Kids with Matches: HBO’s Watchmen, a White Fantasy of Progressive Agitprop

Flatter than a Comic Strip  

Damon Lindelof’s HBO conversion of the world of Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ anarchic graphic novel Watchmen into a combination of self-congratulatory white liberal polemic with black revenge fantasy is the most fascinatingly repellent TV show I have seen in quite some time. It’s also a sobering illustration of why not to give matches to children.

The enterprise was conceived by showrunner Damon Lindelof, the (white) man who gave us the heavy-handed and self-important The Leftovers. Lindelof is also the writer of Cowboys and Aliens, Prometheus, and Star Trek into Darkness, as well as the Lost TV show, including the series finale, widely (and accurately) viewed as the worst television finale in history. For his new show, he has worked with a number of co-writers and directors: Nicole Kassell (white, female) Stephen Williams (black, male), Nick Cuse (white, male), Cord Jefferson (black, male), Lila Byock (white, female), Christal Henry (black, female), Andrij Parekh (Asian, male), Claire Kiechel (white, female), Carly Wray (white, female), Steph Green (white, female), Stacy Osei-Kuffour (black, female), David Semel (white, male), Jeff Jensen (white, male) and Frederick E.O. Toye (white, male). Together this cross-racial plurality, armed with enthusiasm, an impressive skillset, and (I presume) the very best of intentions, have set about to make the shallow deep. In the process, they have succeeded in creating something far more superficial than a comic strip: a (mostly) white fantasy of progressive agitprop.

The original Watchmen graphic novel subjected the superhero tradition to a searching, searing intelligence. By expanding a two-dimensional medium into a third dimension, Moore and Gibbons discovered previously untapped depths trapped inside the old conventions. What they discovered, and articulated, was how, on its way to the next dimension, the 2D material did a “flip-over,”  and subverted itself. In Moore’s and Gibbon’s work, the “right is might” superhero ethos was revealed, starkly, as the “might is right” pathology of the State-sanctioned fascist and the deranged vigilante. At the same time, the more overtly superhuman characters, the godlike Ozymandias and the godly Dr. Manhattan, were revealed as disinterested post-humans mostly indistinguishable from sociopaths. Yet, as in a Phillip K. Dick novel, the extremes of the superhuman opened up new possibilities for humanness to be (re-)discovered, and what made Watchmen so delightful and disturbing to readers was the experience of watching its creators making their own discoveries about the material they were reinterpreting.

The TV Watchmen reverses this process. It sets out to reinterpret (or “remix”) the graphic novel, not by using it as a means of discovery but by forcing it to conform to the new medium and to a (pre-prepared) new message. It’s a self-consciously “topical” and “progressive” TV show, similar in purpose and method to The Handmaid’s Tale, though it’s aesthetically closer to HBO’s last overwritten dud, Westworld. Like these shows, it aspires not merely to entertain but to address race and gender relations in a post-Trump, post-reality world. In the process, rather than engaging Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ material in an open dialogue, or even offering a loving homage to it (both of which the graphic novel did with superhero comics), it converts it into a vehicle for its own idealist agenda. In the process of imposing its somewhat more sophisticated or “nuanced” version of politically correct, build-a-better-world social justice warrior new-liberalism onto the source material, HBO’s Watchmen flattens it out and creates something hollow, lifeless, and grotesque.

That at least was my experience, and I highly doubt if many of the original admirers of Watchmen found much to enjoy or admire in this “2020 vision” of it. The graphic novel emerged from the personal vision of two artists (white men, and both Brits), grooving to the possibilities of both reinventing and subverting what was basically a kids’ medium. But the anarchic qualities that made Watchmen so refreshing and innovative back in 1986-87 are almost entirely absent from the TV show. By setting out to replicate characters and scenarios from an ideological position that strives above all for social relevance and political correctness, the HBO show effectively neutralizes everything that gave the comic book its unique buzz. There is a world of difference between a personal vision that’s essentially playful, and experimental, and an ideological agenda that is all work and no play and that dulls all of our senses. The way it combines the facile with the sophisticated makes Watchmen never less than fascinating, however, and because of that I stuck with it, all the way to the bitter end.

