And It Goes On Until It Doesn't, Composing, 31/12/2016

So that was another year of me blogging, writing, researching, publishing a little. Helping put together a film festival, building a new career. There are going to be some cool events and projects happening with my work in 2017, and some smaller plans are coming together.

At the end of this May, I’m taking part in a Common Ground Conference for the first time in five years. I'm presenting part of a long-running project I have gestating with my occasional collaborator Steve Fuller – reviews and reactions to the latest book by Ted Kaczynski.

Yeah, that Ted Kaczynski. The Unabomber. Probably the only genuinely murderous ecoterrorist who’s ever lived. He’s put out a guidebook on how to build a Leninist vanguard organization for an anti-technology revolution.

Kaczynski’s book is a vibrant hybrid of sober analysis and ruthless extremism that, when you think about its content and the mind-set that could have produced it, is terrifying. Just what a prophet for a Leninist vanguard should be, really.

Rembrandt van Rijn's The Philosopher Contemplates. My apartment
is a bit more spacious than this guy's, though.
Research is continuing for Utopias, because that is a thing. And I’m looking into possible publishers beyond the strictly academic sector. As happy as I was to have released a book with Palgrave, it still disappoints me that Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity isn’t more widely read.

I didn’t write that book just to put a shiny bullet point on a CV, even when I was making my career in the academic sector. I wrote it so that people would read it, and I’d contribute a little to the enlightenment of humanity. The kind of thing we need a little of at the moment.

But I think my research for Utopias will revisit the classics a little. I want to go back to some books by Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel, and John Locke. Having researched the criticisms of modern reactionary liberalism, I want to return to the roots of liberal thinking. Searching for what the reactionaries see, as well as the value of the tradition to real freedom.

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe make a solid observation about freedom. Freedom is about optimizing your abilities and becoming all that you can be. It isn’t just a matter of not being coerced by government or other members of your community. That idea exists in liberalism – it’s how John Stuart Mill twisted John Locke.

Before I get into the twistier ideas about how humanity engages with its own becoming in time, I’ll spend a little more of 2017 delving into this problem – What’s the virtue of a liberalism that’s become so corrupted by a justification of oligarchy and immature joy in wealth and privilege?

I also want to get You Were My Friend the film finally made, and I’m pretty sure I have a handle on getting a crew together. But I’m probably going to end up directing it myself. Hiring a skilled cinematographer, working with a co-producer who’s more familiar with the details of the industry than me, and directing it my damn self.

We’ll see how it all goes. Happy new year, everyone.

Dialectic of the MRA: The Return of Doctor Mysterio, Reviews, 29/12/2016

Steven Moffat is the second-longest-running producer in the history of Doctor Who. He’s been in the role since 2010, and when he steps down at the end of 2017, he will have served as the primary creative producer of the show and franchise for eight years.

With The Return of Doctor Mysterio, he’s wrapping up his seventh year. The episode makes me think that the next year may see Moffat’s style running out of steam. Or at least looking for avenues of originality.

The Doctor and Nardole actually make a pretty decent team. Matt Lucas
is appropriately restrained but present in his weirdness, and has fine
chemistry with Capaldi. It looks like we'll be seeing more of him
throughout the next season, thanks to the trailer.
Small moments – bits of conversation with Nardole in the TARDIS, the final confession at the end – put this story in the aftermath of The Husbands of River Song. This whole coming season takes place in that shadow of that story – Moffat himself thought Husbands would be his last Doctor Who story as producer, but the production needed him for one more year before Chris Chibnall could get his crew together.

So it's quite fitting that Doctor Mysterio would return to a set of images that have haunted the Moffat era since pretty much the beginning of his tenure – the appearance of sexism.

Now, I don’t actually think Moffat is as sexist and misogynistic as his greatest detractors have argued. I consider him very feminist in his character construction and his narrative priorities. But I can understand how people can see sexism in his stories.

In Phil Sandifer’s review of Doctor Mysterio, he even mentions the interpretation of Grant’s character as a stalker, but only to say that it isn’t realistic. Sandifer himself wrote a definitive account of Moffat’s style and approach as feminist. But any critical viewer has to admit that the tendency to unfortunate imagery exists.

And Doctor Mysterio features some of the most unfortunate of all. To discuss it, there will inevitably be

The Ghost is a pitch-perfect homage to the transparently virtuous spirit
of traditional superhero comics. And it comes with all the positives and
terror of that tradition.

because that cringe-worthy imagery lies in the relationship of Grant and Lucy. I call it the dialectic of the MRA because Grant and Lucy’s literally lifelong relationship conforms – I can only presume unintentionally – to the most horrible narrative of Men’s Rights misogyny.

I’ll present it literally as a dialectic. A few quick passes back and forth between a surface reading, and then a new angle that brings the problem to a deeper level. I hope it ends up with a moment of redemption. And I hope it will work.

A – The Sitcom Story

This is the classic farce of the secret identity love triangle. It’s as old as superheroes themselves – Lois Lane falls in love with Superman, without realizing he’s Clark Kent and that Clark is in love with Lois.

It’s a perfect story for Moffat, who achieved national mainstream success with a sex comedy sitcom all about these farces of missed understanding.

The central plots of most episodes of Coupling were just such farces – one set of characters understands a situation in one way, another understands it another way, mayhem ensures when they try to act all at once on how they see the world.

In his effort to be close to Lucy, Grant has made himself her servant, a
position which many of the most disgusting misogynist activists
denounce as turning away from manhood itself. Really, he should be
just negging her constantly.
Doctor Mysterio's central character dynamic is a textbook example. Grant is in love with Lucy, which Lucy doesn’t notice, as she gets a serious crush on The Ghost after her rescue from the Harmony Shoals New York office.

B – To Be Nice Is to Be Persecuted

Ask yourself why Lucy gets a crush on The Ghost. Try to figure out why, based on her character’s history.

Grant once had a friend named Lombard, who married Lucy but ran out on her when she had their baby Jennifer. If he’s the type of guy who’d leave a woman from fear of having a baby with her, it’s safe to conclude that he’s a stereotypically manly man.

Grant has always been a reserved, sensitive person. His superpowers, difficult to control in puberty, kept him socially awkward. Moffat’s script makes it a joke, but it’s actually a heightened version of what a lot of emotionally sensitive young men experience as teenagers.

He’s so overcome by his feelings that he becomes too nervous and embarrassed to act on them. The Doctor even jokes about it – “Finally, I’ve met someone who’s worse at this than me.”

