, we’re constantly bombarded with sensationalist fear porn to make it seem like the enemies are just one step away from ruining everyone’s day. By lauding them as existential threats to normality, and making them seem more powerful and influential than they are, it leads people straight back into the arms of the system, such that it may protect them from these awful people and their dangerous ideas. In fact, there is an argument to be made that suppression of extremists is counter-intuitive, as their existence (especially when, as it is in reality, negligible) works to support the system rather than weaken it, providing a visible manifestation of the enemy; a deterrent to discourage normal people (who are raised from birth with the idea that the establishment is the friend) from straying too far outside the Overton window. Framing then, acts as both a means of undermining the enemy, as well as consolidating the power of the friend group without needing to bash down doors and shoot dissidents in the street; far more civilised if you ask me.
Framing also has an added bonus effect: it forces enemies to talk in the same language as friends, functionally turning them into a friend, but still kept at an arm’s length. Moderates of either side don’t want to be associated with extremists either, it’s bad PR, and will almost always side against them if it means they won’t be classified as an enemy. They possess a constant need for approval from the establishment; understandable at the surface level, as such approval allows them to participate in the mainstream dialogue, albeit at the cost of excessively watering-down their positions to the point where they offer little but an edgy (at best) spin on the narrative of the ruling elite. Hence why the moderate right-wing is so painfully milquetoast, they would rather cosy up to the progressive managerial elite than support people on their own side. Paul Gottfried refers to these people as “Conservative Inc.”, the Turning Points and “liberal Tories” of the world, establishment right-wingers who peddle toned-down, politically safe opinions, easily consumable by the average “sceptic”, whilst attacking those who offer a genuinely conservative alternative, often accusing them of being rabid reactionaries. Unfortunately, if you want a seat at the table of power, you need to be a friend, and that means you must play by the rules of the game and participate in the punishment of the enemies just the same.
Despite all of this, liberal democracy tries to disguise the friend-enemy distinction. According to Schmitt, as an ideology emergent from the economic sphere, liberalism is inclined towards compromise, as it is unprofitable to hold contemptuous relationships with a potential business partner or customer. As we have established, this does not mean that liberal democracies do not enforce the friend-enemy distinction, in fact, considering the effectiveness of framing they’re rather good at it, but they do attempt to smokescreen the natural dichotomy of politics.
One of the methods this is achieved is through what Curtis Yarvin calls the “two-story myth.” Under authoritarian regimes, a “national myth” is forced upon the population, constituting a narrative of history containing elements justifying the existence and power of the ruling elite. The problem with this, according to Yarvin, is that people fundamentally hate being told what to think, particularly as national myths are never completely truthful. You can see this in the limp efforts by the Conservative Party to promote “British values”, the substance of which are another issue entirely, and are almost always widely repudiated, whether it be through cynical edginess or a realisation that these things cannot be artificially created. Therefore, it is arguably more effective to create a “two-story myth”, whereby the national myth is split into two narratives.
“When people hear one story, they tend to ask: is this true? When they hear two stories, they tend to ask: which one of these is true?”
What is being questioned is not whether the ruling elite is justified in its position or not, simply the path taken for it to get there. The Tories (when not infested with Blairism) tell us that the British state promoted individualism, freedom of speech, and entrepreneurship, good old classical liberal values which built us into the country we are today. Labour on the other hand insist that our country was built into what it is now through co-operative values such as trade unionism, the NHS, and the welfare state. Despite both of these being mostly falsehoods, there are nuggets of truth present in them which provide just enough for there to be an “uncontroversial, bipartisan consensus”, meaning that when the system is threatened, the loyal peons of each path can be relied on to defend it.
As politics is innately dichotomous and confrontational, the two-story myth provides a faux-friend-enemy distinction to act as a “safety valve” stopping people turning to narratives that won’t arrive in the same place as the approved ones. Whilst people are busy fighting over whether the Tories or Labour should be in power, it keeps them from realising that they are friends, and that by supporting either they are supporting the maintenance of the status quo, regardless of which one is in office. Even people acutely aware of their similarities, quite a substantial number these days, still fall into the trap of engaging with such theatrics. This does not mean that there is no disagreement at all between friends, there are tussles over particular policies, permitted insofar as the fundamentals of the system are not challenged, and as long as the illusion of disagreement (at least superficially) maintains the deception. Different MPs of different parties had all sorts of opinions on Brexit, but beyond lip service, none of them ever questioned whether globalism or free-trade are inherent goods in themselves. Equally, Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, and Justin Trudeau certainly all have their own views on a variety of matters, and may not even like each other on a personal level, but when the time comes, they chant in unison their desire to “build back better.”
