Trump’s UN Speech: Make Nation-States Great Again

Trump’s UN Speech: Make Nation-States Great Again

Donald Trump made his UN debut last week with a speech that it is fair to say will be remembered for a long time. To say that people didn’t know what to expect may perhaps not be completely accurate. Many surely expected the usual bluster and bombast, leavened with a dose of the usual Trumpian bon mots and hyperbole. As it turned out, there was more substance to the speech than many expected, whether they agreed with that substance or not. There was also the small matter of threatening to nuke North Korea back to the Stone Age.

Trump opened with mention of the hurricanes that had battered Texas and Florida, thanking those leaders who had aided America or offered to do so. This was the usual diplomatic play-nice language to lay the ground for the rest of the speech. This was followed by a celebration of the successes of the American people and economy since Trump’s election, with mention of the stock market performance, employment growth, companies moving back and another massive increase in military spending to the tune of $700 billion. At least in this regard, Trump is a perfectly conventional US president, as apparently the way to win wars is to buy one’s way to victory.

Trump also covered the positive steps forward in science, technology and medicine that are undoubtedly revolutionising everything about our lives around the world today, whether for good or ill it is hard to know. He then moved onto the obstacles in the way of this Whiggish path of history, describing the threats to the world that include terrorism, extremism and rogue regimes; authoritarian powers getting too uppity for their own good; international crime networks; drug, weapons and people trafficking; mass migration and new technology in the hands of anyone with the know-how and the wherewithal to use it for their own nefarious ends.

These obstacles could prevent the world from moving on to the sunlit-uplands that were possible, and Trump described how “We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.” He then paid tribute to the noble founding ideal of the UN as an institution grounded in the ashes of the Second World War. So far, so establishment. However, things then became interesting.

While it is true that one could discern echoes of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech in Trump’s speech, especially given his identification of Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and North Korea as threats that the world must face, this was no utopian neoconservative paean to the inherent longings for freedom that beat in every breast of men, women and children shackled by the forces of authoritarian rule in the world. Indeed, despite the similar rhetoric of the “righteous many” and “wicked few”, this speech arguably displayed what has been dubbed Trump’s “conservative internationalism” as laid out by Henry R. Nau in National Review.

By repeating President Truman’s message to Congress concerning the Marshall Plan and the UN, Trump was reinforcing the idea that isolationism is not the answer to the world’s problems, as that leaves issues that cannot be solved by any one nation on its own unresolved. However, neither should nations be side-lined or subsumed by massive, amorphous internationalist bureaucracies that leave the voices of the people in those sovereign nations mute before the Babel-like power of international institutions. In echoing Truman, Trump was emphasising that cooperation among sovereign nations was the right and proper way to move forward, as this was the only way to balance the needs of our world with the citizens of those nations and countries within that world. As he said, “Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.”

His reiteration of his core “America First” campaign promise should not have been a surprise then, both in terms of his own and his team’s views of foreign relations, and also in the context of his supporters back home. This more realistic approach to foreign and diplomatic relations was further demonstrated by his next words:

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for cooperation and success. Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.
Strong, sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny. And strong, sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God.
In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.”

This is a complete repudiation of the universal view of the world put forward most assertively by Bush, but also by Barak Obama. No longer would America seek to shove its values down the throats of other countries. This may be seen as a sign that Trump is uncaring for those living in more authoritarian regimes due to a natural affinity he holds for the leaders of those regimes, and maybe he is and does. But lest liberals themselves forget, there has long been a debate within the liberal tradition over whether liberalism, and liberal democracy, are really truly universal institutions and values, or whether they developed in a certain place, at a certain time in history due to a confluence of certain circumstances that allowed for their flourishing. It would therefore be arrogance to assume that these supposedly putatively held ideas obtain in every corner of the world. If nothing else, the last 16 years have arguably shown the liberal universalist assumption to be false.

This is in no way an excuse for those authoritarian regimes still present on the international stage, who undoubtedly immiserate millions of people. However, while a noble ideal, building a foreign policy on this liberal idealism has arguably been a disaster for both those in the countries liberated by America and America itself, and it is important to realise that abandoning the messianic aims of Bush’s time in office in regards to spreading liberal democracy around the world does not mean tacit support for every despot on the planet. If that were the case, then taken to its extreme, the only moral option would be for a global hegemonic empire that installed liberal democracy worldwide. Again, the last 16 years have shown what happens when this path is chosen.

These years are one reason among many why Trump was elected. He re-committed himself to his supporters by again emphasising their sovereignty as citizens of the United States, a sovereign nation. As such, when considering foreign affairs, Trump “will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.” He withdrew America from its role as the world’s policeman, the one whose role it is to engage in endless wars to pursue its idealised view of the world. As Trump stated, the American people, and many of his supporters, have borne the brunt of this role in the sons and daughters killed on far-flung fields across the world. This nod to the sacrifice of his core support base was another nod to the domestic situation in America today.
Another nail in the coffin of the ideological Bush years came with Trump’s statement that:

We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife. We are guided by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests, and values.
That realism forces us to confront a question facing every leader and nation in this room. It is a question we cannot escape or avoid. We will slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats, and even wars that we face. Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today, so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?
If we desire to lift up our citizens, if we aspire to the approval of history, then we must fulfill our sovereign duties to the people we faithfully represent.