That lifelong social awkwardness probably kept Grant from dating much as an adult. Maybe he’s even still a virgin well into his 30s. Since Doctor Mysterio adopts the mid-20th century aesthetics of Hays Code superhero comics, the characters quite possibly live in the same sexual milieu too.

Lucy clearly intended to seduce The Ghost during their interview, and
it's only when Grant begins to show the mannerisms he developed for
his Ghost persona that Lucy starts to show the same erotic drive
toward him that she did for the masked man. Yeah, he's keeping the
suit, alright.
Grant has a natural sense of empathy so strong that he works in child care. He kept his relationship with Lucy and cut off Lombard after the divorce because he’s a naturally sensitive soul. Grant cares, while Lombard never did.

If Lucy had really been attracted to the strength of caring men, she never would have gotten involved with Lombard in the first place.

C – She’s Nothing But a Whore

This is the point in the argument when the misogyny of the story becomes most stark. The Ghost is literally the most powerful man on Earth – Superman-like powers delivered with a stern, didactic morality. He’s a powerful man who gives orders.

In the light-hearted tones and contexts of the story, he says things like “Always have a working smoke detector!” But The Ghost is an authoritarian strongman. He dominates, takes control.

It’s implied that Lombard had that same aggression. Lombard was the alpha male to Grant’s gamma – the dominant, masculine sexuality that pushes Grant’s desires to the margins. He boasts his sexuality until Grant is completely overshadowed. In Lombard, Lucy found an outlet for her own sexuality – to be dominated.

But Lombard eventually abandoned his own dominant role. He ignored the responsibility that comes with power.

On another note, I'm interested to see how the Shoal will develop
through the 2017 season. They appeared in The Husbands of River
Song, and now are the primary villains of The Return of Doctor
Mysterio. They seem to be a return to some of the aesthetics of the
Slitheen (head-zipping mostly), but concentrating on bodyswap-
possession horror instead of camp.
And Lucy only embraces Grant when she realizes that he’s The Ghost – that he’s the Earth’s most powerful source of authority. She will only be with him once she realizes that he’s truly an alpha – a dominant, powerful man who will put her in her proper place as a female with his authority.

D – The Power of Ethics

But there’s more to the narrative of Lucy and Grant than this tawdry Elliot Roger fantasy of alphas and whores. It’s about the transformation of values.

The misogynist narrative wouldn’t hold the power it does if there wasn’t some truth to it. A horribly partial, inaccurate, incomplete truth. But it is a truth.

Confidence is attractive, no matter the gender. And some women are attracted to strong personalities, especially if they’re young and immature. But those immature relationships often self-destruct.

Lucy doesn’t change her mind about Grant on learning that he’s The Ghost. She changes her mind in a moment of understanding what’s actually important to her. The confidence of quiet devotion ultimately matters to her more. And her conversation with The Ghost helps awaken her to that.

E – Pining and Obsessed

Yet Grant himself occupies the mind-set that the most misogynist, predatory MRAs have preyed on for recruiting – the sensitive but awkward young man who’s habitually suffered from unrequited love.

Grant has spent years of his life pining for Lucy and finding ways to inject himself in her life. Even at the most intimate circle of becoming a central caregiver for her child. All this time, he’s harboured a deep feeling of love for her. But for literally decades, she’s never felt about him this way.

And the Shoal's plan to conquer the Earth by replacing humanity en
masse recalls the ideas animating the old Patrick Troughton era story
The Faceless Ones.
Except that she has – she just didn’t notice it, and needed to be awakened by just the right accidental words from The Ghost. She’s justified her years of devotion by having felt the same way – just never having been conscious of it.

But this narrative of the loved one who has loved her lover back all the time without knowing it is a filthy, violent, repugnant narrative. Grant himself may not technically be a stalker, but his story justifies stalking behaviour.

It’s the contention that, even though your target – sorry, loved one – says and believes that she doesn’t love you back, she really does, and all it will take is the right words or actions to make her realize that.

F – Falling Back

And this is where I’m stuck. I loved watching this episode for the spectacle, the cracking adventure storyline, and the comedy performances of Peter Capaldi and Matt Lucas as new companion Nardole. I think I’ll love this part of the story when I watch the episode with the GF later.

But the core relationship of the key guest characters can’t escape these horrifying implications. I think it appears as a function of Doctor Mysterio's nature as an homage-throwback to the classic superhero narratives of the 20th century.

Many of those stories were told from a very masculine perspective. Women were often marginalized characters, even when they had significant page time. It’s only recently that mainstream comics creators have had more freedom and come from more diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences.

This is far from the first time Doctor Who has been in a comic, you know.
The era of comics written by people like G. Willow Wilson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Mariko Tamaki will produce some very different narratives than those from the shadow of Stan Lee, which brought us the first, literal woman in a refrigerator.

But if Doctor Who draws on the old tradition of comics for inspiration in its stories, like The Return of Doctor Mysterio, it will end up falling back into the worst habits of that tradition.

When Doctor Who takes on too much fealty to a tradition – even its own traditions – it collapses. The Return of Doctor Mysterio might be a well-told story, but it’s hobbled by its fealty. I hope Capaldi’s third season will see a greater spirit of rebellion and rejuvenation once it properly begins in 2017.

That’s the real strength of Doctor Who.

The Impotent Liberal IV: When Nothing Becomes Infinite, Composing, 23/12/2016

Continued from last post . . . Is it even utopian politics when your utopia doesn’t have any content? It seems intuitive at first that a utopia is an imagined world – that image would provide the policy and philosophical content for your political program.

It is true that many people think of utopia as a noun. A literal community that springs from the imagination of a political dreamer. Literally, if you read the first book explicitly on the subject, Thomas More’s Utopia, in that way.

To bring a single vision to life.
But when you conceive of your activism and institution building as achieving a specific and detailed vision of society, it turns you into an oppressor. Conformity to the law of the utopia becomes paramount – divergence becomes a crime.

Blasphemy against the ideal. Utopia in this sense becomes a matter of faith.

This conformist conception of utopia thinks of ideals and realities in terms of possibilities and realities. The world consists of states of affairs, and the utopia is a fully-fleshed out state of affairs that could exist but doesn’t. Activism’s goal becomes pushing reality to instantiate that state of affairs described in the details of your thought.

Reality becomes the clay to mould and model a pre-conceived thought. The world is brought to correspond with a vision. Such an activity always ultimately fails. Nothing to do with its morality or inner justice. Becoming simply doesn’t operate as instantiating pre-conceived states of affairs.

Material change is a process of creation – not the specific kind of creation where an intentional, intelligent agent builds some work of technology or art. Reality consists of continually ongoing processes.