Decentering Whiteness

To give an idea about the sort of progressive ideology which the Watchmen show is platforming, the following is from “White Silence Is Violence,” at LA Progressive, the online site for The Left Coast Forum, a “covening of progressive activists, scholars, organizers, documentarians, media organizations and others who work to understand and restructure systems of oppression”:

Invisibility gives white supremacy power. Call it out. Use white privilege to interrupt white supremacy; to dismantle white supremacy; to take a back seat and support others who have been oppressed by white supremacy—to give those who have been oppressed by white supremacy opportunities they have been denied, and to learn from those who have been oppressed by white supremacy. And use your privilege to listen. America has a system that has been built around making space for, centering, and hearing white voices above others and it is time for us to be quiet and really listen. It is also time for white people to understand that all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter too.

In the interests of decentering whiteness, Watchmen makes its black characters central to the story and then it makes their blackness central to their identity. Yet besides the revenge fantasy elements, the show doesn’t seem to me like it would particularly appeal to black people. In contrast to Atlanta (a show I very much enjoyed), Watchmen is a show about black people that seems mainly to have been made for white people. Yet not for white (or black) fans of the graphic novel. If memory serves, mainly because it was faithful to the genre conventions, the only black characters in the comic book are the newsvendor and Rorschach’s psychiatrist. That would be unthinkable for a 2019 American mainstream TV show, however, and would even make it ineligible for funding. But then I would guess that any big budget multiracial drama produced in the US today would have to make racial injustice central to its premise in order to get made.

White decentricists all, Lindelof & co. are dutifully conscientious in placing non-white characters front and center in their narrative. They have invented a lead character who is both black and female (Angela Abar) and, in case that’s not enough, they have transformed two of the original characters from white to black, via the deus ex machina of the presiding liberal (super-)conscience. Yet, token black writers and directors notwithstanding, these characters are invented, and reinvented, by white “liberals” who (I presume) sincerely believe in their social justice mission to restore racial balance and equality. Central to this mission is the affirmation of black grievance and the manufacturing of black revenge fantasies. For what better way to move the black man and woman to the center than to emphasize their victim status? Ironically, this may be a predominantly white perspective of what being black “means.” Kids with matches.

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In episode 6, “This Extraordinary Being,” Hooded Justice is revealed to be a black (bisexual) man as a way to more firmly establish the show’s whole-cloth reinvention of the source material as primarily about racial inequality and violence. (The original Watchmen wasn’t concerned with what it meant to be black or white, but what it meant to be human.) Watching the orgiastic scenes of black justice, in which the beaten-down cop kills the evil white supremacists bent on turning blacks into rioting savages via mind control technology, I said to my wife: “Are they trying to start a race war?” In case the reader is wondering, I wasn’t referring to the evil white supremacists in the show but to the creators of it. What better way to foment racial violence than to play upon—pump up and cynically exploit—black people’s feelings of injustice and then offer a fetishized fantasy-template for violent revenge? Is this how a culture commits hara-kiri? Suicide by oppressed minority?

In my experience, what happens when black characters are conceived and represented by mostly white, privileged progressives with good intentions is that an aura of righteous indignation and progressive satisfaction transfers from the writers to the characters. One consequence of this is that it makes those characters seem overly strident and slightly repellent. HBO’s Watchmen seems designed to play on both white guilt and black outrage. Watching it as a white man, I found myself wondering if my reaction to these characters, my finding them slightly repellent, made me a racist, too? (Unconscious racism has to be rooted out; the show is even savvy enough to have a couple of jokes about it.) But what repelled me about them wasn’t their blackness; it was because they are avatars for a Molotov cocktail of liberal white guilt and cynical corporate opportunism.

