16 August 2017

The Alt-Center's Share of the Blame

So President Cheeto is now counterfactually blaming the "alt-left" (whatever that is) for violence by fascists. Leaving aside for the moment that that's blaming Heather Heyer for putting dents in her murderer's car bumper, where's the blame for the alt-center — the chickenshit attitude shared by so many that, flying a purported flag of compromise, refuses to condemn extremist views (usually with hidden agendas) for fear of being seen to condemn any individual… or for fear of upsetting advertisers or media-magnate owners or inhibiting access to self-interested "insiders" for future stories? Who think that allowing all sides in an argument to speak also means granting all sides in an argument credibility and refusing to make any decision that is not some finely balanced "compromise"?

This is where "the media" — and especially the "post-mainsteam" media — has to accept some share of the blame. Until something outrageous happens, we're stuck with false journalistic evenhandedness: The refusal to say "This is an accurate report of the reprehensible and wrongful views stated by X," and really meaning it and defending the basis for declaring those views "wrong," at the obvious risk of being wrong oneself. Every newspaper story in the Nazi-Zeitung or Sinclair Broadcasting editorial (broadcast on the only commercial VHF station in town, one might add) surrounding the 2010 census that adopted a veneer of pride over East Central Illinois being projected to remain considerably "whiter" than the rest of the state, or the rest of the country, through 2030. Every newspaper and local-media (and even Big Media) story about global warming that states the views of denialists without noting that none of the "science" put forth by denialists has stood up to a single mathematical analysis. Every report on the successes of recasting American high schools as job-training centers for today's low-skill manufacturing systems that fails to acknowledge the need to retrain in a decade and a half when those manufacturing jobs become obsolete and these well-trained workers don't have sufficient education (or, because the companies that exploited them underpaid them due to union-busting among other things, resources) to shift to new careers without going through a couple of years of poverty. More to the point, every monument and monograph and monologue that celebrates the "heroism" and "skill" and "leadership" of some foolish ancestor or hero — whether Chiang Kai-Shek or Mao Tse-Tung is irrelevant — in complete isolation from what he or she or they fought over, and their unenlightened immediate personal interests in that struggle, or sheer stupidity in just showing solidarity with the tribe when the tribe was wrong.

History teaches that it's an almost fatal error to equate "opponent" with "stupid"; to refuse to accept that the Germans might be smart enough to spot your Maginot Line fortifications and rebuild their forces and tactics to negate them. History also teaches that it's an almost fatal error to equate "skilled" or "brave" with "right," because behind the Wehrmacht (which, admittedly, was fighting a pretty stupid — however individually brave — opponent whose equipment and tactics were mired in those that provided advantages to the ossified ruling structure) came the SS, and everybody who was actually looking knew it by 1940. That we've learned that we have to be careful about condemning different views and perspectives as "wrong" doesn't mean that, after careful consideration, we can no longer do so: It means that we have to engage in that careful consideration, and both act on the careful consideration once it's been performed and reconsider when new evidence comes in that we ourselves might have been wrong. For example, we should have learned that "but he's our bastard, and he's anticommunist" is not a sufficient or workable rationale for propping up a tyrant long before the 1960s and 1970s. And 1980s and 1990s. And stopped doing it.

This is the failure of the alt-center: Rather than engage in that consideration, it substitutes providing a platform and walking away to wallow in its own self-satisfied isolationism. The alt-center considers its role complete once it allows everyone to have their say… but doesn't actually listen. It especially doesn't listen when someone points out that Islam's treatment of women is wrong — and parallel to the West's treatment of women less than two centuries ago. Really: You think that, after removing linguistic tics and localism and bringing the wider context back in, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre represent something that doesn't play out in Jiddah (or Jakarta) today, including the mistreatment? Or refugees in the Levant (it's not just Syrian, and it's not just now). Or anything else. Refusing to decide is a decision. Being in the "center" because one is interested in compromise is different from the alt-center, which remains undecided because it doesn't want to do the hard work of research and self-examination and consideration, avoids all conflict however appropriate, and would rather just enhance the power and money it already has, and think it can avoid the risk of being wrong by not taking the risk of being right.

And so: This blawg can be safely added to the list of anti-Cheeto websites; I encourage you to visit it using a VPN to protect yourselves from either the Cheeto forces or any other set of extremists — most especially, data brokers. More damningly in the current environment, it can hopefully be added to the list of the anti-stupid websites that the financial basis of the modern media (both "commercial" and "alt-") disdains.