Trump then progressed to the need for international institutions to be accountable to these sovereign nations:

“We also thank the Secretary General for recognizing that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity. Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.”

Trump also took the opportunity to criticise those who exploit the UN for their own ends:

“In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution’s noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them. For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.”

After spending a few more sentences on how the UN must reform and be made more accountable so that it could more easily attain its lofty ambition of preventing or mitigating conflict and disaster throughout the world, a situation which Trump described in dire terms, he then moved onto how America was invested in keeping the Western hemisphere safe. This explained his harsh stance towards Cuba and Venezuela. His point about Venezuela’s death spiral due to socialism was particularly well put:

“The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country. This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.”

And:

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”

Following his criticism of a failed economic ideology, Trump fell back on another key theme of his campaign, that of systems of trade. He criticised what he called “mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success.” Again, as with foreign policy, Trump emphasised the primacy of each nations’ people and those they elect:

“While America will pursue cooperation and commerce with other nations, we are renewing our commitment to the first duty of every government: the duty of our citizens. This bond is the source of America’s strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today. If this organization is to have any hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us, it will depend, as President Truman said some 70 years ago, on the “independent strength of its members.” If we are to embrace the opportunities of the future and overcome the present dangers together, there can be no substitute for strong, sovereign, and independent nations — nations that are rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies; nations that seek allies to befriend, not enemies to conquer; and most important of all, nations that are home to patriots, to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.”

Again, Trump made the point that the United Nations is made up of sovereign nations, and that these sovereign nations are made up of people, of citizens, who are loyal to their fellow countrymen and not some far-off bureaucracy:

“In remembering the great victory that led to this body’s founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil also fought for the nations that they loved.
Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain.
Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, and our minds in our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us.
We cannot wait for someone else, for faraway countries or far-off bureaucrats — we can’t do it. We must solve our problems, to build our prosperity, to secure our futures, or we will be vulnerable to decay, domination, and defeat.
The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?”

To finish, and to really hammer home the primacy of the nation-state as the base building block of the United Nations, Trump closed by saying:

“Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.
History is asking us whether we are up to the task. Our answer will be a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve, and a rebirth of devotion. We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself.
Our hope is a word and world of proud, independent nations that embrace their duties, seek friendship, respect others, and make common cause in the greatest shared interest of all: a future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful Earth.
This is the true vision of the United Nations, the ancient wish of every people, and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul.”

This speech had something that would rub everyone up the wrong way. There were those like the Guardian who wailed about how dark it was, how nativist and fearful it was etc etc. Again, the authors of such pieces seem to believe that we live in a world that longs to accord with their ideals; it doesn’t. Trump is not celebrating that, he is recognising that. Meanwhile, the speech also annoyed some of Trump’s more fringe sympathisers, who claimed that it was a capitulation to internationalism and endless war, focusing on the parts where he talked about defeating groups like ISIS and at least trying to deal with the situation in Afghanistan and Syria based on “security interests [that] will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.”

In other words, both sides had found bits they didn’t like, held those up as indicative of the whole and obfuscated those parts which they might have gone some way in agreeing with.

The most controversial part of the speech, however, was Trump’s verbal bombardment of Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean regime. He rightly castigated the regime for its brutalisation of its own population in what has amounted to a state-sized concentration camp. Trump then delivered the words that drew gasps of shock from the assembled heads of state:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

To many, this seems crazy, provocative and downright dangerous. According to Scott Adams’s explanation of Trump’s method of persuasion, this is all part of Trump’s genius at persuasion in action. By emphasising that “Rocket Man” is on a suicide regime (a personal touch advised against by Trump’s aides), Adams would probably argue that Trump is banking on the belief of the rationality of Kim Jong-Un and his regime, and the knowledge they have that if they were to make moves towards striking anything connected to America then they would see everything destroyed. This potential for walking the threat threshold back based on Kim Jong-Un’s own self-interest is arguably demonstrated by the emphasis placed on the USA’s strength and patience.

However, while Adams’s explanations were undoubtedly illuminating for the election, they fall short here, and with the news of Iran’s test firing of a ballistic missile capable of reaching anywhere in the Middle East, Trump’s persuasive skills now seem to be edging these leaders towards escalation rather than a less catastrophic outcome. It’s been said before, but bears repeating; what worked on the campaign trail is not always suited to the world stage and we are seeing that here.

While Trump’s speech displayed a welcome return to a more realistic approach to foreign, military and economic policy than we have seen for a decade or more, he was still unable to let go of his tendency to label an oppositional force in the current arena of conflict with an insulting nickname designed to put them out of action. That worked in the presidential race, but on the world stage, when dealing with dictators rapidly gaining nuclear capability, it is perhaps unwise to engage in this sort of conduct, particularly when the stakes are so high.

