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Perry de Havilland at Samizdata tries to understand why the Left stumbled so badly just when it seemed about to win it all. In 2015 the Left had the media, academe, multilateral institutions firmly in the bag.  The European Union seemed forever and US Federal government appeared destined to remain in progressive hands.  The words “permanent progressive majority” and the end of the white race were  spoken of as accomplished fact.

Then came Brexit and Trump in a single annus horribilis with a suddenness that defied explanation.  The progressives went from dominance to defense in an instant. De Havilland has no comprehensive explanation of why the dramatic reversal took place but thinks the first sign of a Leftist stall was Gamergate in 2014, when the Arc of History started to mush and wing over.

Looking back, it’s hard to overstate the cultural significance of GamerGate: it marked when the Left suddenly and unexpectedly lost control of social media, right at the point where the influence of social media actually started to matter. … As has often been the case in military campaigns, when one side becomes greatly overextended, they only realise they have lost the initiative when they seek to advance and experience a completely unexpected reversal: a result that may seem obvious and perhaps even inevitable to a historian looking back, but which was far from obvious to the people on the ground at the time.

“Gamergate” is described by the Washington Post article as “an online backlash against progressive influence in gaming which cannot be described neutrally in one sentence”.  But a reasonable attempt might be “a series of events that turned the term ‘social justice warrior’ from a primarily positive term to an overwhelmingly negative one”.

The progressives should have paid attention to Gamergate which foreshadowed Brexit and Trump.  The triumphant advance; the same surprise and pell-mell retreat.  The leftist shock comes from the seemingly inexplicable rejection of their Gramscian project after the cumulative assent of long years.  Neil Munro in a Breitbart article argued that Trump’s immigration policies are stunning precisely because they reject what the Left saw a settled fact: “the claim by globalist progressives — including former President Barack Obama — that foreign people” have the right to cross borders and live where they want.

It’s a claim they’ve advanced, in little bits and pieces, for decades. When Obama plumped for open borders, people cheered. “If you look at the history of immigration in this country, each successive wave, there have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, ‘Well, I don’t want those folks’ — even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans.”

When the Schengen area was created people cheered.

When Angela Merkel threw open her country to Syrian refugees Time Magazine proclaimed her Person of the Year: “the Chancellor of the Free World”.

Yet when Trump announced his immigration policies people also cheered.

What gives?  What happened to all the previous assent.  It’s like progressives complaining “you’ve taken off your clothes, what do you mean you don’t want to go all the way?”   To them previous assent said open borders.  So let them in.


The sudden qualms are mystifying. As Perry de Havilland put it: “so certain was the Left that they had won the culture war, so confident with the established media under their effective control that ‘truth’ was theirs to declare, that they gave up on any pretence of objectivity. … And so they began to maneuver with the assurance and arrogance of an army under an umbrella of complete air(wave) supremacy, a supremacy that suddenly proved to be illusory”.

The Arc of History metaphor may explain why the apparently solid Gramscian triumph turned out to be a mirage.  Consider the arc of a projectile (like an artillery shell) influenced by gravity and air resistance. It describes a path shown in the diagram below.  In the beginning it’s downward slope is slight, but over time the shell’s descent steepens.  Similarly the Gramscian project initially makes modest demands, because they are careful and seek gains that are easily accommodated.  It’s slope is slight.  But as it gains power over more institutions the Left grows bolder.  The pace of “progress” quickens until near impact the progressive shell is descending almost vertically.


Perhaps when the Gramscian enterprise reaches a critical velocity the shear viscosity of society increases to the point where it becomes a barrier.  In an instant what was formerly yielding pudding becomes incredibly resistant like liquid armor.  The Left hits a wall.  Progressives, perplexed at this sudden change in resistance doubles down.  But this makes the liquid armor even more impenetrable and they double down some more. Unable to understand it they naturally  blame conspiracies.

Though only a metaphor this may help explain why the Left “suddenly” met resistance after years of uninterrupted and seemingly irreversible assent to their program. The sales pitch was going great until the moment the Gramscians had to state the price and show the product.  Then the customer looked in the box, shivered in horror and walked away.

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Augustus, This is the author John Williams’s acclaimed historical novel of Gaius Octavius, later Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. To tell the story, he uses the epistolary format (letters, journal entries, memoirs). Williams won the National Book Award for this book in 1973.

Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past), by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu. This book is the conclusion of China’s bestselling science fiction writer Liu’s epic trilogy that started with The Three-Body Problem. Set half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. But Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early twenty-first century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis, and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle? Liu won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Three-Body Problem, making it the first translated novel to win a major science fiction award.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, A memoir by Jacques Pepin, from his early beginnings as a frightened apprentice in an exacting Old World kitchen to his success as an Emmy Award-winning superstar who taught millions of Americans how to cook and shaped the nation’s tastes in the bargain.

La Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Cooking, by Jacques Pepin. A classic book on the fundamentals of cooking in traditional ways.

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The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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