The new black heroes conceived by (mostly) white progressives are a bit like reverse Uncle Toms: their main function is to affirm white guilt. But pride and shame are two sides of the same coin, and by turning shame into virtue, progressives have started taking pride in their shame—maybe so they never have to feel ashamed again. By placing the (oppressed) black person in the center of their white guilt fantasies, they recruit him, once again, into an age-old agenda of narcissistic self-regard. Worse, they turn the black man into a mirror image of themselves. (I would like to hear Spike Lee’s take on Lindelof’s Watchmen.)

This is most fully—and shamelessly—revealed in the episodes in which Dr. Manhattan, the superhero we have been waiting five episodes to see, regains his humanity. These shark-jumping episodes depict how, out of love for the noble black woman, Dr. Manhattan chooses to forget himself and become fully human. Why does he do this? Mainly because his godliness has started annoying his woman. How does he accomplish it? By the (ironically quite Christian) feat of resurrecting the body of a black man and entering into it.

So it is that Dr. Manhattan regains his humanity: a) by becoming a romantic hero; and b) by transforming into a black man with a very large schlong (talk about runaway white progressive fantasies!). In passing, there’s a weird, slightly creepy aspect to this. In Whitley Strieber’s Transformation, he recounts this exchange with the small blue beings he is abducted by:

I blurted out the first thought that popped into my mind: “You’re blue!” One of them looked back over his shoulder when I spoke. He had a broad, flat face that almost seemed to grimace at me, so wide was the mouth. He fluttered the heavy lids on his deep, shining eyes and said, “We used to be like your blacks but we decided this was better.”

 

Deifying Blackness

The reanimated corpse belongs to Cal, one of the supporting black characters we have already come to know and love (or else!), since he is married to Angela at the start of the show. Angela and Cal have several adopted kids (brown ones). As an example of their enlightened parenting, Cal tells his daughter, “Sweetheart, heaven is pretend. Before Uncle Judd was born, he was nowhere, didn’t exist. Now he’s nowhere again.” In response to a look from his wife, Cal says defensively, “It’s the truth.” The show wants us to see Cal as a noble progressive black man who cannot lie. Technically, he did exactly that when his daughter asked him about Heaven, but that’s OK: being a liberal-progressive means never having to say “I don’t know” (a well-known perk of liberal-progressives is having all the answers). For me, this moment adequately summed up the mix of arrogance, ignorance, and covert nihilism which the show is peddling.

In Watchmen the graphic novel, we saw Dr. Manhattan drifting further and further from his human origins until he literally went to Mars. Via his relationship to Laurie Blake, we saw his diminishing capacity for ordinary romantic feelings or responses. The TV show ignores all of this. It has Dr. Manhattan inexplicably falling in love with Angela Abar, single black female, presumably because she is so noble and good that she not only reawakens the techno-god’s heart, she brings out the black man within. Among other things, the HBO Watchmen would seem to confirm Alex Pappademas’s recent observation that “the allure of Marvel’s paper universe had less to do with its echoes of Perseus or Gilgamesh and more to do with what it took from soap opera.” Simply put, Dr. Manhattan can’t be the hero of an HBO TV show about how to improve race relations by decentering whiteness until he is made romantically eligible—interracially so—and then painted black.

After ten years of humanness and marital harmony, circumstances dictate that the noble black man Cal must die and transform (back) into Dr. Manhattan. Angela lovingly smashes his skull in with a hammer (no time for crucifixions) and removes the brain implant that caused his amnesia. When the blue god man returns, however, for reasons never explained, he retains the features of the Cal-corpse he animated. Presumably the show-makers are too confident by now that they have us by the ideological short and curlies to bother with an explanation. Dr. Manhattan wills it, that is enough. We may have also wondered previously why they conspicuously refrained from showing us Dr. Manhattan’s face while it was still the face of a white man; presumably it was to reduce our resistance at this point.

Who dares to ask by now why God has to assume the face of the black man? Haven’t we been paying attention? It’s essential to the show’s schemata that God is black and blue and a nihilist too: but it’s OK, he has learned to simulate the miracle of romantic love, and he is united with his woman in mutual murderous hatred of white supremacists. To be fair, it’s really love at last sight, not first, because Dr. Manhattan doesn’t fully grok why he loves Angela Abar until the moment he sees her heading out to slaughter the faceless racists who have come to kill God (though not because he’s gone black, that’s something they never even notice—some racists!!).