Here we can see the conservative internationalism evident in the Trump administration at war with the personal proclivity of the President’s more unfiltered tendencies. We must hope that some semblance of conservative prudence asserts itself if we are to avoid travelling further down the road of escalation.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

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Putting terrorist threats in perspective: Numbers and Charts

The far-right group National Action was banned at the end of 2016, after the murder of Jo Cox MP in June by a far-right terrorist. They were your classic neo-Nazis: hatred of Jews, hatred of non-whites, hatred of homosexuals. They paraded around towns in black clothes, (sound similar to a certain US street politics movement?) scarves covering their lower faces, bearing banners that praised Hitler. So, not fine people.

Then came news that a cell of National Action members, all in their early 20’s and 30’s, had been arrested under Britain’s terrorism act. They had been arrested on suspicion of the ‘commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism’. What was more disturbing was the fact that they were all enlisted n the Royal Anglian regiment of the British Army. No one knows if they’re part of a larger network operating under the radar in the UK’s military. Nevertheless, the idea that these men, who believe in the words and deed of Adolf Hitler, were fighting for Queen and Country is unsettling, to say the least.

While bearing in mind the reality that the numbers of far-right extremists who are entered into the government’s Prevent counter-radicalisation programme has recently seen a rise of 30% to over 500 cases, up from a quarter in 2015, it is important to also bear in mind that the numbers of Islamists still far-outweigh those of the far-right.

There are 35,000 Islamist extremists in the UK; 17,393 in France; 24,400 in Germany; 5,000 in Spain; 18,884 in Belgium. That adds up to around 100, 677 Islamist extremists in Western Europe. This is a huge number of people who to a greater or lesser extent believe in a utopian doctrine that inspires them to see their vision of a worldwide Caliphate fall over the earth through separatist and sectarian activism and terrorist action. We have seen the results of this in the carnage over the last two and a half years.

As of United States, the data is far clearer.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Kulturkampf’s inevitable endgame: Berkeley Erupts in Violence

Kulturkampf’s inevitable endgame: Berkeley Erupts in Violence

While Houston and large parts of Texas are under water, there was another rally in Berkeley. The rally was billed as a “No Marxism” rally, mainly attended by Trump supporters despite the official cancellation following the horror at Charlottesville. There were meant to be police there to keep the peace. You can guess what happened. That’s correct, the police disappeared, and so did the peace. Once again, street conflict stemming from political polarisation and identity politics reared its ugly, violent head.

Once again, those wishing to practice their First Amendment Rights in a non-violent manner were prevented from doing so by a black-bloc mob of Antifa thugs. They are almost the exact mirror image of the alt-right thugs we witnessed turn Charlottesville into a vehicular war zone. The only difference between the two groups is that Antifa hasn’t killed anyone yet. Having seen how far they’ve gone in the last couple of months, it won’t be long before they do.

As usual, the apologists for the black-clad anti-fascist fascists called them counter-protestors. They are apparently engaged in noble work holding back the ravening hordes of neo-Nazis unleashed by Donald Trump’s election, rather than being the main cause of America’s further descent into violence, and responsible for feeding the hatred and violence that lurks just beneath the surface of the extreme alt-right.

The Guardian made the counter-protestors out to be peace loving, love-conquers-all happy liberals. And it is true, there were many non-violent protesters there. Still, they were specifically there to prevent others exercising their constitutional rights. The polarisation displayed by these protests is now so bad that it is almost laughable to picture each side regarding the other as fellow citizens of a democratic republic.

The Guardian and other more left-wing news outlets, of course, whitewashed the Antifa violence. There were gangs of Antifa roaming the streets of Berkeley, beating any Trump supporters to hand or that they could reach with their pipes and sticks. One man was chased down by a pack of Antifa and surrounded, while another was beaten to the ground and then set upon far maybe being alt-right with sticks. Meanwhile, a father and son were chased by Antifa members and set upon, narrowly escaping an ugly fate.

A journalist in a red shirt was also attacked as Antifa members attempted to take his phone and his camera, an incident recorded by Lizzie Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle. She also recorded hundreds of Antifa members marching in formation through the park chanting “Our Park”, and stated that the police were stood down, retreating to” the station and the northern streets at Civic Center Park,” which was not meant to happen.

We have seen this before. The police have stood down before in Berkeley, upon orders from the mayor. Back in June, the pro-Trump free speech rally attendees fought back against Antifa in what is now colloquially known as the “Battle of Berkeley”. There were alt-right members mixed in but they were not the majority. Charlottesville was the only other time we have seen the (far) right-wing go on the offensive, and this time it was in a deliberate manner, and we all saw the consequences.

At the moment, the Left rules the online space, with many centrist and right-wing social media users being cut-off for incorrect opinions. Antifa, meanwhile, rules the streets in places like Berkeley when these events happen. They have undermined the state’s monopoly on the use of force, the foundation in Weber’s view of the state’s legitimacy. What is alarming is that things can only get worse from here if action is not taken soon.

