Look for the narcissist…

February 22, 2017

There was very little chance to write anything of significance about Donald Trump’s 2000 Presidential run for The Reform Party. It lasted only a few months, and was a bit of a farce that included dismissing fellow Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan as a “Hitler-lover”. Nevertheless, conservative thinker William Buckley Jr wrote prophetically on Trump at the time:

“Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line”.

– Demagoguery is all it is today. Tabloid induced demagoguery that shames the history of conservatism. Conservatives have allowed that to happen. They have allowed the intellectual strings connecting them to Buckley, to Disraeli, to Burke, to be cut, and attached instead to those who define themselves by how much they can irritate liberals; Breitbart, Milo, Bannon.

A conservative movement that Edmund Burke crafted, by noting the dangers of radical revolution that doesn’t account for complex human and social bonds like tradition, by a support for free markets whilst fighting to restrain its excesses – as with East India Trading Company. His was a wide ranging philosophy, the foundation of conservatism. A century later, Disraeli’s one-nation conservatism was aimed at crafting a new conservative position on worsening factory conditions, and to create a society in which the wealthy felt a duty toward the most vulnerable. Today, mainstream conservatism is this…

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Milo freely admits that he likes to offend, that it’s his goal. Fine. But he writes (or did, until his most appalling interview yet) for Breitbart, a leading conservative platform, whose boss is currently Chief Strategist in the Trump White House, and by some accounts, writing Executive Orders that have a real-life harmful effect on ordinary people. Milo – not just a provocateur – is part of creating that new conservative attitude that defines itself as little more than sounding a bit controversial, without any substance. To highlight both of my points – that they exist purely to sound controversial, and that they contain very little substance – here’s an article by Milo entitled “Attack of the Killer Dykes“:

“Up to 45 per cent of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner and that 30 per cent of lesbians have reported sexual assault or rape by another woman. And those are conservative figures from a small domestic violence support group.”

– Now, let’s quote the entire passage from the link that Milo quotes…

“Perhaps surprisingly, statistics have shown that lesbian people experience domestic violence at a very similar rate to that of heterosexual women (Waldner-Haygrud, 1997; AVP, 1992). It has been estimated that between 17-45% of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner (Burke et al, 1999; Lie et al, 1991), and that 30% of lesbians have reported sexual assault / rape by another woman (Renzetti, 1992). Considering the lack of discussion that takes place regarding lesbian domestic violence and sexual assault, I find these figures staggering.”

– The first sentence, Milo completely ignores, that domestic violence in heterosexual relationships and homosexual relationships between women, are very similar… “killer dykes”. And the 45% figure that Milo calls “conservative” is actually the highest end of the spectrum that ranges from 17% to 45%. A despicably misleading article by Milo to further his obsessive agenda of demonising gay women, which he also does here by claiming most lesbian women aren’t really lesbians and they’re just a reaction, citing no research because research would be “so politically correct” (to translate; he has no evidence, other than his own prejudices), and which he does here by claiming ‘fat lesbians’ are responsible for criticising Trump. In the video his evidence that lesbians don’t actually exist, is that sexuality is more fluid for women than for me… which doesn’t imply homosexual women aren’t really homosexual, anymore than it implies heterosexual women aren’t really heterosexual. He naturally leaves out a study in 2012 – seen here – that shows sexual stability among women is more prevalent than change. In short, he’s a teenager bullying the kid already marginalised in the playground whilst pseudo-liberals stand around him obsessed with defending his right to do so, rather than standing up for the bullied kid.

But it hits at a wider point. Milo, Breitbart, Trump, and the new populist conservatism – or tabloid-conservatism as i’m calling it – has very little substance, very little intellectual merit, it demonises people by manipulating data, who have done no wrong and then whinges when it is protested, it offers nothing of philosophical importance to the legacy of conservatism other than to stain it of its reputation. They have exchanged enlightenment rationalism & its emphasis on the equality of the individual and the importance of knowledge, for tabloid-populism and its emphasis on the shock factor. They are to conservatism, what CJ Werleman, Max Blumenthal, & Nathan Lean are to the left… a minor thought that will soon pass by, when liberals who spent 2015/16 hammering the Werleman-left for its massive inconsistencies & manipulations, actually bother to start applying the same scorn to the new conservatives.

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Liberals must fight Trump’s illiberalism.

February 19, 2017

It’s been around a year since then Republican candidate for President Donald Trump embraced identity politics, when he said:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

– At a later date, Trump, defending his proposed ban, then said:

“They knocked down the World Trade Centre. They tried doing it twice. There are people who have tremendously bad intentions.”

– And then in July 2016, on Meet The Press, Trump changed his wording, because people were annoyed that he mentioned Muslims:

“I’m looking now at territories. People were so upset when I used the word Muslim. Oh, you can’t use the word ‘Muslim.’”

– This was before he then called Rudy Giuliani and asked him how to go about banning Muslims, asking the former Mayor of New York:

“…the right way to do it legally”

– In summary, there’s a linear progression from rhetoric, to defence, to inquiring how to do it, to doing it. He specifically says he intended to ban Muslims, he then asked Giuliani the legal way to ban Muslims, because they might commit an act of terror like 9/11, only changing his words ever so slightly to avoid outrage. This culminates in the recently signed Executive Order by the now President Donald Trump says:

“Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.”

– The Executive Order follows the past few months of his ‘ban Muslims’ policy perfectly. Though it references a gang of Islamists from a country not on his ban list. The reaction has been an odd one from its defenders on the alt-right (and Piers Morgan). They have decided the past few months reveal nothing of motive, and that those motives are not linked at all to the EO, regardless of the similar reasoning & referencing 9/11, they’ve decided it’s completely separate, when they tell us it’s not a Muslim ban, because not all Muslims across the World have been banned. Logic they barely register, when they’re implying all Muslims share part of the blame for an even smaller minority than the number banned from entering the US, commit a hideous attack. It’s very similar to when anti-Semites think they’re being incredibly clever by regurgitating centuries of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories but replacing the word ‘Jews’ with ‘Zionists’, which they qualify with “but, but… not all Jews are Zionists, so it’s not anti-Semitic!” A transparent line of reasoning, if you’ve ever heard one. My point of view is clear; the ban is a Muslim ban based on their nationality. It is aimed at Muslims. But whether it is a Muslim ban or not (it is) it completely misses the point.

Brendan O’Neill disagrees he wrote in The Spectator:

“Morgan also said it is wrong to speak of a ‘Muslim Ban’, because Muslims aren’t banned from the US. Again, he’s right. A temporary restriction on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries (which I think is a bad idea, by the way) is not a Muslim Ban. Eighty-five percent of the world’s Muslims can still travel to the US. Or are we saying accuracy and clarity no longer matter?”

– It is as if O’Neill has decided Trump’s words – that he reiterated several times during the campaign – have no link to the Executive Order at all. For the sake of accuracy and clarity, it is not accurate to say Muslims aren’t banned from the US either. A Muslim from Iran is now banned from the US, on the grounds – not primarily that he’s Iranian – but that he might commit an Islamist attack on the US. Some may argue that it is based on nationality alone. But what an odd argument. Again, it ignores Trump’s actual words and his policy expectations, and secondly it presumes the Trump administration fears the minority of Iranian atheists are just as likely to commit terror attacks as Islamists. But again… this misses the point. It is identity politics played by a section of the political spectrum that insists it hates identity politics.

Even if being a Muslim had nothing to do with this ban (which it does), even if it were based solely on nationality (which it isn’t)… that doesn’t make it less illiberal, or less bigoted. It doesn’t suddenly become more acceptable, if Muslims aren’t the target, but a nationality is. The exact same bigotry is still there. The presumption implicit in suddenly stripping an individual of a liberty they once enjoyed, in this case, is one of guilt of an individual based on the identity box that they’re placed into by others, rather than a crime, or evidence-based suspicion that the individual is likely to commit a crime. No vetting. No questions. No background checks. Nothing. Just a restriction on liberty based on nationality not character. This is the definition of bigotry, and so I’m not sure if it matters what trait the ban is based on, the result is the same.

What we’re left with is a newly empowered, illiberal, bigoted, right wing that challenges us to wonder whether it is actually acceptable after all to judge people on the nation they were born, or – by extension – the colour of their skin, or the shade of their hair, or the length of their arms, or any other trait, rather than the content of their character, without asking them a single question or even bothering to try to know them. And if liberals who spent a good part of the past five years rightly fighting a regressive left for its descent into identity politics & the bigotry it produced when it saw Nathan Lean refer to Maajid Nawaz as Sam Harris’ “lapdog”, or CJ Werleman refer to Ali Rizvi as “brown face, white masked”, don’t also pour scorn on the idea that it is acceptable to suddenly erect barriers – rather than smash them to pieces – to liberty based on nothing but identity, if they suddenly start looking for excuses for illiberal policy, if they get bogged down into arguments about whether to call it a “Muslim ban” nor not, if they find reasons to reject applying principles of individual liberty and agency to those in other countries instead choosing to defend right-winged identity politics… then they don’t deserve to call themselves liberal.