Those processes affect each other, and the dynamism of their relationships spark changes in how those processes continue. The changes that come aren’t potentially held within a process from its start. When something begins, nothing about it is given.

When a process changes, it doesn’t awaken anything within the process itself – processes like you and me and the sunlight streaming through the window don’t have hidden depths of this sort. Our material existence is all surface. Surfaces folded inside and around each other in complicated patterns, but all surfaces.

Another work that I'll be revisiting soon as I prepare
Utopias the book is Henri Bergson's last major work
Two Sources of Morality and Religion, where he applies
his concepts of becoming to human politics.
So a change doesn’t unlock any aspect of us that previously existed – you have literally changed. Your relationships with the world around you have constituted a difference in your life. You’ve diverged from what you once were.

How can utopian thinking work here? Utopia is no longer a specifically described ideal to instantiate in the world. It’s an inspiration and a goal – an attempt to surf the roiling creation of reality itself, and use your waves in that ocean to shape how it develops.

This is what I mean when I say a workable utopia has no content. I don’t mean it in the sense that we back off utopian thinking altogether, and relax into a sad myopic realpolitik. I don’t mean it in the libertarian sense of the only possible utopia being the refusal to encourage a single utopia for all society.

I definitely don’t mean it in some Derridean sense where you don’t make any positive statements at all, instead just bouncing someone into an insoluble aporia so you can meditate on the paradoxical, contradictory nature of reality. Nobody got time for that shit. At least not anymore.

Workable utopia has no content – it isn’t a specifically defined and described model to which a society must conform to be perfect. It’s a set of values, priorities, and principles that guide your real social action. They inspire you to push the world to act accordingly – your preferred guidelines of the world’s development.

Surfing that wave sounds like a much more difficult process, and I’d say it feels that way in the moment. But it’s the only process that can enact real social progress without necessarily devolving into dogmatic conformity and witless faith. . . . To Be Continued

Happy Festivus, everyone!

The Impotent Liberal III: The Only Possibility is Nothing, Composing, 22/12/2016

This is a Composing post. An extremely Composing post if you know what I mean.

So the previous post was very rooted in real-world concerns – trying to understand what tendencies in the liberal conception of how to do politics made it vulnerable to fascism.

A perennial topic in political philosophy since about 1945. It’s waxed and waned in and out of prominence over the decades. But somebody was always thinking about it. Hannah Arendt did, for example. Now Arendt scholars and more original thinkers she’s influenced think about it too.

No, I can't think of any reasons in contemporary politics why we should
be worried about liberalism's weaknesses in the face of reactionary
authoritarian movements. Why do you ask?
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe think about it from time to time in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Reading that book over the past little while encouraged me to think about it. There seem to be some pretty big reasons for thinking about it in politics today.

Yet despite its weaknesses, the liberal idea expresses a pure and profound drive among humanity to be free. How we live out our desires for freedom may change over the generations. But the desire can’t be restrained – if it ever really was in the first place.

And on an individual level, that’s the problem with desire. Desire has no necessary ending point – just contingent, often reactive, developments. It keeps chugging along, fuelling activity until something cuts it off.

Some other demand or desire gets in the way, or its own activity starts to change the world so that it becomes more difficult, or outright impossible. With the desires that constitute societies from individual actions, it’s usually other people that block or shut down our desires.

Political activity is the management of all the desires of everyone in a community for constructive ends. Maybe that community is simply a family, maybe it’s a country of millions, or a planet of billions. People jockey for power, respect, and happiness. No matter the scale, this is human life.

Politics at a family level rarely gets out of control. Even when it does, it’s usually only people in the families themselves who are hurt or killed. Same with small communities and small concerns. Scale this up to a planetary level and you’re potentially dealing with nuclear war and totalitarianism.

This year's American Presidential campaign
saw genuinely powerful appeals to a utopian
vision for freedom. Yet those to whom those
visions don't appeal often misunderstand
them. Pictured here is what
conservatives believe is the average Bernie
Sanders supporter.
Totalitarianism and oppression are major problems with any kind of utopianism. It’s the single vision and direction, imposed on a whole society through state control. Forcing a utopia on the world always has that result.

Yet our utopianism is bound up in our desires for freedom – we conceive of our utopias as the perfect society. A union of the cities of the divine and the mortal. The messiah complex in all of humanity. The positive programs of any utopian vision turned into a political program and state policy is a single prescription for freedom – the society where we will all be free.

But that freedom is false, because totalitarian imposition imposes a single vision of freedom on society. And humanity is a complexifying creature. We always make things more complicated for our society because we’re always drifting toward creating new ways to live, new priorities, new identities, new desires.

This is how reading Laclau and Mouffe got me thinking through this problem. They critique traditional marxism for its premise that industrial advancement will simplify society into two antagonistic classes. But the continuing development of industry and technology actually encourages people to become more complex.

We develop new identities – or become more conscious of desires that have always been part of our society, see how they’re typically suppressed, and bring them out into the light to celebrate their difference.

Cultures merge, new sexualities and genders develop. New social classes and communities develop from new professions and work cultures.

Using the state (or any kind of military-police institution) to impose a single vision of the free society on a whole community of people is the most blatant and horrible oppression imaginable.

So is it even possible to think in utopian terms about politics? To imagine some setup for society that would maximally free us as well as be peaceful?

I think the liberal idea is actually best suited for this task. Because the utopia of a liberal isn’t strictly negative – like a radical libertarian’s reactive, paranoid guard against state activity or control. And it isn’t positive either – like the white nationalist’s dream of a uniform ethno-state.

Liberal philosophy contains the only utopia worth having. A utopia that has no content. Nothing to impose. Nothing to oppress on people. Just the freedom of space itself.

You might be asking: What the fuck does that mean? Well, . . . To Be Continued

The Impotent Liberal II: Knowing Our Enemy, Research Time, 20/12/2016

Continued from last post . . . And I literally mean life and death. As in – people who want to kill you.

How to deal with people who want to kill you was typically a common feature in political philosophy. It’s there in the discipline’s most canonical text – Plato’s Republic considers a basic building block of society the class of warriors.

Liberalism embodies a beautiful idea, given the violent world where we live. Of course, I’m not speaking comprehensively about liberalism – a massive and complicated tradition of political thinking and institution-building.

But that beautiful idea – the most beautiful in the liberal tradition – is that notion of equal rights for all. The principle that everyone should be free to think, believe, live, and do as they please. The only limitation is that no one should harm each other.

Yes, this is most definitely what you call real antagonism.
When Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe talk about enemies, it sounds jarring to someone raised in a liberal society. They talk about antagonism – the social forces and tensions that make enemies of people – as a fundamental element of society.

What is an enemy? The definition is unforgiving. It goes beyond the racism of disgust, by a long way. My enemy is those people whose presence in my society prevent me from being true to myself. You feel kept from your true potential simply because these other people are around in your society, your country.

Are you having trouble picturing that? It’s the kind of feeling that motivates Matthew Heimbach to envision a nation-state where only white Christians would even be allowed to live. Which he’s done on a small scale with his organization’s hamlet in Paoli, Indiana.

Racializing nationalism is the ideology of a drive to exile or eradicate an entire other category of people from your life. It’s bad enough when one group of people feel this about another, and it’s not reciprocated. Imagine the constant terror of both partners wanting to dance this dance.

Two groups of people, a substantial majority of whom hate each other to the point of frothing for genocide. And the rest may not froth, but they’re happy to go along for the ride and would be glad to be rid of the bastards.

Only a few dissenters. Barely a whisper of social conscience. Easy to ignore.

What people do to each other in the name of their ideological utopias
is absolutely horrifying.
That kind of antagonism is – thankfully – rare. For all our sakes, we should prevent this antagonism from developing. Integrate communities with many ethnicities all sharing the same neighbourhood. Cultivate an interest in exploring different cultures – Korean dudes stopping for dinner at the Ethiopian restaurant before the German techno party.

Liberal societies have come up with a lot of excellent ways to create that world where there are no enemies. Definitely, not everyone does them very well. Sometimes, a society or a government’s nationalist leanings outweigh their commitment to openness.

When you start to think, “This is a Christian country,” “a Muslim country,” “a black country,” or “a white country.” And not the only label that matters to a liberal – “This is a free country.”

Everyone can be free. That means no one need be my enemy. Yet here’s an enemy staring me down and calling for my death. And I didn’t do anything to provoke it.*

* Or did I? And if it was my government and I had no genuine idea what the hell’s been going on around the world for the last 70 years? Do you think the average person ever consents to any of the horrible shit different governments do to people around the world? No one runs this stuff by us in a referendum. It’s sold to us. Realpolitik is horrifying no matter who does it. What matters is striking back at the ones who actually harmed you. Not some repairman in Topeka or Mosul who barely cares about politics. The ones who give the orders. A bit of a rant there.

The knowledge that freedom really is universal gives the liberal hope. Hope that no one need be anyone’s enemy. That hope can blind a society to genuine hatred. . . . To be continued

The Impotent Liberal I: My Arms Are Open! Research Time, 19/12/2016

“I may disagree with everything you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it!”
One of the world’s oldest memes of fundamental liberal principles. It’s explicitly about free speech rights. But the right to free speech has implications that reach much more profound corners of human life than our rights to speak and promote our ideas.

The right to free speech means that all ideas are welcome in public conversation. That means you have to welcome the speaker as well – if they’re a partner in your public conversation, they’re part of your society.

The argument goes like this. There are no expressions or ideas that a
free society can never accept. But values based on such horrifying
hatred as white supremacy is utterly unacceptable. Can a democratic
society survive without rejecting Richard Spencer?
So the right to free speech implies – at least potentially – total inclusion in society. And that’s a fantastic idea. It’s the foundation of the ideal of world peace. And world peace is the liberal democratic idea taken to its most utopian ideal – so utopian that it could be spoken by an aging hippie smoking a spliff watching the sunset.

Here's the problem. And I’m far from the first one to say this. Hell, it comes up in nearly every philosophy class when people discuss freedom of speech. Someone enters this community where everyone is included and everyone can speak their mind. And this person says what’s on their mind.

He says that a huge chunk of the people in this open society shouldn’t be allowed to speak their minds, live in our society, or maybe even exist at all. He starts talking about how women shouldn’t work or speak, that hispanics should be deported, Muslims be imprisoned, Jews forced to Israel, and blacks repatriated to African countries.

In other words, into this liberal paradise where everyone is included and everyone can speak and think as they wish pops a white nationalist. Richard Spencer, Jim Dowson, David Duke, or Matthew Heimbach.

This is an old problem for liberal thinkers. And it’s so obvious a problem that it gets into introductory political philosophy classes as a fallback topic. How does a regime of tolerance deal with the intolerant?

Jim Dowson founded the racist white supremacist organization Britain
First, but left a few years ago and founded the white nationalist
Patriot News Network. This is a major source of pro-Trump memes
and propaganda throughout 2016.
Thing is, I don’t think I’ve seen a single philosophy class where the discussion didn’t just leave this question kind of hanging. There are arguments that, to be true to your principle, you have to include everyone – including the intolerant. And you just have to fight their against their arguments in the marketplace of ideas as hard as they fight for them.

You know what I think? How about “bullshit.” I used to believe in this argument, but two things turned me against it. One was the last couple of years in Europe and North America, when violently racist political movements have sprung up in pretty much every major country of the ostensibly liberal democratic West.

The term ‘marketplace of ideas’ was first developed in Victorian England. When John Stuart Mill wrote about this, public discourse was conducted in long, rambling, complex arguments. Even advertisements were full pages of text, complicated arguments for why you should buy this brand of rainboot over any other.

I don’t have to tell you the media doesn’t work that way today. So we can’t exactly argue about the idiocy of white supremacy as a moral philosophy. We have to fight using memes, sharable content, and social media organizing. Because those are the media weapons of white supremacy.

Liberal argument and tolerance alone can’t handle these people. Because a regime of universal tolerance will literally accept everyone. It even has to accept the viewpoints in its society of the people who want to reject damn near everyone.

Not exactly the nuanced, calm consideration of detailed
arguments that Mill envisioned in his 'marketplace of
Well, we can’t accept the existence of those people in our society. We have to eject racists and sexists. We have to reject white nationalism if we want to defend our liberal, democratic values.

Doesn't that make for a hypocritical liberalism? That we’ll tolerate everything but intolerance? Doesn’t that mean we fail to tolerate literally everything?

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe get to this in the most dense part of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. They identify it as the fundamental weakness of liberalism – liberal thinking twists itself into knots over whether they should tolerate violent intolerance.

And we shouldn’t. Of course, this is the centre of a major critique of liberal thinking and politics. Yes, this is going to take a while to unpack. Yes, I’m going to do it here.

But holy shit, it’s important because the ascent of white nationalism to state power is a major political issue in Western society.