President Trump must clamp down on this mass unrest that is sweeping the nation. Antifa is a law unto themselves and is rapidly resembling a growing Marxist insurgency in America. On the other side, the response from the far-right has so far not been as large as it might be. The offensive at Berkeley in June was haphazard and an instance of good fortune for the pro-Trump side, who despite their numbers were still ridiculously out-manned by the Antifa protesters. In Charlottesville, the far-right were the majority of the right-wing protesters and came prepared for a fight. As such, they came out on top. However, there were only several hundred; again, not a large number especially in comparison with the huge pools of manpower that Antifa can draw on.

The likelihood is though that this situation will not last long. If Antifa is allowed to continue to run riot as they have been, more and more people will either be pushed, grudgingly or willingly position themselves alongside the far-right in response to Antifa’s violence. If and when this happens, and if guns are brought into the equation in substantial numbers, things really will start to resemble Weimar Germany extremely quickly.

As a result of this escalation in tribal street violence, many people will grow warmer to the idea of a more authoritarian use of state power to restore law and order. Should this come to pass, all those liberals who have been fretting about Trump’s authoritarian tendencies will see how far he will go in his use of the police, national guard and state troopers to restore the rule of law. The irony is that they will have helped usher this situation in by their failure to explicitly call out the violence of Antifa whenever it is in evidence, making excuses for it as just part of the “#Resistance”.

To avoid letting the situation slide even further into a war of all against all, all the time, Trump must act now, and enforce the rule of law before it is too late. He must ensure that the police presence is substantial enough to contain and suppress the violence, as happened at the G20 summit in Germany. This is the only solution. His detractors may argue that if he left office, the violence would cease. They are deluded. First Antifa hates all government, given their anarchist nature. Second, that solution will be a victory for Antifa, and for mob rule more generally. That would set an extremely dangerous precedent.

Again, it must be emphasised that the centrifugal forces of tribal political and identitarian violence that are currently tearing American civil society apart is already becoming far too dangerous and widespread for a democratic republic to function properly. We have already seen a far-left terrorist shoot up a Republican baseball game, Antifa rampage through towns and cities with bats, sticks and pipes, the far-right do the same and use a car as a weapon.

The next escalation will be to the use of firearms, in the vein of the Oathkeepers on the right, and Redneck Revolt on the Left. Once that happens, America really will be in a state of war, and the consequences could be dire.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Antifa and Alt-Right: bellum omnium contra omnes – Part 2

We all saw the descent into violence at Charlottesville, with the far-Left protestors and Antifa met with deliberate force from the white identity politics of the alt-Right for the first time. It turned fatal for an anti-racism campaigner attending the counter-protest, and trends suggest that this escalation will continue.

One thing that was noticeable about the alt-Right march and the examples we’ve seen of who makes up the alt-Right was that it was majority young, angry, disillusioned, white men. Sure, there were some older white supremacists and KKK members, but they’re a shrinking component of the far-Right. The white nationalist alt-Right with its younger demographics is now in the ascendant. This is a new wave of white identity politics, that now sees/identifies white college age males as its spear-tip. Many of those who marched the night before the protest that ended in tragedy appeared to be college age. This points to a troubling trend among those in the late-teen/early 20’s age bracket.

As George Hawley states, many of the alt-right are not only college age, but are in some ways even more right-wing and radical than their Boomer and older Gen-X parents, and far more so than the older millennials. Indeed, one pollshowed that white high school students would have voted for Trump by 48%, Hillary by 11%, and that overall Trump would have won 34% of the vote, Hillary 20%. Democrats, if this is your future, you’re virtually dead.

Far from being less racist and castigating their parents for failing to curtail their racist attitudes, increasing numbers of young whites are now castigating their parents for not being racist enough. Indeed, it appears that many are being radicalised while in college, so the old fall back of education as the salve to society’s ills seems, in this case, to somewhat exacerbate rather than mitigate the problem.

This is particularly true in light of the fact that the main cause of this increasing radicalization and raising of racial awareness among some young white men seemingly stems from efforts to inoculate the next generation of leaders against this very thing. Diversity seminars that preach about white privilege may reduce prejudices among most young whites made to sit through them, but they also unsurprisingly have the opposite effect on other young white people, and in fact are likely to increase awareness of the difference between people rather than reduce them. My goodness, I could never have predicted that being constantly reminded of our immutable differences in racial terms with an explicit message of white guilt might have had an adverse effect, feeding into the already toxic atmosphere in the wider culture stemming from racialised identity politics. I mean, who’d have thought?

It is this combination of identity politics and a seemingly bottomless narrative about how generally awful men are that has helped birth the situation we’re now in. The fact is that you can have identity politics for all or for none at all. You cannot have it for most people and exclude one group – straight white men – because of their lack of skin pigmentation, all the while slamming that same group for causing all the ills in history and telling them to shut up and die in a corner, as these few examples, here, here, here, here and here, demonstrate.

I think identity politics is poisonous to the body politic and civil society more generally. I think splitting us all into our own groups, based upon immutable characteristics of skin colour, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability or disability etc, and then ranking those groups by victimhood privilege and oppressor guilt, and smearing anyone who disagrees with this pyramid of oppression as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic bigots, all the while breaking down the all important dividing line between speech and action, by calling speech you don’t like violence, is incredibly dangerous. It is a recipe for a war of all against all, all the time.

