Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Un'altra incursione in una terra pazza


I've decided to only attempt a reply to one paragraph of Bob Bishop's crazy right-wing rant.  That should make it more manageable as a blog post.  Here is the paragraph in its entirety:

The modern-day Jacobins are a Malthusian death cult. Their goal is about control of your mind and behavior; not submitting makes you a dissident. They exclusively focus onfulfilling Maslow’s hierarchy of physiological needs of survival and safety (i.e., North Korea) to control the masses, leading to idleness and moral decay. At the same time, it ignores the human psyche that strives for psychological and self-actualization (top of Maslow’s pyramid), which creates a more vibrant and prosperous society.

Where to begin?  There Bishop goes mentioning the Jacobins again.  Bourgeois historians fixate on the violence of the French Revolutionary Jacobins.  This ignores the reality that it was the more "moderate" or, accurately, "middle-class" Girondins who initiated the war with Europe.  It's also a little known fact that it was the Jacobin-led government in France that outlawed slavery in France and all its colonies and which declared full racial equality as well.  In my experience, the sort of person who uses "Jacobin" as a pejorative are pompous old (usually male) fuddy-duddies.

"Malthusian death cult" is another example of this pomposity.  Thomas Malthus was an 18th Century economist who was most famous for saying that human population growth would always inevitably outstrip productivity growth in agriculture.  George Udny Yule remarked that Malthus's terrifying projections of population exponentially exploding beyond the food supply was a trifle silly since once that line was first crossed it would be difficult for the population to continue growing.

Malthus saw only three responses to this dilemma: Moral restraint, vice and misery.  Moral restraint was choosing to abstain from sex either altogether or so as to limit the amount of children you were likely to produce.  Vice was birth control.  Which presumably had eternal damnation in the fires of Hell as its drawback.  And misery was starvation.

It's unclear what right-wingers mean when they call Leftists "Malthusian death-cultists." [I googled the term and noticed that a lot of them use it to describe environmentalists.]  Is it because we believe that population outstrips food production?  I mean, it often has in the past.  And it's possible it could again.  But Leftists are also often saying that currently we produce enough food for everyone but that it is not equitably distributed.  Also, Mao Tse-Tung encouraged the Chinese to have lots of children initially, thinking socialist agriculture would meet the challenge.  Which, whatever it was, definitely wasn't "Malthusian."

Perhaps it's the Left-wing's general support for contraception then?  Our support of "vice"?  But that doesn't make us a "death cult" does it?  

Ah! But environmentalists who state that the Earth is overpopulated with humans are "Malthusian" in some way.  The whole, Club of Rome "Limits to Growth" gang! The very idea that humanity cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet is "death cult" talk apparently.  This brings us back to artificial contraception.  The "vice" part of Malthus's checks on overpopulation.  People having sex while using contraceptions is "death cultish" behaviour.  But believing that the Earth can support 25 billion people is rational, life-affirming, he-man talk.  But what about present hunger and poverty, which leftists claim is the fault of leaving the distribution of the necessities of life to "effective demand" rather than human need?  Right-wingers like Bob Bishop reject distribution based on need.  Bishop and his ilk probably see poverty as being linked to individual failure to learn the rules of the free market system in countries like the USA and national failures to obey those rules on the part of governments in Africa and South America and elsewhere.  Which opens up a whole can of worms.  Like debating whether everyone presently on planet Earth could have a big house in the suburbs with a two-car garage and a huge refrigerator full of microwaveable delights and a flat-screen tv to play the latest video-games with Siri and Alexa if only they'd all "learn how to code."

At present I'm just going to have to conclude that "Malthusian death cult" is just another shit-for-brains idea that stupid right-wingers use because it makes them feel brainy.

Left-wing ideologues want to control everyone else's mind and behaviour.  I'm just going to come out from the start saying that much of that notion is based on right-wingers' anger at having past sexist, racist, homophobic behaviour criticized.  For the majority of human history "conservatives" in their societies have railed against "pernicious" notions such as human equality and atheism and social criticism.  More than that, they have used their power to censor and ban the free expression of ideas they find threatening.  There is a connecting thread running through all these societies.  It is the personality of the domineering sort of individuals ranting like Bob Bishop.

"But what about Stalin, and Mao, and Hitler?" ask the North American right-wing conservatives.  "All of those totalitarian governments that censored ideas where leftist!" they say.  To which I reply: The notion that fascism is a left-wing political movement is childish nonsense.  If you look at fascist and fascist-adjacent movements today you will find that they gravitate towards the right-wide of the political spectrum.  Racism tends to be a right-wing phenomenon.  (Unless you want to start yammering the shit-for-brains theory that "affirmative action" programs are racist.)

Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao were produced by the struggle against traditionalist-capitalist societies.  Make no mistake about it.  The 19th Century ruling classes could and did employ censorship, repression and state violence against left-wing political movements.  They did this to the extent of violating their own laws and supposed principles.  That is why Marxist movements contemptuously dismissed criticisms of their own rejection of morality and legal niceites.  And when, under Lenin and Mao, communist movements began to gather genuine political strength, the forces of the traditional social-economic orders increased their violent efforts to suppress them.  It is very difficult to hold on to values of freedom and diversity and understanding inside such cauldrons.  In many respects these violent struggles contributed to the great tragedy of the 20th Century.  Which is why leftists in the West, after 1945 came to reject the violence (and hypocrisy) of such Communist governments.  And (I would argue) as liberal-capitalism continues to sink into civilization-destroying barbarism, left-wingers need to confront the dilemma of the dehumanizing effect of violence and the almost total lack of impact of non-violent performative protest.