Liberalism can’t deal with enemies. Dealing with your enemies is the most important part of politics. Literally life and death. . . . To be continued

Thought Is Supposed to Set You Free, Composing, 16/12/2016

Yesterday morning, I watched a short video interview with Emma and Peter Worley. They’re education advocates in the UK who run The Philosophy Foundation. Its mission is to introduce philosophical education into primary and elementary school curriculums.

Now, before you call them ridiculous, this isn’t a matter of getting a bunch of nine year olds to read The Critique of Pure Reason. Instead, he’s talking about getting kids actually thinking about profound concepts.

Emma and Peter Worley. They advocate for such a wonderful idea, but
I can't help but feel that they express something troubling.
The example they discuss in the video is a discussion of number. The teacher writes ‘2’ four times on the chalkboard in a square shape. She asks the class ‘How many numbers are on the board?’ and asks each kid to explain why they think the way they do.

You’ve got a bunch of nine year olds talking seriously about the ontology of mathematics in their own words. That’s awesome.

They pitch the idea as a brilliant way to get kids thinking critically about deep and freaky topics. Exercises in that kind of thinking gets them interested in knowledge, in discovering the world, making themselves smarter, sharper, more perceptive and nuanced thinkers.

That's the kind of philosophical work that I try to write – in my current giant research project Utopias, as well as my smaller projects like reviews for SERRC and different conferences. Same with my policy work in the NDP. Diving into the fundamentals of our questions, so we can better understand our world.

Sadly, when I think back on so much of the day-to-day bluster of academic philosophy departments, I feel like many in that community wouldn’t want that kind of behaviour in their classrooms.

It isn’t just the condescending attitude that too many professors can easily slip into regarding their undergrad students. Though it is that.

It isn’t just the growing focus on scholarly minutiae, where the need to publish in highly specialized, steeply paywalled journals pushes people to write more and more densely technical interpretive arguments. Though it is that.

The popular paradigm of the philosopher wasn't
a professional teacher or school administrator. He
was some rebellious contrarian who spent his
life talking with his people, no matter their
class, wealth, status, or pedigree.
It’s the fact that those densely technical arguments, in person-to-person interactions get to such heated intensities. But that aggressive, sometimes confrontational approach to professional conversation could produce a dangerous tendency.

Yes, often this is a part of the social atmosphere in philosophy departments that tend to drive women away from the discipline. Or worse behaviour. And this is an expression of the social force I’m talking about. But it goes deeper.

There’s always a tendency in academics for an inflated sense of themselves. You get a little arrogant. You puff yourself up when you’re in the institution. If you restrict your social life to the institution, you can start to take those peacock feathers too seriously. And you actually become that insufferably arrogant.

The conversation on subject matters in academic philosophy has a tone of professionalized aggression. We will meticulously analyze a colleague’s argument and consider it entirely proper to coolly tear that argument to shreds.

We are purposefully destructive to each other’s work, and respond to such acts with gracious thanks for those helpful criticisms. After spending up to a year preparing a piece of research.

To criticize a work exclusively as a search for problems with it is a destructive act. But professional discourse treats this as a force of progress – an idea improves as you test whether it can stand up to argument. But there is a relentlessness that refuses to quit.

When the relentlessness of academic philosophical criticism blends deeply with the self-inflation of the culture’s arrogant tendencies, the result is an almost sociopathic degree of professionalized aggression.

This is certainly not everyone in academic philosophy – it was very few. But this was a tendency of the entire culture. When it was brought to its highest intensity, it can produce a troll of Milo-like strength as articulate as Bertrand Russell.

When I get my philosophical arguments on, I lately try to think of them
as more like a rap battle where you actually believe what you say. And
no, I'm not going to post a picture from Epic Rap Battles of History
because those videos are terrible and horribly stupid. 
In the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about the worst tendency of the arrogant philosophy student. In the name of achieving the truth, he argues so aggressively against every idea he encounters that he becomes the nihilist sophist he hates.

Everything around him is wrong.

I wonder if this attitude, this style of talking and thinking, with others but always against them, is a condition of the drift of some former philosophy students I know to Men’s Rights Associations. To other reactionary avenues.

Certainly not the only cause. But quite plausibly a condition. Certainly not sufficient. Maybe not necessary. But tantalizingly present.

Maybe I feel so haunted by its presence in the voice of day-to-day academic philosophy because that was once my professional world. My chosen career path. Then I had to leave.

Maybe it haunts me because that style could have been a condition leading me down that path. Not the only condition. Certainly not sufficient. Definitely not necessary. But terrifyingly present.

Recognize People’s Real Power, Research Time, 15/12/2016

You know, back when I started this blog, I knew a lot of its posts would follow the research I was doing for Utopias. And one of the first declarations I made in my historical research was that, even though I knew I’d engage with some works in the marxist tradition, I was no marxist.

Reading Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, the landmark 1980s work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, I’m even more convinced of my non-marxism.

Here's an idea that was really prominent in the history of marxism. Not just the academic marxist scholarship – I’m talking about the early 20th century, when the biggest demographic of marxism was political activists and revolutionary radicals.

People's demands can change their whole society. It's called politics.
This is the idea they criticize pretty robustly: That capital totally dominates labour conditions. In other words, the people, organizations, and broader social forces that own, control, and express a society’s sources of wealth controls its labour conditions too.

The concept is connected with traditional marxism’s social, political, and economic determinism. The macro-level structure of society entirely determines all the conditions and movements that are part of it. Society’s superstructure is its only agency.

Labour, meanwhile, isn’t an activity. That would imply that it has agency. Work, according to the tradition, is a commodity – labour-power. You can negotiate the value of your work as a wage, but work’s only feature is its applications, what a boss sends you to do.

Laclau and Mouffe rip this concept apart, and they do it as part of a sustained attack on the entire marxist tradition – both in the theory and in the activism, which until only the last few decades were two sides of the same movement. That attack is uncovering and tearing down a recurring error in marxist thinking that fundamentally misunderstands the world.

The tradition ignores the contingency of history – sees only the logical necessity of theoretical argument and is blind to the messy dynamism of life.

In this context, the tradition ignores how it wasn’t just capitalist society’s superstructure changing according to abstract internal laws of motion that determines labour conditions. Labour conditions are the product of dynamic struggle between working people and the large conglomerates and elite business leaders who employ them.

In 19th century Europe, the children’s rights movement took kids out of dangerous, dehumanizing factory work. In the early 20th century, the union movement won restrictions on the working day’s and week’s length.

Ernesto Laclau and his partner Chantal Mouffe were two figures in the
group that brought ecological ways of thinking to the philosophical
tradition in complex, multidimensional ways. Their academic roots in
marxist studies made them two of the most explicitly political in that
Today, workers are changing the conditions of labour through activism again. Business leaders aim to casualize and destabilize all employment through models like the gig economy and the sharing economy. So workers are building organizations that network among each other to pool financial and knowledge resources – essentially a union of contractors.

Organizations like the Urban Worker Project in Ontario, which is developing to look a bit more like a medieval guild than a modern labour union.

Where business leaders want to drive their labour costs lower and lower, workers are organizing to keep their wages fair. And that fairness is in reference to the actual cost of living in their cities. The continent-wide Fight For $15 movement is the spearhead organization here.

These are political movements that have the power to condition and entirely remake economic relationships in society. Recognizing their real power in the world is a fatal critique of traditionally orthodox marxist thinking.

These arguments are all so simple when you think about them that I find it weird that there are orthodox marxists left anymore.

Knowing Yourself Without the World, Research Time, 14/12/2016

It speaks to the weird complexity of our time at the end of 2016 that Steve Bannon once called himself a Leninist.

Yeah, it’s bloody weird that one of the most right-wing figures in American politics today says he follows the philosophy of the founder of the Soviet Union. But there’s a lot about Lenin’s revolutionary theory that Bannon has embraced.

Not the content, of course. Just the methods. In the interview where Bannon discussed this idea, he discussed how he wanted to destroy pretty much the entire political establishment of the United States.

The grotesque, dilated capillaries of his eyes stare into your soul.
Basically, he’s an accelerationist. He wants an entirely new political and social order for his country, and considers the best way to achieve that is driving all the destructive processes that burn down everything that exists.

What would he replace it with? He may deny it – and there’s plenty of room for plausible deniability – but I’d say he wants an ethnically cleansed white nationalist order for America. He’s already given hipster white nationalism* a high-profile, mainstream forum.

* And what is the alt-right but white nationalism gone hipster? I mean, just look at Richard Spencer’s haircut.

Then there’s that rumour that he refused to let his daughter attend a particular private school because it had too many Jewish students. He denied that one. But I have my doubts – just gut feelings, based on what I’ve seen of him. And no one knows a man like his ex-wife.

Now, we should consider the possibility that Bannon was trolling. The man runs Breitbart, a website at the centre of the internet’s right-wing reactionary provocations. But there’s the gleeful nihilist evil of Milo Yiannopoulos,** and there’s the real racism and incitement of the general population of Brietbart’s comment boards.

** I’m pretty sure he’d consider that a compliment.

And their editors.

White nationalism today – hipster white nationalism, if you will – has taken on many techniques of identity politics in a horrifyingly twisted form. Because no matter what seemingly every other earnest, yelling internet pundit*** has to say about the problems of identity politics, when done right they are a path to liberation.

*** You know, bloggers like me, on every scale of pay and prominence.

I wrote that last week, and McGill professor Jacob Levy makes a solid case here. Identity politics is recognizing some aspect of yourself that’s racialized, and organizing a movement to end that in your society.

Lead poisoning is one invisible vector of racializing oppression in
North American society – thanks to a variety of urban development
policies and processes across the United States, black children were
disproportionately affected by lead paint on their houses and lead
poisoning as a result.
Levy discusses the LBGTQ rights movement and Black Lives Matter. These are movements that call attention to cultural morals and state institutions which – intentionally, unintentionally, and systematically – put great harm on people because of their identity.

These are movements that fight racialization – racialization being that hierarchy of material deprivation perpetuated through morals and institutions.

White nationalism doesn’t fight racialization – this movement aims to beef up racialization and make our current moral and institutional hierarchies more intense and immovable than they are already.

So how can white nationalism call itself identity politics? Only because the popular conception of identity politics is a twisted and demented version of what it really is.

This twisted vision is sort of right – it touches on some of the methods, how identity politics gets started. But it skips the core because the popular conception of identity politics pays no attention to systematic racialization processes on a society-wide scale.

Identity politics gets started through a moment of self-consciousness: I understand myself in terms of this particular feature of my identity – my sexuality, my skin colour, my religion. The core method of this popular idea is to organize and mobilize communities to have their own such moment of self-consciousness – to see themselves primarily as this identity.

So a pundit will call white nationalism an identity politics because it’s a movement organized around seeing themselves primarily in terms of their whiteness. Their grievance is ridiculous because whites have historically been the benefits of our civilization’s racializing hierarchies. Losing systematic privilege is seen – bizarrely – as discrimination.

Of course, real white nationalists don’t feel this. They never believed they were equal – equality insults them. But folks who aren’t full-on white nationalists who support Trump and fear anti-racist movements? They believe equality has always existed, or at least that the proper order is equal enough.

So they see movements against racialization and they feel threatened. Because they think the world is already equal and fair, they see movements to redress inequalities as movements for supremacy. And they start to see racist politics as movements for white equality in the face of oppression from rising rebel groups.

That’s how Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, and even such a horrorshow as Matthew Heimbach are going mainstream.

“Well, Back to Work. Gotta Win the Pulitzer Prize,” Composing, 13/12/2016

So my project blogging through Class is finished. I feel like the posts themselves had the same anti-climactic, hollow ending as the series did. At the same time, I’ve also gotten pretty well-practiced at these kinds of philosophical reviews by now.

I started writing these three years ago, when I wrote a post about the philosophical themes and ideas in The Day of the Doctor. I’ve improved quite a lot as my blogging style has come along with practice. Following that, the two Peter Capaldi seasons of Doctor Who provoked some really insightful writing.

Introducing my new project as a critic.
Looking back at those series, I think I’ve got some decent material for a few small ebooks of television criticism. Just some self-published stuff through Amazon. Nothing too big. But something I could throw together that people could buy as a Kindle package or a softcover.

I’ll probably bundle the Class reviews first, simply because that show is most recent. And I want to supplement what I’ve already written on the blog – just some new content to bring out some more general ideas about Class and Doctor Who.

Here are some ideas and some provisional titles for what I’ll put together over the next while for my Class and Capaldi era Doctor Who indie books.

“In Your Face”
How Class, in its setup and its best episodes, was a confrontationally progressive show – practically trolling the Brexit set. Not just Quill’s joke about “Not another referendum!” in “The Lost.” Consider the show’s depiction of teenage homosexual sex, its frank discussions of religious beliefs with south Asian origins, and the major role of a character from a Polish immigrant family being the most virtuous member of the cast.

“Not That Shocking”
The legacy of Skins on all teen drama that attempts even gestures at realism. Including Class, its most weird heir.

“A Dark, Welsh Shadow”
How Patrick Ness’ attempt to emulate the kitchen-sink spectacle adventures of Davies era season finales ultimately hamstrung Class with a disappointing, empty ending. A sad way for a season with such interesting storylines to close.

“Hell Sent”
The last two episodes of Peter Capaldi’s second season as the Doctor presented two very different visions of the show. “Heaven Sent” was a high point of Doctor Who’s ability to present existential horror. “Hell Bent” was a celebration of Doctor Who’s mad creativity. How do these two modes of the show work together?

“Under the Lake / Before the Flood – Next Draft”
A treatment of what a better version of last season’s worst story would have looked like, at least as far as I’m concerned.

“And the Moral of the Story Is . . .”
The new era of Doctor Who has focussed on building season arcs. The Moffat years especially have constructed complex story arcs spread across the show’s anthology-like format. I’ll compare the season arcs of Capaldi’s first two years with what Class tried in its debut season to see which of the three approaches is more effective.

Out of Many IV: How We Make Ourselves, Composing, 12/12/2016

Continued from previous . . . I have an orientation to political thinking that you could call a little unorthodox.

I’m not talking about my actual personal beliefs about policies and the role of the state. It’s a blend of left-wing welfare progressivism, distrust of government and police, anti-racism, and libertarian love of relative chaos. Not that today.

I’m not talking about my philosophical journey toward being an increasingly strident progressive – seeing militaristic and nationalist reaction grow and grow all over my culture ever since 11 September 2001. Not that today either.

Today, I want to give a direct answer to the problem my friend was banging into through the earliest drafts of his master’s thesis. What is the political? Here’s my weird, but sensible answer.

The domain of the political is the set of projects, processes, thoughts, and forces that shape human character, personality, and culture. When we talk about all these things in the context of how they shape humanity, we’re talking politics.

I came to this conclusion as I was finishing the first draft of Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity. That book is an outline of one way* to think ecologically about the whole world. How to foreground relations, flux, and interdependence in how we understand the world.

* Among probably many ways. But this was the way I could best assemble, given my resources at McMaster and the expertise I built from and developed.

My book started as a thesis on environmental philosophy – mostly a bunch of academic quibbling over arguments about rights and moral principles, unfortunately. But the truly great writing in environmental philosophy – people like Val Plumwood, Arne Næss – got into wider investigations about how we fundamentally saw ourselves in the world.

All the way down to the turtle.
You can’t care about the ecological relations of your world if you believe humanity is of a different order of being from nature. So if you were going to have a decent chance of believing in those moral principles about protecting nature and preserving our productive ecologies, you had to think ecologically all the way down.

When you say ‘political philosophy,’ it refers to a fairly clearly defined disciplinary boundary of research and thinking. John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice or Karl Marx’s The German Ideology – definitely yes. Pierre Bourdieu’s critical studies of education and all the concepts of subjecthood he developed along with it – borderline.

Metaphysical arguments about the nature of freedom and determinism? Or how humans are different ontologically from other creatures? Not at all. Or so you’d think. Until you realize that those questions can cause political crises like environmental destruction.

Matter is determined in its motions, but humans are an exception from that order because of their free will. Metaphysicians argue about the existence of that free will and its underlying nature. But if you think nature has no agency but you do, then you don’t need to be all that respectful of nature except as far as your own benefit goes.

That’s a very political attitude in an era of ecological crisis – of global-level pollution, resource depletion, and climate change. Yet what conditions that attitude are deeper concepts that have nothing to do with politics.

So as I research and write Utopias, this realization is at the heart of how I’m building the argument and the research program. There’s a recent tradition in Western philosophy that thinks in basically the same way.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari were the most ambitious recent thinkers – with their works developing enormous repositories of complex, innovative concepts about the ecological nature of existence.

But there’s a strong tradition of political philosophers who think this way too – I could call them the contingent materialists. But that’s a new name for it. They look at society and human subjectivity as a complex assemblage of ecological, technological, cultural, geological, biological, psychological, and artistic processes and forces.

They come from a left-wing political tradition. Sometimes associated with revolutionary politics. Names like Antonio Negri, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Jacques Rancière. Their ancestors include names like Louis Althusser, Antonio Gramsci, and Karl Marx. Their ancient sources are as seemingly distant and dissonant as Niccolo Machiavelli and Benedict Spinoza.

But you can weave a tradition of thought and influence through that chain. And as I continue to work and slowly promote my writing whenever I can, I hope Utopias will contribute even just a little bit to that tradition.

Out of Many III: Politics Is Identity and Always Was, Research Time, 09/12/2016

Continued from previous . . . The talk of the liberal internet in the shadow of Trump’s election victory is that it was all the fault of identity politics. SJW culture and its obnoxious tone of anti-racism drove all their potential allies away.

Bernie Sanders himself, the patron saint of America’s lost causes of social democracy, has said it’s time for his country’s progressive political movements to move beyond identity politics.

All through the campaign year, Bernie Sanders was continually depicted
in the media as tone-deaf on racism issues, and as constantly
downplaying its importance relative to the white working class. But
the popular misinterpretation of his identity politics remarks is just a
lazy hot take that picks up the same, boring thread of critique.
Mark Lilla wrote a now-famous op/ed piece in the times arguing that the focus on justice for discriminated minorities distracts from the economic struggles of white Americans. If we focus on the argument, so it goes, working to correct racial inequality alienates poor whites, and that economic dignity for all must be a progressive’s only priority.

It’s an incredibly poor argument, though that doesn’t prevent the chattering classes from believing it. Or at least repeating the argument so much that it becomes a horrible common sense belief.

The perfect rejoinder to this argument was Sanders himself, in the full body of his essay and speech. As well as this piece from the New York Times, that a fair economy and an end to personal, cultural, and institutional racism is the ultimate goal of justice.

A deeply fair society where everyone in the full diversity of humanity is our sibling and friend. That would be a wonderful society.

Yet we can’t get the intelligentsia of our chattering classes to admit this. Mark Lilla argues that we should leave the fight against racism and sexism behind in the name of healing our rift with reactionary whites. Jordan Peterson argues that racism and sexism are barely even real enough to bother talking about.

I even came across an argument that racial and gender justice advocacy only advances according to a kind of status hierarchy of the most radical extremism. Progressive activist Germaine Greer wasn’t vilified because a wider LBGTQ community no longer tolerates the hostility to trans people that she’s always expressed.