In light of the proliferation and perpetuation of identity politics, as it spreads its malign influence out from the university campus into the real world and shades an increasingly polarised and violent political space, it is only to be expected that young white men will demand their own form of identity politics, and that they will do so with considerable anger borne of resentment at the way they view society as generally hateful of them. If we continue along this path, Charlottesville will be only the opening stage in a very bloody chapter, and we will rue the day that we allowed this monster of our own creation to run out of control.

During this rapidly descending state of affairs, it might be wise to heed the warning implicit in Raskolnikov’s dream in Crime and Punishment about the triumph of subjective values over truth, of nihilism over meaning. Anyone who is alarmed by today’s identity riven politics of resentment and chaos will see this passage’s prophetic nature.

“He had dreamt in his illness that the whole world was condemned to fall victim to a terrible, unknown pestilence what was moving on Europe out of the depths of Asia. All were destined to perish, except a chosen few, a very few. There had appeared a new strain of trichinae, microscopic creatures parasitic in men’s bodies. But these creatures were endowed with intelligence and will. People who were infected immediately became like men possessed and out of their minds. But never, never, had any men thought themselves so wise and so unshakable in the truth as those who were attacked. Never had they considered their judgement, their scientific deductions, or their moral convictions and creeds more infallible. Whole communities, whole cities and nations, were infected and went mad. All were full of anxiety, and none could understand any other; each thought he was the sole repository of truth and was tormented when he looked at the others, beat his beast, wrung his hands, and wept. They did not know how or whom to judge and could not agree what was evil and what was good. They did not know whom to condemn and whom to acquit. Men killed one another in senseless rage, They banded together against one another in great armies, but when the armies were already on the march they began to fight among themselves, the armies disintegrated, the soldiers fell on their neighbours, they thrust and cut, they killed and ate one another. In the towns, the tocsin sounded all day long, and called out all the people, but who had summoned them and why nobody knew, and everybody was filled with alarm. The most ordinary callings were abandoned, because every man put forward his own ideas, his own improvements, and there was no agreement; the labourers forsook the land. In places men congregated in groups, agreed together on some action, swore not to disband–and immediately began to do something quite different from what they themselves had proposed, accused one another, fought and killed each other. Conflagrations were started, famine set in. All things and all men were perishing. The plague grew and spread wider and wider. In the whole worldonly a few could save themselves, a chosen handful of the pure, who weredestined to found a new race of men and a new life, to renew and cleanse the earth; but nobody had ever seen them anywhere, nobody had head their voices or their words.”

What do we do to avoid or mitigate as far as possible the effects of identity politics? A good start would be treating each other as individuals. I know in making that statement that I’m probably showing my own privilege, but as soon as the group becomes more important than the individual, then you’re already on the road to a murderous future.

We cannot allow that to happen.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Antifa and Alt-Right: bellum omnium contra omnes

There was another free speech rally in Boston on Saturday, August 20, 2017. This followed the horrific events Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, when a car rammed into counter-protestors at an alt-Right, UniteTheRight rally that descended into a riot with the white nationalists and neo-Nazis on the offensive. The car ramming killed one and injured many others.

So, the rally at Boston was always going to go ahead under a cloud of opprobrium. The media portrayed it as being majority neo-Nazi/white nationalist in character when this was not the case. They made much of the fact, both in American and British news media, that the rally saw thousands of peaceful protesters against a few hundred far-right extremists. Except it wasn’t. One of the main speakers is black. I don’t know if you’re over-familiar with the finer points of white-nationalism and neo-Nazism, but they don’t tend to like black people very much. Also, as John Podhoretz said, given the disparity in crowd size, it doesn’t exactly reinforce the idea that America’s about to be overrun by Nazis.

Nor did it stay peaceful. Antifa and the violent hard left once again started violence that saw police have rocks and urine thrown at them, something which Jim Acosta of CNN among others seemed to ignore when they said all was quiet and that Trump was showing his incipient fascism yet again for praising the cool professionalism of Boston PD as missiles rained down on them, a reality that was tweeted out by the department’s official Twitter feed.

It was not only the police that were assaulted and attacked. Rally-goers were also beaten, abused, and assaulted by Antifa and the hard-left protestors. This included a woman who had her American flag torn from her hands and was instead dragged along by the thug who had hold of it. She later collapsed with emotion, as seen on Fox News, which Antifa celebrated. There was also a liberal to who was decked by a hard-Leftist for having the wrong opinion.

Antifa Boston’s Twitter page was rife with vile tweets about how free speech was suppressed and is deadcentrists and conservatives should leave Boston, talking about how the Nazis were overwhelmed, how Democrats are stupid for supporting them (hint: Democrats, these people will bite your structural and party throat out, stop covering for them when they do this) and how the normative #Resistance should grow a spine, calling veterans defending free speech today’s Nazis, various anti-cop tweets, and finally adding a dash of anti-Semitism into the mix for good measure because as we all know, Jews are responsible for the oppressive patriarchial structure of Western civilisation and are really just Nazis perpetuating apartheid and genocide against the Palestinians. Funny, these sentiments remind me of something… can’t think what it is though.

