Sunday, August 26, 2007

It Could Be Worse-We Could Be In Russia

As much as I bitch about the nefarious acts of political extremists in the United States, I’m the first one to admit that it’s quite a bit worse in other parts of the world. Take Russia for example. The Ruskies still can’t come to grip with the fact that they’re no longer a superpower, so there has been a real explosion of racist and ultranationalist groups in the country in recent years, all promising to return the Motherland to the glory days of the USSR. As absurd as the idea of a Russian Nazi is, there has been a real upsurge in fascist skinhead activity recently, making life even harder on the country’s small population of homosexuals and racial minorities. A group of skinheads recently attacked an anarchist camp in Siberia, killing one person and severely injuring several others. Most disturbing was the fact that the local authorities seemed to be supportive of the attack, as the anarchists in question had recently been launching a series of protests against a nearby power plant. Even more unsettling than these sporadic skinhead attacks is the Nashi organization, which is Vladimir Putin’s own Hitler Youth knock-off. The annual Nashi gathering in Russia this year drew 10,000 nationalist youngsters. The organizers encourage their members to marry early and have many children, in an effort to counter Russia’s rapidly falling population. They even encourage pre-marital sex, while of course providing nary a single condom to the assembled horny kids. Nashi also functions as Putin’s personal thug squad. After the American ambassador to Russia met with political dissidents, Putin’s government gave Nashi a copy of the ambassador’s travel schedule. Nashi members were then present at all of his stops, accosting him on the street and demanding that he “apologize” to the Russian people for his actions. When this generation grows up, the Kremlin will have a dedicated chunk of the population that will be willing to obey their orders without question, and defend their interests by whatever means necessary. I am indeed lucky to be an American.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Prussian Blue Is Very Popular With Imprisoned Pedophiles

I while back I wrote a piece on the musical horror that is Prussian Blue. The 15-year-old twins Lynx and Lamb Gaede continue to garner mainstream press coverage and rave reviews in white power circles. In my last post on them, I mused that it would be interesting when the girls hit their rebellious phase and began to question the National Socialist drivel handed to them by their mom April. That day has apparently come. For some inscrutable reason, April Gaede allowed a British journalist to film the family at home over a period of several months. The resulting documentary “Nazi Pop Twins” is, as might be expected, rather scathing. It shows a couple of fairly normal teenage girls who are increasing uncomfortable with their family’s weirdness, but unwilling to defy their manipulative mother directly. The creepiest scene comes when the family gets onto a speakerphone with David Lane, the recently deceased white power author who was at the time serving a 190-year prison term. Lane remarks that while he used to regard the girls cute kids, now that they have reached puberty they are his “fantasy sweethearts”. This remark and other suggestive comments elicit no reaction from April or the twins. One might guess that the girls are used to this sort of treatment, having been ogled by drunken skinheads at white power festivals for years now. There does seem to be some glimmer of hope, as the twins appear to be rejecting some of their mom’s more radical positions. They are also beginning to write apolitical pop songs, much to April’s chagrin. Their maternal grandmother also seems to be acting as positive influence, describing how here family’s political beliefs have made her and the girl’s lives miserable. April Gaede has written a missive on Stormfront in which she claims that the film’s director edited several scenes in misleading ways, and that her mother’s comments should not be taken seriously, as the woman is suffering from Alzheimer’s (she seems pretty lucid in the interviews). I for one will most solemnly pledge that if the twins eventually reject their mother and her teachings, I will cease mocking them on this site.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Debate Continues

Not satisfied with my response to his last letter (see the previous post), my left-leaning comrade saw fit to write a reply to my reply. An edited version follows:

Firstly, I’m happy that my definition of leftism meets with your approval. However, I’m still curious if these are standard ways of defining left and right within political science, or if political scientists even discuss things on such a level. Although these definitions appear accurate to me, I wonder how right-wing people define the right and left, for to say that the left is that force in history that promotes equality and the right is the force that attempts to preserve inequality sounds like characterizations that right-wing folk might not accept. But maybe they would? What do you know about these things?