You see, there's a whole gigantic edifice, made out of thin sheets of glass and held together with thin metal wire, of right-wing ideas.  Touch any pane of glass and the surrounding structure can easily begin to collapse.  But this glass house is huge.  Built by a multitude of idiots over a span of decades, centuries even.  If you wanted to, you could spend weeks wandering around, poking it at random watching it collapse, but you would need to have nothing else going on in your life all that time in order to do a thorough job of it.

All that having been said, there CAN be a tendency to overreach and "cancel culture" and "trigger warnings" whenever people are being asked to be considerate of other people's feelings and to refrain from openly bigoted, hateful language.  Since the 1990's [at least] I have been reading columns by white, male writers about the all-threatening spectre of "political correctness."  It isn't police violence.  It isn't corporate campaigns to cover-up their threats to the eco-system.  It isn't an out-of-control imperialist state.  It is university students expressing their anger at racist and sexist language.

Oh my gosh!  Look at the time!  That's enough for today!


Danneau said...

This post, and others, bring to mind a couple of lines from a Mose Allison song from the late 60s: "How much truth can a man stand...

The post helps make sense of the mass of stuff going on outside the front door. Thanks.

Purple library guy said...

The whole "Left wing ideologues want to control everyone else's mind and behaviour" is actually a trivial subset of a much wider truth. All ideologues want to control everyone's mind and behaviour, if only by convincing them that the ideologue is right. That's kind of what an ideology IS--you have an idea about how things work and how things should be done, and so you try to convince everyone of the correctness of that idea so that things can be done that way. This is going to be true whether the ideology is left, right or centrist.

This is OBVIOUSLY true of right wing ideologues. It's not even very symmetrical. I'm thinking there are a few factors that go into just how hard ideologues push for overt control, like with banning books and jailing, disappearing or torturing dissidents. There is the obvious, like how embattled the ideologues feel, how high the stakes are, and what they think they can get away with. But right wing ideology has, I think, two additional factors that push it to be harsher about this than left or centrist ideology.

First, right wing ideologues and their followers tend to feel more embattled and feel the stakes are higher than they actually are, because the tactics and even to a fair extent the content of far right ideology revolve around creating fear. When you advance your ideology by making people angry and scared, and your ideology itself is functionally about things you do because you're scared (victimizing immigrants, having more police etc.), your perceptions of other ideologies are going to involve fear and anger. So you're going to think it's necessary to suppress them. Second, there is a fundamental difference between right wing ideology and either centrist or leftist ideology: The theorists of leftist and centrist ideologies believe them. What they tell the masses that they want to get on side is pretty much the same as what they tell themselves. I think the centrists are wrong about quite a bit of stuff, but it is nonetheless stuff that thinkers came up with fairly organically and published and tried to get people to believe.

But right wing ideology is to a large extent not like that. Much of it was invented basically as propaganda. Many of its top exponents believe in lying to the people because if they knew the truth it would cause, ah, social disharmony. Leo Strauss is notorious for kind of formalizing this idea, but the honchos just do it kind of naturally. Because after all, right wing ideology is about making more inequality. It's about benefit for the few and screwing the many. And the people on top know perfectly well that if you just tell people that you won't get a lot of support. So they hire economists and "think tanks" and so on and so forth to come up with lies, sometimes directly and overtly, sometimes with a few fig leaves. But the point here is, if you know your ideology is based on lies, you're going to be a lot safer if nobody ever gets to hear the truth. So you need to ban those books and jail/kill/torture those dissidents and fire those teachers and create those closed, culty echo chambers, because if you allow an open contest of ideas, you'll lose. So right wing ideology has to be a lot harsher about controlling thought and getting rid of other ideas, just because it's fundamentally false and deeply vulnerable to the truth, and its top exponents kind of know it.

This can apply to other ideologies. I think the Soviet Union got more oppressive precisely as its leadership lost faith in the Soviet ideology (although this was obviously also modified by wars and other attacks from outside).

thwap said...


It's good to know someone is getting something out of this. I really do wonder how many people believe the stuff they believe in. And when I saw that Bishop piece at a blog run by a fairly intelligent person I was astonished at the depths of its stupidity.

Thanks for the Mose Allison link!

thwap said...


This: "First, right wing ideologues and their followers tend to feel more embattled and feel the stakes are higher than they actually are, because the tactics and even to a fair extent the content of far right ideology revolve around creating fear."

The reason that I still haven't gotten around to reading the studies showing self-identified conservatives being more fixated on threats and having larger "fight or flight" amygdalas is because I'm lazy; What I do or don't do will not affect the course of civilization; and it would probably be boring reading.

But I do think that it serves as a useful explanatory thesis. So often right-wing folks really believe that something as innocuous as a Liberal election victory is going to bring hell on earth. Obama was going to open up FEMA concentration camps. The USA's capitalist, white, male, christian power-structure is the greatest, most powerful society on Earth but is also mortally threatened by gay, Black, female, fat, eco-terrorist skanks.

This irrational, kneejerk fear of "the other" informs a lot of their thinking.

I have for a long time pointed to the chipping away of our rights and our protections and explained the consequences of our failure to stand up for them. I stated how stephen harper's shitting on the foundations of our parliamentary system and our electoral processes' integrity was setting bad precedents. But I was never apocalyptic about it.

And, yes, at some level, many of these right-wing billionaires know exactly what they're doing when they fund Ben Shapiro, Steve Crowder, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Alberta Report, Turning-Point USA and all that other swill. As does that psychopath Ron DeSantis and his outlawing Critical Race Theory. They are playing on people's fear to both divide them and to stir-up the majority population. And, with immigration, they've learned that social-conservatism comes in many creeds and colours and so they use that as well.