None of this is new. Joey Salads, disguised as an Antifa member at one of the Berkeley free speech rallies, witnessed Antifa black bloc members beat an older male unarmed Trump senseless for supporting Trump. He hadn’t done anything beyond supporting the wrong candidate, and by that supreme act of proclaiming his membership of a free democracy, he was thus a fascist, and fair game for righteous retribution. Salads also witnessed Antifa burning an American flag and agreeing to throw it at Trump supporters, a Trump supporter who attempted to call for peace but failed. Antifa also threw rocks, and one member described her assault on a Trump supporter and her intent to repeat her actions.

Before that, the major eruptions were at Donald Trump’s inauguration, where Antifa proceeded through DC smashing Starbucks windows, ATM’s, set bins and cars on fire, threw missiles at onlookers and punched the alt-right leader Richard Spencer in the face because he happened to be standing on a street corner talking to reporters. Following this, there was the eruption at UC Berkeley where Milo Yiannopoulos’s final talk on his Dangerous Faggot Tour was prevented because of Antifa violence. There have been other upsurges of Antifa violence throughout the USA and Europe since January, emboldened by Trump’s victory and the Democrat along with left-wing media’s covering for them. The violence escalated until April when the second free speech event at Berkeley saw a different outcome to the violence-filled filled free speech rally, with the Trump supporters in the free speech rally crowd retaliating against the Antifa violence and chase them virtually out of town.

Then, last weekend we had the Far-Right rally in Charlottesville, and the white nationalists and neo-Nazis came prepared for real violence. This had been growing increasingly evident for months, with the Berkeley rallies being guarded by men in increasingly heavy body-armour, with the final rally being guarded by the Oathkeeper militia, who also showed up at the Charlottesville rally. As we know, what happened wasn’t pretty, and had a horrific and tragic ending. As a result of this and Trump’s frankly pathetic bungling of his response and the laxity of his condemnation of the white nationalists, the media and many in the commentariat rightly lambasted him for his “many fine people on both sides” comment, and what they called his equivocation on the “violence on all sides” at the Charlottesville rally. The fact that the violence leading up to this rally has been coming mainly from the hard-Left and Antifa as well as from some on the Right doesn’t seem to register, and if it is raised, that is taken as a sign that you’re also guilty of equivocation, and that by condemning violence on all sides you’re de facto implicitly condoning violence on the Nazi side.

As Ben Shapiro often says, this is asinine. And it is counterfactual, narrative-cleaving, blinkered, self-serving, cowardly BS.

I’ve been writing about the consequences of the increasing levels of this damn polarisation for months. Anyone who adheres to any degree of truth or objectivity could have seen this damn violence coming over the horizon. When one side starts beating the other side, it only worsens from there. It’s pure and simple conflict escalation, combined with the poison of the soul that is identity politics, the key to unlocking the gates to the depths of resentment, bitterness, envy, spite and jealousy that resides in every human heart no matter who you are. What did people think would happen after pursuing this brand of identity politics on both sides that got us here? What did people think would happen after labelling everyone on the right as ‘alt-right’ and ‘neo-Nazis’, because they disagreed with them on their voting habits and beliefs, making a negative moral judgement about that person’s honesty of character and goodness of heart based on that?

What did people think would happen after conflating word and deed, labelling speech you disagree with as “hate speech” and violence? It’s simple: physical violence became justified. As a result, Antifa violence was justified resistance to fighting impending fascism. Except, the fascists were normal conservatives and normal Trump supporters. And after months of violence against “violent fascist hate speech”, we have seen the outcome. The real far-Right fascists came out last weekend. And they weren’t messing around. Having seen what happened before, they came prepared to start a fight and finish it on their terms. They escalated the violence, and people died from a far-Right white nationalist imitating ISIS vehicular warfare tactics.

And now? Now, Antifa at Boston have further perpetuated the descending cycle into tribal violence. God knows what’ll happen next, but one thing is for sure, and that is that it will become even worse, and will continue to descend further into absolute chaos. This is what ultimately happens when dialogue breaks down, when we descend into tribalism based on immutable group characteristics and the boundary between speech and action is broken; when speech becomes violence, physical violence soon follows.

And then what? War. Between everyone, all the time. This is the imminent hell that the ideologues of identity politics at both political extremes have created. And we are watching it unfold before our eyes.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

 

J.K. Rowling Lets Ideology Cloud her Judgement

On the night of Friday, July 28, 2017, J.K. Rowling tweeted up a storm about Trump.

Again.

Rowling has an admirable affinity for those less fortunate, weaker and less privileged than herself. She is able to empathise due to her own straitened circumstances earlier in her life.

While this is surely a laudable attitude to have towards the world, it can take a turn for the worse when this outlook of compassion is projected through an overly ideological lens onto the world.

Compassion, by the way, doesn’t make you harmless, especially when something close to you is threatened. Just look at a mother grizzly bear; full of compassion yes, but for her cubs. Try getting between her and her offspring and you’ll be writing letters of regret to your severed leg.