Secondly, I think of the left and the right as having to do with values. The left values equality, the right values hierarchies of one sort of another. The right appears to me to be very culturally relative and constantly changing its mind as to the basis of the hierarchies that it accepts. It used to be bloodlines that justified superiority, or sex, or race, or religion, or sexuality. Now, although traces of all of these prejudices remain, they seem to favor the idea of meritocracy…

So if you are criticizing leftists for advocating violence, I think you need to criticize their tactics, but not the values of leftism in general. Personally, I’m for attacking any ineffective, unpractical tactic. Sometimes what is not practical is violence – but sometimes violence is exactly what is called for. Sometimes what is not practical is non-violence – but sometimes that is exactly what is called for…

You wrote, “I think our main point of disagreement is on the historical record of radical leftism. You seem to see it as generally positive. I would describe it as uniformly dismal.” I’m going to need more evidence to accept this… for it seems quite appropriate to me to refer to Quakers, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to cite a few examples, as “radical leftists.” And I guess Gandhi’s and King’s actions were surrounded by violence, but they were not causing violence so much as simply exposing to the world a hidden but very real violence so that it could no longer be ignored and thus accepted.

So anyway, I do not have any problems with “extremism.” Extremism more often than not seems to be a word that refers to logical consistency or the ability to see past the prejudices of one’s culture… Usually when I hear people advocate moderation or a middle ground, they appear to be doing so out of laziness. They don’t want to go to all the trouble of figuring out the merits of various ideas on their own ground, and just seek an easy and thoughtless compromise that would appear to be the least offensive or controversial position to take. In fact, a moderate position is usually one that accepts any number of unjustifiable cultural prejudices. Moderates make me angry as they seem to embody sloth and bigotry, and uphold that as some sort of supreme value that trumps the evil extremism of people who are actually going to the trouble to think things through.

So, to the extent that extremism is relative, it is mostly a meaningless term but tends to indicate people who are more willing than others to think deeply through things and try to be logically consistent. The term, “purist,” however, is not relative and generally indicates very dangerous and simple-minded individuals. A purist is unable to distinguish their heart from their head, their ideals from the practical limitations of the real world. Teenagers tend not to be able to do this and thus you find a lot of dangerous purists among them. Some people never grow out of this stage… Purity is bad, bad, bad. It is counter-productive. It refuses to change its mind, to look at the actual real world around it, to compromise. It could also be called “absolutism.” Those who call for either violence or non-violence at inappropriate times would tend to be, I believe, purists. People who are anarchists because they have leftist values, but refuse to take advantage of the revolutionary power that leftists have given them in the form of a vote, are purists who defeat their overall value system…

One more quick thing: it seems to me that you will never find a categorizable group that does not contain members who make atrociously stupid statements. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, Pagans, Right-Wingers, Left-Wingers, Moderates, Whites, Blacks, Women, Men, Humans – every one of these groups contains blithering idiots. In other words, the category, “People Who Do Not Make Atrociously Stupid Statements,” is probably a completely empty category. Conversely, there are probably members of any conceivable group who have occasionally made profoundly wise statements. Just because you find someone who says something stupid and places themself on the left is no reason to turn in your leftist membership card.

I, having been challenged intellectually once again, felt compelled to respond with a retort of my own. And edited version appears below:

…. Let me start off by noting a problem common to both the fields of political science and philosophy: that being the problem of defining terms. It seems to be the curse of us intellectuals to spend as much time arguing over what various terms mean as we do arguing actual philosophical and political points. Take “extremism”. What does it mean? You would use the term to describe any person whose beliefs fall outside of the mainstream. My own definition is a bit more complex. I refer to a person as an extremist if they are a monist (a person who believes they are right and all other viewpoints are wrong) who seeks to stifle or even prevent others from expressing opposing viewpoints. If you look at the actions of anarchists at anti-immigrant rallies, they clearly qualify as extremists under this definition. Obviously, Marxist-Leninists and neo-Nazis would be considered extremists as well. However, persons like Martin Luther King and Gandhi would not seem to be included. This definition seems to be somewhat close to your term “purist”. But while you include anyone with inflexible positions, I narrow it to people who want us all to think as they do and would forcibly silence dissent.

This brings us to moderateism, that bane of the far left and right. Perhaps you’re right in that moderates tend to use their beliefs as a rationalization for their own extravagant lifestyles. But in a democracy, it is rare for any one political group to ever completely get its way. One will always have to compromise with the opposition in order to get things done. It’s fine to advocate an extreme position, such as the idea that animal life is just as valuable as human life. But you may come to the painful realization that most other Americans simply do not hold this view. In such cases, non-purists will find it necessary to moderate their positions if they want to make any advances at all. Of course, the risk of moderation is that you can compromise your positions to the point were it become unclear what you actually stand for (look at the current Democratic Party). Perhaps persons with extreme viewpoints and moderates need each other: The radicals propose unobtainable positions that the moderates water down to something that can actually be implemented.

As for the question of whether political violence is ever justified, I would have to answer in the affirmative. When struggling against a brutal, oppressive state, violent action may be necessary. However, even here we can differentiate between insurrectionary forces that seek to implement or restore democracy (the resistance movements in Europe during WWII) and those which have monist agendas of their own (the Chinese communists under Mao).

You also pose some interesting questions regarding how the right sees the left as well as questioning whether conservatism is time-relative. Firstly, conservatives tend to have a rather warped view of history. Many of them seem to honestly believe that conservatives were at the forefront of the civil rights and suffragist movements. I expect that in a couple of decades they will claim that gay rights have always been a conservative principal. They see liberals and leftists as being well meaning but deluded people who fail to understand that a strict social code is necessary to maintain social order. At the same time, leftism tends to be rather time-relative itself. During the French revolution, the new government passed resolutions condemning the idea of equality for women on the grounds that “natural law” obviously mandated that women be subservient to men. During the debate over slavery in the U.S., some southerners made the argument that to free the slaves would be as ridiculous as feeing their livestock. At that time, not even the most radical liberal advocated actually stopping the killing of animals for human comfort. My point is a hundred years from now leftists will be advocating a level of freedom and equality that would seem absurd to even you today. So as society moves steadily to the left, people on both the political right and left readjust their positions to match the changing times.

You also note that I sometimes pick the stupidest quote I can find by an individual extremist as a way to criticize an entire movement. Your criticism is quite valid. Along with some serious political discussion, a lot of what I do on my blog is shock value entertainment. I often take the “look at what a freak this person is” approach to get a quick laugh or horrified reaction. When I suggested that lefties turn in their membership cards after some stupid statements by anarchists regarding the 9/11 attacks, I was not making a serious suggestion. Rather, I was making a reference to a leftist writer who suggested she would stop being a leftist when she started reading lefty opinions supportive of the attacks. That day has unfortunately come…

OK, enough heavy political theory. Next week I’ll be back with a new update on the world of those weird, wild, and wacky radicals.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Lefty Writes In

An old friend of mine whose intellect I greatly respect recently wrote to me regarding this recent posting. He seems to take some umbrage to my frequent criticisms of leftists in general. Seeing as that the letter was intelligently written and contained some valid points, I’ve reprinted an edited version below:

When I think of the left, one of the first things that comes to mind is democracy. In the Spanish Civil War, for instance, although there were anarchists and communists on the Republican side (which I don’t think anyone would argue was anything but leftist), there were also people who wanted to restore and revitalize the democracy that Franco’s coup was overthrowing. I don’t think anyone on the right side of that conflict was in favor of any sort of democracy, but wanted a monarchy or a theocracy or some kind of fascist military state… Socialism is the second thing that comes to mind, from moderate well-fare measures and guaranteed health-care to full blown Marxism… The other things that come to mind are the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and women’s rights, unions and worker’s rights, minimum wage, fighting monopolies and corporate power, gay and lesbian rights, the fight to legalize interracial marriage, civil rights, environmentalism (again, using democratic governmental power to control corporate power), and animal rights. Of course, this is a small list, but it’s just an idea of the first things that come to mind. Oh yeah, how could I forget anarchism?

So what do all of these things have in common? It seems to me like they are all attempts to spread power out as equally as possible among the population. They all seem to be methods of identifying where there is a concentration of power within a small group, recognizing how this concentration comes at the expense of other, larger groups, and attempting to balance and equalize the situation as much as possible… Socialism does this in terms of economic power. Fighting corporations that exploit workers and consumers and the environment is a way to take power from a concentrated source and spread it out. Abolishing slavery took power from slave holders and attempted to spread it out among former slaves. Women’s suffrage attempted to reduce the concentration of political power in the hands of one sex and spread it out equally among both sexes. Women’s rights and civil rights movements seek to correct remaining power imbalances that remain in the form of prejudice. And so on and so on.

…The right, so far as I can tell, is the drive toward preserving and/or increasing existing power inequalities. The right believes it is natural and good that power concentrates itself in the hands of a few. The left sees this as the source of most of our problems… As it is, it appears to me that the left has proven itself the more justifiable path over and over and over again. Of course slavery was wrong, and so were monarchies, and so are racism and sexism and homophobia and speciesism. Of course worker’s rights are good, and environmental controls on corporate power, and marriage rights and health care for all. Yet all these ideas are considered absurd and dangerous and wrong by those who have gone off the right-wing and moderate deep ends - at least until the left has exerted enormous struggle to convince everyone otherwise. Eventually, even most people on the right will come around to accept as natural and good what were not too long ago extremist ideas of the looney left…

It seems to me that anyone who believes that “all men are created equal,” or, much, much more radically, that all human beings – even ones without white skin and penises – are equal, is an extreme looney leftist nutcake. So is anyone who believes in democracy, or worker’s rights, or interracial marriage. Anyone who is not an explicit racist, sexist, or homophobe is a radical leftist freak. Only most people are more comfortable, for some reason that seems to involve a complete lack of historical knowledge, to call themselves ‘moderates.’ Eventually, the moderates will accept gay marriage and animal rights, after a while, so will the conservatives. And then they will turn right around and warn of the dangerous left-wing extremists who are peeling away whatever the next, currently unperceivable, layers of prejudices will be.

My reply to the above letter (again in edited form) is below:

First of all, let me try to clarify my definitions. I generally agree with your premise that leftists have throughout history tried to democratize society both culturally and economically. Conservatives, on the other hand, try to keep economic and social power consolidated in the hands of the few. I would also agree that many of the demands made by the far left in the past, such as for progressive taxation and racial equality, are today considered mainstream, with even most conservatives embracing them. What is a radical leftist idea today will be commonplace politics tomorrow. However, there are two distinct branches of leftist thought. The first is comprised of persons who believe that social change should be brought about incrementally and democratically. These persons range in opinion from welfare state capitalists (today’s Democratic Party is a good example) to democratic socialists (as are commonly found in European parliamentary systems). I generally refer to these persons as “liberals”. Then there are the persons on the left who seek radical, immediate social and economic change, often through revolutionary activity. This group includes communists of all stripes, revolutionary socialists, and anarchists. I generically refer to these persons as “leftists” to differentiate them from liberals, although admittedly “radical leftist” might be a better term.

I think our main point of disagreement is on the historical record of radical leftism. You seem to see it as generally positive. I would describe it as uniformly dismal. One can look back to the French Revolution, which was in many ways the seminal event in the history of both liberalism and leftism. At first, everything went fairly well: The King was deposed, grain was distributed to the people, etc. Then the Jacobins pushed the liberals out of the way, and things got very unpleasant. The reign of terror lead to thousands of deaths. At its height, one could be arrested and executed for the crime of “moderateism”. The radicals tried to push for social and economic change far too quickly and brutally. The resulting chaos led to the rise of the emperor Napoleon. [More examples of failed leftist revolutions follow.]…

Finally, there are some philosophical problems with far left thought. In earlier times, the left was mostly concerned with securing the freedom of peoples from oppression: freedom from slavery, discrimination, sexism, exploitive labor, etc. Over the last hundred or so years, leftism in general has become more of a movement to secure an equality of results rather than a freedom from oppression. There are many anarchists in the US right now who favor a system in which no individual may own any sort of personal property whatsoever. Other more moderate socialists often suggest that all persons receive the same amount of pay for their jobs, regardless of the work performed. This is a recipe for social disaster. Without the incentive to earn additional income or gain more material goods, persons will have no reason to save, work hard, or take on unpleasant jobs. I say that a person who cleans sewers for a living deserves a higher paycheck than someone who writes film reviews. I also maintain that if a person leads a frugal lifestyle and reframes from buying things they don’t need, they shouldn’t be subject to asset forfeiture because they have “too much money”.
In summation: The radical left has some good ideas. Some of these ideas will be eventually be adopted by the mainstream. But left ideals are best put into practice when they are filtered through the moderating effects of liberalism. When the far left is given unfettered political power, dysfunctional and violent societies are usually the result.

So there. My revolutionary-minded friend wrote back with a reply to my reply. If I feel like inflicting some more heavy political theory on the readers of this blog, I’ll post it here after I compose another response of my own.