There is no friend-enemy distinction between Labour and the Conservatives, or any party in parliament; if any of them were deemed to be enemies of the system they would not be allowed anywhere near power. Back to the BNP example, whatever one thinks of them, they did not share the values of the ruling elite, nor did they buy into the national myth via either one of the two stories. Consequently, after gaining 2 MEPs in the 2009 European Parliament election, they were actively denied access to information afforded to every other party, and it was made clear that their involvement in anything meaningful would be kept to an absolute minimum. This is not an endorsement of the BNP or its failed plight against mainstream politics; honestly speaking, it makes perfect sense, bringing us full circle back to the central question raised by the friend-enemy distinction: would you let a rogue element, which actively despises you and everything you stand for, operate on the same playing field as you? If the answer is yes, then you must be some kind of masochist.
One should not misinterpret this as a polemic against liberal hypocrisy; yes, they allow their friends to operate as they please whilst marginalising anyone they disagree with, but that is not hypocrisy, it is simply politics. They are the ones who hold the power, and no one can expect them to sit back and give free rein to potential subverters. It may not be particularly nice, but the sooner we come to terms with it the better, and once we stop trying to be the bigger person, better still. They want you to “debate” them because it is a distraction, no matter how easy it is to tear apart their ideas and arguments. If those with power decide that something will happen, it will determine whether its justifications are fallacious or if anyone agrees or disagrees with it.
The simple answer is to return the favour, if they don’t care what you think of them, then you shouldn’t care what they think of you. Stand tall for what you believe in, refuse to allow that which you hold dear to be critiqued or questioned by people who hold you in contempt, because as soon as those ideas become contestable, they lose their sacred status. Let them bombard you with petty insults, safe in the knowledge that they are, in the words of Roger Scruton “propaganda words”, abstract weasel words designed to attach enemy status to someone; recognising such is the first part of stepping over the quagmire of liberalism. One you discover your friends (not enemies who wear the skins of friends) discuss ideas among them by all means, learn from your enemies but do not engage with them, no matter how much they try to lure you in with the promise of “free and fair discussion”; a deception to hide their true intention: to confuse you, humiliate you, and obliterate you and your way of life.
Friend good, enemy bad; the motto of all successful political entities.
Post Views: 36
By Adam Limb — 2 weeks ago
Looking at the demographics of the Mallard, I assume most are familiar if not directly, then indirectly, with New Atheism. It was particularly popular between the 2000s and the 2010s, likely because the last vestiges of cultural Christianity were being stamped out, but the embers of cultural leftism were yet to catch. Early YouTube was dominated by atheists, who took to the new media platform to deliver the message of atheism to a new generation of young adults – myself included.
In fairness, I can’t blame YouTube for my lack of faith. My Church of England school hardly did anything to justify the faith to me, and without parental guidance, it was inevitable that I’d be filled with misgivings and misunderstandings of what faith was. Later in life, I’d take up a degree in Physics and later rest my atheism on the claim that the existence of God doesn’t adhere to the tenets of science. This is true, and something I believe even now. In science, if something cannot be validated or invalidated, then you dismiss it. This tenet is so engrained in scientists that when Pauli proposed the existence of a massless, chargeless particle, he bet a crate of champagne that no-one would find it due to the ludicrousness of being able to test the existence of a particle with no mass and no charge.
Of course, they did find it – and Pauli made good on his promise, gifting a crate of champagne to the scientists who discovered the neutrino. If you want to dismiss the existence of literal physical objects, this tenet will do just fine. The problem with it, is that it applies equally to anything not located in space and time. Morality, for example, is not a physical thing and its existence cannot be tested. We can do an experiment showing that murder rates generally correlate with unhappiness, but who says unhappiness is synonymous with badness? And so, on the same basis I dismissed the existence of God, I dismissed the existence of morality. At the time I did not know it, but this problem had been expressed in Hume’s Guillotine. A should statement can never rest on an is statement. It is raining, so I should wear a coat presupposes I shouldn’t want to get wet, which only pushes the problem back one step. Of course, if you insert an intelligent creator into the picture, you can say the way the world is, is a reflection of that creators plan for us, which we should follow – and so you can begin to talk about some kind of natural order to the world beyond science.
In time, I would find the failure of scientism to present a morality to be troublesome. After all, even if I were correct, and that morality didn’t exist – it was wholly arbitrary to hold that belief, after all, believing the truth over lies could not be the right thing to do by the very nature of my claims. The answers I saw from atheists regarding this, particularly Richard Dawkins, were not so impressive. Dawkins has argued that morality is an evolutionary instinct, which only begs the question as to why to follow that instinct over any other instinct. All instincts do is attempt to keep us alive, after all. Instincts also tell us to be distrustful of people ethnically dissimilar from one another, and Dawkins refutes that behaviour in the strongest terms, often accusing Brexiteers of behaving in that way. If we are to follow the evolutionary moral instinct because it is the ‘right thing to do’, and what is right is determined by that same instinct – all Dawkins is saying is that the evolutionary moral instinct says to follow itself, but of course an instinct says to follow it: that’s what instincts do. At this point, it became quite clear that attempts to either dismiss morality on the basis of science, or to construct one out of scientific principles inevitably tended towards circular logic.
Materialism, the belief that everything is one substance, that of matter, is very elegant on its surface: Everything is matter, the interactions of that matter are described by science, and anything we perceive to be outside of that is just a social construct, a spook, or a delusion. One major flaw in materialism is the existence of qualia, of the sensation of experiencing things. For example, the sensation of happiness is not the same as the chemicals that produce that sensation. It may be described as such, and you may even be able to predict with perfect certainty that someone will feel a sensation and how intense you expect the sensation to be. However there is a thisness to the sensation that cannot just be reduced to the biochemical processes that go into it. As a consequence, materialism has to simply deny that these sensations are real, and insist that things like joy, sadness, and conscious experience itself are just tricks of the mind (composed of atoms and microelectrodes and nothing more). This ultimately refutes materialism itself, however. If our conscious experiences are not meaningful or true, then the scientific laws we derive from those experiences are not meaningful either.
If you want to insist the universe is one substance, it makes much more sense to argue the universe is not all matter, but all consciousness – as consciousness is all anyone has ever been given, even those who came up with and tested scientific laws did so through verification of sensations they experienced in their consciousness, which cannot be reduced to the physical processes that went into bringing consciousness about. Even if we could have a perfect understanding of the human brain, and could replicate what I imagine on a screen – all we would have succeeded in doing is making a map of consciousness, not replicating consciousness itself. This would be the same as arguing that because we can make a map of New York City, that the map is identical to New York City. The map may describe New York, it may even predict things around New York – but the map is not New York. Equivalently, science may describe and predict consciousness or reality, but science is not consciousness or reality.
There is a comfort in appealing to scientific laws, they are predictable (that’s what makes them scientific,) but this predictability relies on the laws themselves being continuous. If gravitational attraction changed overnight, then the equations that described them would also have to change. The assumption that these laws are constant and reliable, and therefore the basis of yet more science is something that cannot itself be tested. If you want to insist that you only believe in the existence of things that can be falsified, then you cannot believe the laws of physics are continuous and constant – as this cannot be falsified. Again, Hume recognised this – and labelled it ‘naïve empiricism’. The naïvety comes in when we insist the laws of Physics are constant because they’ve always been constant in our experience. By the same token we can’t say the Universe existed before we were born because we have never experienced it, which creates a solipsism harder to justify than any spooky non-materialistic belief. Even if we appeal to the material truths which demonstrate existence beyond our lifetime, for example, carbon-13 dating – we can never justify whether or not the laws of physics will spontaneously change the day after our deaths, we simply assume that they won’t. This is not to say such the belief that the laws of Physics are constant is unreasonable, only that it is unreasonable within a world-view conforming to empiricism, and not something proven empirically.
So what kind of world-view does answer these questions? Well, I gave one answer earlier: one in which consciousness is primary, also known as Idealism. Another would be faith, which recognises the objective value of things not located in space and time. For example, morality. Morality is of course, not the only thing located in space and time that we treat as objective, I’ve just talked about it a lot in this article so I felt compelled to mention it first. Another would be numbers. You can have seven marbles, seven pounds, and the number seven on a piece of paper – but destroy the marbles, spend the money, and erase the number on the paper and yet the number seven still exists. We can’t simply escape the reality of numbers by arguing they are an invention of the mind, physical laws, such as attraction due to gravity require them. The gravitational constant, G, is a number you are required to multiply by (and cannot simply be dropped) to describe gravitational attraction. We can shunt the value of the number about by changing our units, but the number itself remains – and would make human life impossible if it were off by just 1 in 1060. Which is the same as getting statistically impossible odds ten trillion times. Not only are numbers not reducible to material reality, but they are also required to be highly specific for life to develop whatsoever.
A materialist might want to escape this by claiming that there are trillions of universes where these constants vary, and therefore our existence is statistically inevitable. But at this point you are no longer doing science. A multiverse is necessarily not empirically verifiable, and the existence of a multiverse is just as unfounded (on materialist terms) as a belief in God. Furthermore, this only shunts the problem back one step – why is it that multiverses are created in this one specific way, with the values of the constants varying? Why can’t there by multiverses where not just the constants in the equations, but the equations themselves vary? Who is to say there has to be these forces and their respective equations at all? Is there a multiverse of multiverses and a multiverse of multiverses of multiverses? Isn’t this all just circular and ridiculous at this point?
It was in light of all of these things: the absence of transcendence, the inability to consistently derive physics and metaphysics, and the failure to construct a morality, that drew me away from atheism and into my current beliefs. There are things beyond this world that we not only need to appeal to pragmatically, but need in order to make sense of the world as it exists. They are transcendent. They are not just a reflection of a higher world, but necessary components of this world as well. From morality, to numbers, to the very sensation of being anything at all, every part of life is beyond the mere matter we interact with every day. In that kind of understanding, the world ceases to be sterile, and instead takes on the character of an enchanted garden – where life, death, and the interplay of tragedy and comedy make up just a part of an order much larger than our mere existence.
Picture CreditPost Views: 45
By Oscar Rhodes — 2 weeks ago
To begin, it’s worth saying I owe something of a debt to Douglas Murray. He brought me to many of the positions I hold today, and while my overall impression of ‘War on the West’ was disinterest, it is only upon looking back at my own political journey I’m beginning to understand why I felt that way.
‘War on the West’ follows ‘The Madness of Crowds’ and the ‘Strange Death of Europe’ as Murray’s third book discussing the state of political affairs in the Western world. Murray’s thesis is best laid out by Murray himself:
“People began to talk of “equality”, but they did not seem to care about equal rights. They talked of “anti-racism”, but they appeared deeply racist. They spoke of “justice” but they seemed to mean revenge.”
Herein lies the problem with ‘War on the West’, and why I moved away from Murray in my own life: there is no examination of what equality is to mean, what anti-racism is to look like, or what kind of justice is to be enacted, if any. The primary objection Murray has to the armies waging a war on the West is that their vision is not a classically liberal one. Explicitly antagonising white people with terms like ‘white fragility’, ‘white tears’, or ‘white privilege’ is bad because it racialises things Murray believes to have been deracialised by the Civil Rights Movement and other changes that occurred between the 1950’s to early 2000s. In his previous work, Murray uses an analogy of a train of equality pulling into the station, only to careen off down the tracks at a greater speed than ever before without allowing its passengers to get off. Throughout Murray’s work is an unexamined liberalism, that at best, is only ever criticised for being too pure. Liberalism, by its nature, criticises social orders for creating barriers for individuals. The many freedoms the West has provided have always come at the expense of the social orders liberalism eroded. Freedom for women came with the erosion of a patriarchal social order, and took with it the benefits such a system provided – such as the ability to raise a family on one income, a high degree of social trust, and a defined relationship between the sexes. It was inevitable that liberalism would eventually critique itself, and many of the authors Murray cites, from Kendi to DiAngelo, often build on those drawing on Herbert Marcuse and Theodore Adorno. The former was given money by the Rockefeller Foundation, and even worked for what would become the CIA. In many ways, it was Western liberalism with its free flow of capital and revolving door between the academy and influential roles of state that enabled these theories to promulgate.
In his interview with the Telegraph promoting the book, Murray states:
“As long as people are armed with the right facts and the right arguments, I just don’t see how the cultural revolutionaries can win. I don’t know about you, but I’m not spending the rest of my life cringing and being told I’m guilty of things I never did. Not doing it, not guilty.”
This really begs the question of how exactly we got to this position to begin with. What’s most striking about ‘War on the West’ is that it does read almost like a recap of a war. Battlefields are specified, different players and their decisions are named, and Lord knows there are a huge number of casualties in the culture wars Murray describes. But, were the people who permitted things to reach this stage simply incapable of posing arguments against it? In one chapter, Murray notes that claims that America is founded upon stolen land are self-refuting because the many tribes of America stole the land from one another. Are we to believe Americans are so ignorant of their own history that this argument has never been made? Murray himself notes in the conclusion that outlets such as MSNBC and the New York Times will deny that Critical Race Theory is taught in schools, but acknowledge that it exists when forced. There are no arguments that can be used against such a thing.
Left out of ‘War on the West’ is any truly systemic analysis of the problem. The aforementioned New York Times moved to a paywall model in 2011, and from that point forward, the focus on things like ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘homophobia’, and ‘transphobia’ increased many times over. Around this time, legacy media was dying slowly. So newspapers moved from selling papers to many people to selling stories to a niche audience. The niche audience of the New York Times is the kind of cosmopolitan liberal who is very interested in niche identitarian trends, and in pitching themselves as radical while at the heart of the very system they claim to dislike. Despite this being a veritable War on the West, according to Murray, the emergency powers of war are never called upon. There are no calls to take decisive action to halt or prevent these systemic changes that led to this point. And in the conclusion, he defends the same economic system of capitalism that gave the New York Times its power, and forced it to change its business model to appeal to a niche audience of people hostile to Western people.
This attachment to a liberal historiography, in which individuals are given The Arguments and Make The Case, with spontaneous and emergent bottom-up change coming about as a consequence blinds Murray to the economic and legal realities that influence and shape this War on the West. Multiple universities are stated as battlegrounds for this war, but there is not a single mention of the fact universities are public authorities under the Equality Act (2010). That they have an ‘equalities duty’ to publish routine equalities reports, and must legally keep permanent members of staff dedicated to pushing this anti-Western message.
The only law Murray appears to mention in this vein is the Civil Right Act, which he defends as an example of the kind of good equality that he desires. Yet it was the Civil Rights Act which created the Civil Rights Commission, which in 1973 wrote to the Civil Service Commission and had them drop the standards for algebra in order to allow them to hire more non-white civil servants. Similar acts can be found in the UK. The Race Relations Act of 1973 (which performed the same anti-discrimination function as the Civil Rights Act he praises) created the Commission for Racial Equality. Today, the Race Relations Act has been assimilated into the aforementioned Equalities Act, and the Commission for Racial Equality has become the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which forces compliance with the Equalities Duty. There is a clear through-line from the civil rights legislation both in the USA and the UK, to the situation we are in now. The back of ‘War on the West’ reads as follows:
“The anti-Western revisionists have been out in force in recent years. It is high time we revise them in turn …”
Fundamentally however, there isn’t much of a revision of dominant left-wing narratives within ‘War on the West’ at all. Instead, it seeks to remind leftists that their own heroes, from Marx, to Foucault are also not spotless figures. This can only go one of two ways: either they ignore this, and nothing changes, or they recognise this, and move away from those figures, and as a consequence have doubled down on their principles of removing any and all unsavoury figures from public life. Regardless, none of this is at all revisionary, nor does it fundamentally challenge the values and beliefs of the cultural revolutionaries. A truly revisionist view of things would challenge the dominant understanding of things like the Civil Rights Movement, which was not (as Murray describes) people ‘making the case’ for rights, that the American public was so blown away by that they accepted and endorsed. Academic studies like that done on Rosedale show the side of desegregation that was forced upon people, and came at the cost of schools, neighbourhoods, communities and lives. Rosedale was a segregated community, but desegregation and the tensions that came with it made it difficult for authorities to maintain peace. The result was that many of the former residents who didn’t move out of their homes, found themselves the victims of racial violence by those who moved into the area, and had no regard for the police, who stopped policing the area out of fear of creating tensions. When Brown v. The Board of Education ended the desegregation of schools in America, and people protested, the national guard was sent in to disperse the crowd at gunpoint.
All of these changes were not the natural unfolding of human progress. They came today as they did in the civil rights movement, through force. Eisenhower and the national guard did not make the case for desegregation in light of Brown, they imposed it down the barrel of a gun. Whether that was right or wrong is irrelevant, that fact alone disproves the notion Murray insists upon in his recent public life – that the train of equality was chugging along gently, and only recently got out of hand. Equality is not a train chugging along set tracks, it is an amorphous blob that seeks to desacralise everything and dissolve all boundaries between all things. It does not progress in one direction alone, like a train, but expands in all directions and infects all things, including our supposedly right wing public figures.
In light of this, I still see some utility in Douglas Murray. Challenging double standards and hypocrisy is a cheap tactic which ultimately will not defeat those Murray opposes. Yet it is often the first chink in the armour for many people. I know I first came to move away from liberal beliefs because I found them to be contradictory, it was only in time I rooted out my own inherently liberal views, and ultimately moved to the political views and positions I hold now. In this respect, Murray is useful – he can confirm people’s suspicions about the modern left, and give them comfort that there is a public figure who opposes these things. It’s incumbent upon people with more bravery and introspection to take that one step further, and marry it with a systemic analysis of the situation, and propose and action a plan to undo these things and institute something new in its place.
Post Views: 73