This weaponising of compassion is precisely what happened with Rowling’s tweets about Trump.

 

What she says about Trump’s characterological defects are grounded in a mountain of evidence. Following another damning week for the Trump presidency, where he decided to tweet abuse at his AG Jeff Sessions, whine about Republicans’ intransigence and flexible spines, and complain about everything else, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal reflected the feelings of an increasing number by describing him thus:

The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.

None of what Rowling said about TRump’s flaws, manifestly obvious to all but his most devoted adherents, is controversial or new. We know about his flaws, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. We’ve known them for a long time.

Where Rowling is at fault is using an edited version of the clip of Trump meeting those children. This clip shows him ignoring the disabled child’s hand. That’s another fail on Trump’s part.

However, if she hadn’t allowed herself to be blinded by her own politics, which incidentally is something that happens to all of us in this increasingly political age, Rowling would have either posted the whole clip of the event, or she would have corrected her claims about Trump’s attitudes towards disabled people after yet another example of his apparent disdain for them.

This clip clearly shows Trump greeting the wheelchair bound boy.

I can only surmise that facts like this get in the way of Rowling’s feelings about the mistreatment of the weak and vulnerable. Again, while admirable, when this compassion is subordinate to a political worldview diametrically opposed to that of the President of the USA and all those who support him. then it can act as a hindrance to a more clear-sighted view of reality, of course always taking into account one’s own biases and limitations congruent with one’s view of the world.

To reiterate, I am not denying Trump’s many and overwhelmingly manifest faults.

However, if we are to have any chance at an attempt of mending the ever worsening divide between political and cultural camps in the US, Britain and the rest of the western world today, we must refrain from launching into ideologically informed tirades that serve only to reinforce one’s perceptions of those on the opposing side.

This only serves to drive us further apart and destroys any chance of some sort of rapprochement between the factions in what is becoming an increasingly threatening political atmosphere, on both sides.

As an author who has touched millions through the power of her articulated speech in her books, Rowling would do well to remember the responsibility to use her linguistic power wisely, and for the good, for the affirmation of truth as a means of mitigating suffering in the world, not as a means to score points.

Rowling has the platform and the ability to do this. It is to be hoped that she can remember this in the midst of our present turmoil.

As it is to be hoped that we can too.

Freedom of expression is for everyone in a democracy

 

Following the far-right terrorist attack at the Finsbury Mosque at 00:21 am on Monday, June 19, Tommy Robinson went on Twitter to say how he felt about the attack. Once again he put his foot in it by appearing to suggest that those outside the mosque who were run-over, while not directly responsible for their injuries, were nevertheless tangentially responsible as the mosque had a long history of creating and sheltering extremists and that a reprisal of this sort was just waiting to happen following the recent Islamist attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge.

Predictably, the Twittersphere sounded like the Twitterpocalypse had come, with scores of people slamming him for his tweets. I am not defending what Robinson said in his tweets, and think that they were poorly worded. I do however defend his right to tweet what he did. Robinson did say in later tweets that he didn’t want this to happen and that he’d been warning about it for years, but the damage had already been done. It made him look worse in many people’s eyes than he did already and confirmed other peoples’ suspicions about him.

Robinson then went in ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ostensibly to defend himself on national TV. However, the “interview” didn’t really turn out the way he might have hoped. What unfolded was extraordinary by any measure, and has caused more controversy than if Robinson had not been invited and just been left with his tweets for company.

He began by saying that there was no such thing as “Islamophobia”. A phobia is an irrational fear, and he said that it wasn’t irrational to fear these things., i.e. Islamist terror. 

To bolster his point, he brought a copy of the Qur’an and said that it incited hatred. He also quoted British Prime Minister William Gladstone on Islam, who said “So long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world”. To be clear, in this interview, he didn’t defame or make racist comments about Muslims. He spoke purely about Islam, a religion, a belief system, a set of ideas, and something that in a supposedly liberal society should be as open to criticism as any other set of ideas.

This was too much for Piers Morgan. He exploded with rage. He demanded of Robinson that he “show some damned respect for people’s religious beliefs” as Robinson held the Qur’an and told him that he was a “complete disgrace”. Morgan then went on to shout, “You’re sounding like a complete lunatic, you’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic. You are an Islamophobe who hates Islam. What you’re doing now is deliberately inflammatory. You’re stirring up hatred. You are abusing people’s religion. You are abusing their faith and you’re being a complete disgrace.”

Right. Just so we’re clear, Britain has not suddenly regressed 400 years and reinstituted a blasphemy law. We are supposedly not in a society where one religion takes precedence over another or even takes precedence over freedom of expression against it. The fact that Piers Morgan appointed himself as a form of religious police cum speech commissar, dictating what can and cannot be said and about which religion, is not a sign of his moral calibre. It is a sign that he had an agenda against Tommy Robinson and used this as a means of shouting him down.