Essays like that one I linked on the "status hierarchy" of SJW
extremism feel like longer versions of juvenile, sarcastic memes
like this one. Their critique just as meaningful.
No, it’s much more sensible to say that you make more ridiculous and bizarre demands as a pissing contest of gender liberty extremism. “I know 72 gender pronouns and you only know 37 – you fucking fascist!”

There is a strong, powerful, and complex tradition of philosophy that can defend the call for actual justice in the world from this contempt. It’s the tradition of radical democracy – the political philosophy that conceives of human nature as the drive to grow more and more complex. And it wants social institutions to encourage that explosion of diversity.

Names to read are those I’ve been looking through lately – Antonio Negri, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Jacques Rancière. Their work since the 1980s has built a concept of human nature that embraces our entire species’ incredible variety, and opposes the injustices of oligarchy and poverty, as well as race and gender oppression along all vectors.

Writing before the 21st century’s resurgence of nationalism, they first opposed the conservative liberal consensus on the nature of truth and reason. The Enlightenment conception of reason that’s become our mainstream is the reason of a perfectly consistent universality.

There is one and only one truth, it is coherent and real, you speak the truth when your words correspond to what is true. This concept of human nature says there is one perfect model of human existence, and conformity to this model approaches perfection.

Although their focus on philosophy of science, the arts, and humanities
traditions themselves tends to nudge them out of what's recognized as
the community of political philosophers, Gilles Deleuze and Félix
Guattari have central roles in the radical democracy tradition. They
built the ontology underlying the politics and ethics.
The first cracks in that idea was around when Frantz Fanon wrote that such a perfect model looked pretty white, male, and European. But it doesn’t end there.

Humanity is a difference engine. We’ve survived the catastrophes we have not because we form hostile tribes and conform to community moralities. That’s how writers like Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land think humanity survives crises. But that’s how humanity kills each other.

Humanity is an inherently creative species. We adapt our cultures to new circumstances and new ways of life so that we can constantly experiment and figure out new ways to live when our world changes out from under us. Our changeability is what makes us such good migrants. Why almost anywhere in the world can be a human habitat.

Our adaptiveness and creativity means that diversity – the most fundamental freedom of democracy, the freedom to be and become whatever you desire – is the core of human strength.

The best identity politics is the politics that embraces and protects that incredible power to become. . . . Actually, it will be continued

Out of Many II: Identity as Race and Racism, Research Time, 08/12/2016

Continued from previous . . . These are tough times for a democrat. I don’t just mean Democrats – members of the American Democratic political party, though it’s tough times for them too. I mean it’s tough times for anyone who believes in democracy.

Even as President-elect, we’re already seeing a serious, destabilizing, and dangerous behaviour.

From an ecological perspective, signs point to Trump dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency. He uses flashy meetings with celebrities to distract critical media from his actual policy goals.

A new era for America.
Geopolitically, Trump’s rejection of multilateral alliances in favour of purposeful unpredictability and shifting, bilateral deal-making is a categorical departure from American foreign policy since Franklin Roosevelt’s era. His bilateralism isolates democracies and encourages military buildup through abandoning international alliances.

Not only is Trump a danger to become an illiberal Caesar in the White House, his campaign and public image has emboldened racism throughout America. White nationalism and racism is now mainstream political conversation in the West. Trump has normalized it and opened the floodgates to people like Richard Spencer who advocate ethnic cleansing.

Step back for a moment and let’s consider what Spencer has to say about what his white nationalist movement does. I don’t mean we should consider it as a plausible kind of politics – it’s nakedly an ideology of hate.

I mean, let’s take Spencer and his ideas seriously, because those ideas have become serious elements in the political discourse of our culture by now.*

* 2016, probably the most hideously transformative year in human politics since 1938 began with the destruction of Nanjing and ended with Kristallnacht. Bowie’s death was the beginning of the downfall.

A few years ago, I read in Martha Nussbaum’s The Politics of Disgust that hatred for the different was rooted in a kind of conceptual reflex of disgust. Interracial sexual partnership and especially family building evoked a similar emotional reaction as filth or vomit. Building a multicultural society required overcoming this feeling of disgust.

You could mount a pretty convincing argument that the racism that
drove social conservatives of the 1960s had devolved mostly into
disgust at racial mixing, whether sexual or social. Mildred and Richard
were fitting symbols of that fight, but I don't think that's the modern
fight against racism at all.
It seemed compelling at the time. And when I listen to the racists of the 20th century, like George Wallace or any of the popular expressions of 1960s racism, that disgust is at the forefront. But race works differently for Spencer and the 21st century white American racist.

In Spencer’s own words, race is the foundation of identity. He believes in the reality of race, that race is the ontological structure of possible communities. This is why contemporary white nationalism takes multiculturalism in a very different way than traditional American racism of disgust.

I say traditional, but this model of racism is probably more specific to the 20th century. When the deeper reasons for racial divisions in America – the conflict of the citizen and the slave – disappeared from the country’s everyday life, all that was left of that racism were feelings of disgust. Maybe disgust would have been that racism’s last gasp.

Spencer’s has a different racism – a racism of identity politics, perverted into an actual doctrine of hatred. One of the critical voices of the left in Trump’s America say that Trump’s rise was facilitated by identity politics – progressive movements that called attention to difference, the structural inequalities of race, gender, and sexuality.

The refusal to ignore those inequalities, the dedication to fighting for their slow eradication from American society, provoked such disgust that Trump’s rise was the result. That accepts one widely believed untruth – that identity politics is about hatred.

Contemporary black activism points out how state violence – whether through murder by police or imprisonment – is disproportionately levelled against blacks. Reactionary white people have interpreted this as spreading hatred of whites.

Richard Spencer mocking a protestor at an event he hosted at Texas
A&M University. Contemporary white nationalism has mastered the
art of trolling as political action.
Identity politics done right** calls attention to the differences in life obstacles and injustices that someone faces because of some aspect of who they are. Could be skin colour, sexuality, gender. Those are the major elements in our politics today.

** And it’s been done badly many times, such that listing them would lengthen my post to Proust-like sights. But I’m talking about the potential of this way of thinking, not the many ways we can mess it up in application.

If you think that the politics of identity is the politics of racism, then you’ll react to your own identity being cast as an identity politics antagonist as if the war’s been started. If you think black American identity politics is the racism of black supremacy, then you’ll react with an embrace of white supremacy.

That’s why Richard Spencer we disturbingly accurate when he calls his movement white identity politics. If you believe that identity politics is advocacy for your own identity’s dominance over others, you’ll accept that this is the new order of things.

So white supremacism returns as a twisted kind of class solidarity – the political hatred of race wars. . . . . To be continued, trust me.