Belmont Club

No more worlds to conquer and still out of money

No more worlds to conquer and still out of money
No hate speech (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Behind hue and cry over the alt-right/ctrl-left clashes lurks the big stakes game for control of the state.  Past tyranny operated through control of the state, via organs of censorship, surveillance, the criminal justice system and propaganda.  Without these it is merely an impotent spirit of malice, condemned to haunt little bookstores and beer gardens. Neither Nazism nor Bolshevism was possible with a small state. From the Third Reich to Maduro’s Venezuela amts, diensts and bureaus have been the true foot inside the boot in the human face.  Without Deep State actors ready to exploit it the Reichstag Fire would have just another alarm for the Berlin fire department.

Knowing this, Western societies built great states to protect themselves from tyranny’s return, armed with speech codes, reputation indexes and speech laws. “We have drawn a different lesson from history”, was how some European commentators reacted to violence in Charlottesville.  That lesson can be summarized thus: “strict laws against hate speech are at the heart of the European’s reckoning with the Nazi past.”  They’ll not give up the state — just make sure that it never falls into the wrong hands.

It’s about the hands, always about the hands.  What happens in riots is unimportant except as it affects control of the state.

The asymmetry in the strategic goals of Red and Blue derives from the importance of the state to each. For progressives, survival means retaining ascendance over the state.  For the Red or Populist side, the goal is merely to keep the state from being ascendant over them. This asymmetry is the great weakness of the Progressives. If they don’t win they lose. For Rebels, if they don’t lose they win.  Consider Google’s firing of James Damore for questioning the company’s diversity policies. It wasn’t about opinion, it was about control. Everyone can have an opinion but only one side can be in control.  Damore had to be thrown out to “win”. Glenn Reynolds writes:

The Damore firing, and Pichai’s disgraceful handling of it, represents colossal damage to Google’s brand. In essence, it’s an announcement — by a company that has access to everyone’s data — that it endorses the notion of thought-crime.

Yet even Google cannot pursue this strategy of control forever. Sooner or later the costs of witch hunting will be too high.  A progressive movement that has routinely regarded the pacification of Vietnam, Iraq or Cuba uneconomical must surely realize the suppression of half of America is infeasible.  The raised tone and heightened warnings of cultural elites inspires little confidence.  They are reminiscent of lion-tamers shouting to keep the beasts under control.  It’s strategic asymmetry at work.  For progressives, the show means controlling the lions. For the lions all they have to do to end the performance is walk out of the ring.  They don’t even have to bite the tamers.

Right now the lions and their tamers are in a standoff.  Historically conflicts between two evenly matched forces start with attempts by each to win quick victory followed by a long period of disillusioning attrition.  The Populist Uprising and the Elite Resistance may have had high hopes at the start of 2017 but they are now dissolving in the realization neither side will readily yield.  In the coming months each will sap the other’s strength while the external enemies — like China, Russia and North Korea — exploit the resulting gaps in the former unity.

The progressives still have an enormous power legacy but “like a cut flower in a vase” are in historical decline.  The reason is simple.  Their great states are broke.  The big institutions have filled the world yet are still out of money, bloated yet unable to seal borders of Europe against uncontrolled immigration,  contemptuous of Putin yet incapable of funding a defense against Russia, confident in their superiority while shrinking in comparison to China. The gigantic states designed to preserve us from tyranny must burn the village in order to save it.  What they haven’t realized yet is they live in the village too.

Under these circumstances it’s hard to see how progressives can re-establish their former ascendancy over culture and politics.  They’re no longer the future.  The trouble is that nobody knows what is.

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The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency , by Chris Whipple. The book offers an essential portrait of the toughest job in Washington. Through extensive, intimate interviews with all seventeen living chiefs and two former presidents, Whipple pulls back the curtain on this unique fraternity and revises our understanding of presidential history.

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For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
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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