He is also indicative of the wider attitudes of a certain part of British society who will use regressive concepts from a certain community as a way of “protecting” that community. The fact that Morgan will probably do more damage than good by adopting this attitude does not appear to have occurred to him. As an example of this regressive attitude to religion, race and free speech: the way he tried to stop what he saw as an insult to another person’s religious beliefs – which also seems to be equated with skin colour in many instances – smacks of the bigotry of low expectation, almost as if we cannot criticise someone’s religious beliefs in case they get angry or kill people because of it. Doesn’t this arguably show a lack of respect for Muslims’ ability to cope when their faith is under discussion or scrutiny?

If he knew what he was talking about in any way, he would maybe have engaged with Robinson on what he actually said about the Qur’an in a discussion that might have enlightened everyone there. That is the fundamental reason why we have free and open discussions and debates: to learn from each other, particularly when we might be in the wrong. All Piers Morgan did in shouting Robinson down was make himself look stupid and Robinson like even more of a Neanderthal than many people think he is already as he couldn’t actually get any of his points across. If we cannot dissociate beliefs from people, and debate those ideas without believing that we are engaging in bigotry against the people who hold those beliefs, then we as a society are screwed.

The freedom of expression, even that which we find abhorrent, is crucial for a free society, for it is what every other freedom flows from. This is what the staff at Charlie Hebdo believed, and they are now dead because they were seen as blasphemers against Islam for drawing cartoons. Piers Morgan dishonours their memory, and all those secularists, atheists and free speech advocates in Muslim majority countries like Bangladesh who are also suffering the consequences of blasphemy, by effectively arguing that no religious belief system of holy text is above scrutiny, satire or insult.

Added to his attenuated relationship with the ideas of freedom of expression and of the importance of dialogue, Morgan’s attacks on what Robinson did manage to say about the Qur’an arguably proved nothing more than that he was using the opportunity and platform he enjoys to pursue a little moral grandstanding and to act as the noble white knight, thereby portraying himself as the noble warrior for minority rights against a knuckle-dragging neo-Nazi who apparently wanted to “defame” a holy book out of pure spite at non-white people.

Maybe if Morgan had actually read the Qur’an he might realise that not everything in it is peaceful. As with Christianity and Judaism, there are also violent passages in the Qur’an, including instructions to kill the infidel. He was either not aware of this or he was being disingenuous for his own gain. Maybe he also isn’t aware of the doctrine of abrogation, which means that the more violent passages take precedence over the more peaceful passages? Again, I don’t know his mind so cannot say what he knows or does not know in this area for certain.

Not only did Piers Morgan show himself to be ignorant of what the Qur’an actually says, while doing so in a manner that made him look boorish and vaguely silly, his words essentially castigating Robinson for blasphemy against Islam show that his laudable concern for Britain’s Muslims and their feelings of safety after the Finsbury Park mosque attack serves only to neglect and isolate those who are even more vulnerable, namely the dissidents, the outcasts, the converts, the ex-Muslims and the reformers, as well as those non-Muslims in the Middle East at the mercy of various Islamist terrorist organisations who take great pleasure in persecuting and killing those they deem guilty of blaspheming against their own beliefs; Morgan might remember the genocide against the Yazidis or the fact that the Christians of the Middle East have been burnt out of Christianity’s cradle. The Muslim reformers in particular need the support of people like Morgan and those in the media, cultural and political elites if they are to have any chance at succeeding in their quest to reform the religion and somehow negate the more violent aspects of it, while those non-Muslims who have suffered persecution might also appreciate some solidarity should it be forthcoming.

By shouting “blasphemy” at Robinson for daring to speak against the Qur’an, Morgan is also effectively leaving the reformers high and dry, leaving them out in the open, at risk from the bullets and the blades of the blasphemy police from their own religion who would be quite happy to silence these brave people in a much more permanent way if they could. Morgan’s sentiments would basically kill any chance of the reformers succeeding, as the fact that they are trying to innovate and critically evaluate their holy text places them at huge risk of charges of, guess what, blasphemy.

Morgan’s attitude would mean that these people would be even more vulnerable than they already are; a significant number of their own communities already think they’re heretics. If, in the eyes of Western liberals they are also considered heretics, for daring to criticise and scrutinise their religious texts, then the movement for an Islamic reformation is lost, and perhaps our only chance of mitigating or ending the current wave of Islamist terrorist violence would die with it. The grim reality is that that word would likely be more than metaphorical. By doing what he did, Morgan green-lit to an even greater extent than already exists anyone who wishes to take offence at even the mildest criticism of Islam. This exponentially increases the power of those who wish to take the completely subjective concept of offence and use it to silence dissent within their own ranks.

Ultimately, in trying to put down Tommy Robinson with charges of defamation and blasphemy, Piers Morgan betrayed those dissidents and reformers in the Muslim community, leaving them open to further attack, vilification, verbal and physical assault by putting them at even greater risk of the charge of blasphemy and the penalty that comes with it. He also abandoned those non-Muslims who have faced persecution in the Middle East for blaspheming against Islam. In his rush to play the hero and lecture Robinson on how words have consequences, Piers Morgan seems to have forgotten that actions have consequences too, and often far greater.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars