Just a few words today. I had a different topic in mind--got some things to say about whether or not the independent left should work with the "populist right"--but there's a bit of unfinished business from last week.
There are several people here who feel that this site now belongs to those with one set of beliefs. There are probably people on both sides of the COVID issue who feel that way. It wouldn't surprise me.
I don't own the site or run it (obviously), but I was involved, intimately, in the founding of it. There's probably only one or two people here that pre-date my involvement with the project. I was the one who recruited many of the site's most constant participants.
If the site has become the property of people with one set of beliefs, then the project I worked on has come to an end. I won't say failed, because to run a site based on the values of intellectual honesty, free expression, and civility even for a little while, much less years, is not a failure but an astounding success, given what's happening all around us--and why it's happening. A word about what's happening and why: where most people out in the world, or at least in our country, see simple, organic truths (people holding beliefs because, well, they just do), what I see are engineered constructs, narratives powered by a truly unholy amount of money. The elites of the English-speaking world, having finished their military and economic conquest of at least half the world, have now set their minds to finishing their conquest of that half the world's cultures. They had already made a partial conquest of American culture because there was no other way for them to complete their economic and military conquest of half the world. If you want more details of how this went down, reading the Powell memo is a good start. You can find it on the Greenpeace site, here:
Now that they have achieved their economic and military goals, they are backtracking to make sure that their dominance is absolute. As the Powell memo shows, the elites are very much aware of the importance of culture to any scheme for dominating others, and they know from bitter experience that the American people are capable of using their culture, faulty though it has always been, to resist totalitarianism. In fact, the only way to ensure absolute control over any society is to control the imagination; to create a situation where only certain ideas are conceivable, or, failing that, to create a narrative slaughterhouse that corrals any new ideas into pens before rendering them into a hamburger status quo.
Sadly for us, you can't eradicate or change a culture without digging into people's brains, because that's where cultures reside. In fact, cultures exist most powerfully not in the conscious mind, but in the shadowy, half-conscious place where you find a person's fundamental assumptions, rarely questioned.
That's bad for us, because it means that this conquest requires the invasion of our most private selves, the manipulation of both our conscious and our half-conscious minds (I don't talk about the unconscious, because I see that as pretty damned unknowable, and leave it to professional psychologists and philosophers). That's why so much money is being spent on the 24/7 noise machine. That's why social media is so heavily infiltrated with paid manipulators. That's why "internet influencers" is a job and why "perception management" is an industry. We are being manipulated now at an incredibly private and detailed level, because the only world left to conquer--aside from a few rival nuclear superpowers--is our minds.
The elites' conquest of culture is now interfering with people's ability to converse with one another and have personal relationships. Dead totalitarians must be spinning in their graves with envy. They did the best they could with radio, but radio ain't social media.
We've been in a particularly ugly phase of that conquest since 2016, because large swaths of resistant people became, instead, The Resistance. Yet the advent of Trump and the launching of a new political paradigm (where you prove your left-wing bonafides by embracing right-wing ideas and politicians, and get attacked as right-wing if you maintain your left-wing principles) was apparently insufficient to hammer people's minds into the shapes the elites desired. There were still too many stragglers. The making of a plague into a partisan political object gave them the larger hammer they needed. Few people will remain untouched by a narrative driven by the fear of horrible death.
Here's what I believe: I think that the relationships on this site are worth more than any political position we could take. They are our treasure. We would do well not to allow them to be taken from us by the elites. The fact that they're using a narrative that we can no longer ignore (since it impacts our survival) doesn't mean we should abandon our principles, the principal of which is our mutual respect. I believe that no decent goal can be accomplished if it's founded on disrespect or intolerance of dissent. Even if we believe that our fellows are extraordinarily wrong, to their own detriment and ours, we must respect their right to be wrong. Whatever our fears, whether they be agonizing death from disease or the destruction of our liberty by an authoritarian government, they do not justify attacking one another--not when we are all under such a profound and ubiquitous attack.
I do not believe that JtC wishes anybody to feel like they have no place here. He has said multiple times that he does not wish this site to be univocal, ideologically or otherwise. But if anyone feels, because of the way they have been treated in conversations here, that the site has no place for you, please feel free to come into my Open Thread and express yourself. My Open Thread, as long as it lasts, will never be run under any principles other than those endorsed, once upon a time, by Harold Laski and Ed Murrow:
Anyone considering leaving this site because you feel the site has no place for those with your views, please feel welcome in this Open Thread. I would greatly prefer not to lose you. And I hope that, if you feel mistreated here in this OT, that you will send me a private message. God knows I don't relish taking on moderation duties, but if that's what it takes to keep people here, conversing, I most certainly will.
I end with the words of Thomas Jefferson, because even a man who does bad things can have a good idea:
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.