Prophets of DOOM!!!

The Bitter Pill #7

Kelly Kenoyer’s list of some of the “myriad reasons” for impeaching Trump does a good job of demonstrating how lacking the EW’s case for impeachment is in the sort of substance that might serve as common ground across ideological lines.

“Our Institutions Won’t Save Us,” as Baynard Woods’ article in the same issue frames the situation, exactly because “we’re” not content with established standards of legal authority and factual proof. Behind Woods’ call to trump our institutions, forcing the hand of Trump’s cabinet through mass protests, lies a more fundamental attempt to replace these standards with the emotional conviction of the group that has coalesced in opposition to the legitimacy of 45’s election.

As is, causing people embarrassment through idiotic tweeting is not a high crime; nor is setting an amoral example for children; nor is an unwillingness to denounce white supremacists in exactly the way many want.

None of this matters, though, to the #Resistance, as expressed in the pages of the EW. When Konyer declares that it’s time to impeach Trump, it’s not because she’s recently arrived at the conviction that Trump ought to be impeached. This conviction no doubt preceded even his inauguration; perhaps even his securing of the Republican nomination. Rather, she means to express an end to waiting for the factual discovery of some impeachable offense. The collective revulsion of many (but by no means all) is crime enough; just as it was crime enough for those who spent much of Obama’s first term howling over that Kenyan-Commie-Muslim’s fake birth certificate.

Forget that there’s a Special Counsel with an effectively unlimited budget rummaging through the histories of Trump and all of his associates in search of some crime, whether related or not to the last election. We must don our pussy hats and take to the streets so as to turn, by the force of chaos, our conviction into reality.

If this call isn’t heeded, Woods declares in a comic turn, “there will be more battles in the streets … there will be doom.” Yes: if we don’t take to the streets to overthrow Trump, there will be more battles for control of the streets. If you can wrap your head around that paradox, you’re comprehension is beyond mine. Apparently, Woods imagines that tens of millions of Trump supporters will be content to sit home and watch the election results get overturned by legions of pussy-hatted moms getting thrown into prison for something or other.

So goes the fantasy.

Thing is: It’s one thing to preach at the choir and something else to actually remove a president in a country where many millions of people don’t agree on the basic narrative. Willfully ignoring those people, and their narrative, does not make them simply disappear.

Clearly the EW is intent on living in an ideological bubble, as if its contours defined the full extent of reasonable opinion. Fair enough. There are consequences, though, to cultivating an absence of viewpoint diversity. The resulting lack of circumspection renders the paper incapable of seriously approaching such consequential issues as impeachment. This, in itself, is no great problem, except insofar as people take the paper’s pretenses seriously.

I guess it’s silly to imagine that anyone takes the Weekly seriously. Still, the danger lies not in the EW, whose pronouncements on impeachment are very likely to have no more impact than previous declarations of the Next Big Thing, or their recent October vacation advice to “Go North.” Generally speaking, the Weekly is irrelevant, and therefore as free to indulge in half-baked pontification as the rest of us. This indulgence, however, strikes me as symptomatic of a deepening trend of confusing factional catechisms for that sort of wisdom upon which a pluralistic society might, if not flourish, at least not go to hell.

The Anti-Antifa Supremacist Must Be Stopped!

The sheer inanity of these catechisms might be glimpsed in a phrase appearing in Esther Barkai’s exhibition review (“Is There a Jewish Art?”), in the same issue: anti-antifa supremacist. I imagine within the EW this bizarre formulation was regarded as double-plus good, but those of us on the outside might wonder what in the fuck it refers to – at least briefly, before moving on to read our horoscope.

To put it in the vernacular, an “anti-antifa supremacist” is not a thing. At the very least, it’s not a thing anyone needs to worry over. It is, rather, a figment of the EW’s narrative of victimization, by which the paper locates itself within the larger hysteria over emboldened Nazis poised to run amok.

Barkai’s review “Is There a Jewish Art?” appears on the same page as another review entitled, “Are These Even Photographs?” Seems to me a next step in this progression, “Is This Even a Newspaper?”, might have finally gotten somewhere (a topic engaged at some length in Bitter Pill #4: Very Much Like a Newspaper). Somehow, though, deconstructionists always manage to avoid deconstructing themselves.

There is an idealism essential to the concept of “newspaper” so regularly betrayed by experience as to discredit the foundation of the form. After all, if all we have are self-serving narrative structures, how can there be any difference between news and propaganda? “News” presupposes an objective world, and an attempt to report it in good faith. If all we have are self-serving social constructions, there’s no such thing as “news.”

There is a very slippery slope leading from intellectual relativism to emotional cynicism. It seems to me that many people, like those at the EW, keep themselves from sliding down this slope by clinging to a religious devotion to “diversity”. There’s a sort of inverse relationship going on. As liberals become increasingly convinced by the sophistication of intellectual relativism, they save their sense of emotional identity by becoming increasingly infantile adherents to the Cult of Diversity.

Relativism destroyed the possibility of their ideals, revealing the moral landscape once supposed to measure the content of character to be nothing more than a self-serving class fiction. Hence the unfolding mania of seeking to demonstrate one’s ally-ship to the historically dispossessed, as historical marginalization is the only measure of moral righteousness left standing. Put another way: as there’s no longer any standard by which to judge the value of words, all that ultimately matters is who says them. This new cult has the virtue of being simple. It is as perfectly vulgar as racism itself, yet with an opposite moral charge, and an updated intellectual sheen.

Of course this value structure isn’t entirely overt. It’s spelled out in the writing on the wall. You have to read between the lines. Barkai, for example, touches on it in her declaration that “we… are strongly tied to the idea that artists should ‘say something’ with their art, preferably on behalf of a cultural group with which the artist identifies.” In case the awkwardness of the prose confused you, to be “strongly tied to the idea” is what we used to refer to as “believe.”

This, then, is a credal statement, a statement of belief like:

We believe in one God, creator of Heaven and Earth.

More than that, though, it is a statement driven to self-parody by its own denial of objectivity. Notice that the artists are somehow empowered to ‘say something on behalf’ of whatever cultural group they identify with. Authority to speak “on behalf” of some “cultural group” is granted to the artist by the artist. Any real artist with a modicum of self-awareness will recognize immediately how this system will be gamed, consciously and unconsciously, by people seeking validity through appropriation of cultural identity.

Little wonder, then, the sudden profusion of trans-identities, as people seek after some concept of personhood that will advance their social position and sense of moral esteem. This needn’t be regarded as psychopathic, given how vulnerable we all are to social estimation. Yes, it verges on psychopathy, and is a system within which psychopaths will excel, but as is now well-understood, there’s a steep price to pay for internalizing membership in a deprecated social class. You can’t blame rats for fleeing a sinking ship.

A few years ago, Rachel Dolezal passing herself off as a black woman smacked of self-serving madness, and was generally regarded as an offense against the lived experience of actual black women. These days, though, the conceptual explanation of that judgment have been undermined by the religious embrace of identity as needing no justification beyond personal conviction.

More than that, self-assertion of identity without reference to any objective limits – so long as such self-assertions illustrate the growth of the ideology now coming into the ascendent – is praised as if it were a sacred act of liberation. Problem is, it might be just a self-deluding leap into a solipsistic cul-de-sac.

With this, we arrive back at the beginning, to the idea of impeaching Trump based on a shared conviction of his illegitimacy. In both arenas we see the same movement toward excluding established standards of objectivity from the supposedly self-sufficient relationship of force and conviction. As long as we just believe strongly enough, whatever it is we believe becomes true.

Problem is, it never does in the way we imagine, as the rejection of factuality that enables the perfection of our ideological safe space destroys the possibility of common ground and dooms us to ideological conflict against a demonized other. In fleeing self-righteously from our fears, we are bound to blunderingly create the nightmare we suppose ourselves to be fighting to avoid.

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