 

Watchmen is the ultimate intersectionality morality play, in which the superior white man (east coast blue blood patriarch) chooses to become a black stay-at-home dad; still insufficiently humbled, however (he is still a man, face it), he then hands over his power to the woman (in the form of the magic egg he leaves for his wife) and willingly opts for self-abnegation, dissolution. It’s the superhero genre equivalent of Noam Baumbach’s superior soap opera Marriage Story, in which the husband and father played by Adam Driver has to be literally brought to his knees, and then become prostrate on the kitchen floor, before his submission to the woman’s desire is complete. Only then can he be redeemed, and relocate to Los Angeles to support her TV career.

Watchmen is a motley collection of self-castigating, self-glorifying fantasies of (mostly) white, privileged progressives (of both sexes), and so naturally this same class of people are now praising the show to the heavens—with or without directly referring to its intersectional transubstantiation miracles. Online audience ratings are roughly half the critic ratings, however (around 50% in favor), and naturally, critics are trying to blame the discrepancy on “review bombing” by disgruntled fans (or white supremacists). Even if this is partially true, doesn’t it still indicate the level of displeasure the show has caused people? I feel like review bombing this show myself, not least because of the crazy amount of praise it’s been receiving. The attribution of viewer displeasure to ideological differences is yet more evidence of ideological possession at work, as if the only reason to object to being propagandized by a TV show is disagreement with the ideology being pushed. This is common to those who believe they are on the winning side of history: they don’t see their viewpoint as ideological, only as true. So if you find the Watchmen show ideologically top-heavy, the problem’s in you, dear viewer, not the stars: you are probably a right-wing troll.

Yet outside of the US mind-field of critical theory leftist-progressive newthink, I think it’s highly doubtful the show was ever going to appeal to other cultures in quite the same way, even if many of the reviews want to argue otherwise (the show is so strident in its moralism that some viewers may be cowed to go along). That the show follows an ideological template rather than a dramatic one is evident throughout, and it’s this that audience dissenters are objecting to, as much as or more than any specific  ideological elements. Complaining that Watchmen is all about decentering whiteness and racial injustice is not the same as taking a political position against these things. It is first and foremost an aesthetic objection, rather than an ideological one. Simply put, art is no place for ideology.

The show’s latent, but also blatant, dishonesty is probably nowhere more evident than when the new, reborn Dr. Manhattan appears before the white supremacists, who have abducted Laurie Blake as a witness to his death. Neither the racists nor his former lover seem to notice that Dr. Manhattan now has the face of a black man (with blue skin). Or maybe they do notice but are sensitive to the political climate and decide not to mention it? The show has done its level best by this point to neutralize our disbelief, but the main power it wields is that of its ideological convictions: we are not supposed to be responding to the show on the level of narrative coherence anymore (if we ever were), but only that of intersectional justice. And if you aren’t for it, you’re agin it.

When Social Justice Narcissists Seize the Ship of State

Another significant distinction from the comic book is especially ironic considering the show’s seemingly “leftist” slant. While superficially critical of the masked vigilante, the Watchmen show seems to implicitly signal us to trust in authority. This contradiction may be at the heart of the new leftist-progressive mindset, which is becoming more and more compatible with—even indistinguishable from—authoritarianism.  The white male patriarchy is the source of all the world’s problems, sure, but the institutions it has built, the edifices of power, are basically sound and just need to be populated and managed by the right minorities. The center remains the same, it is only who gets placed there that needs to change. Now the white male is out of power, the black female empowered, the ship of state can be steered steadily towards justice, unhooded.

The new leftist position (as it comes closer and closer to narrative-dominance) is that there is nothing wrong with state power or police action, as long as the right people are behind it. The original Watchmen questioned the use of force to solve problems and suggested that the will to power—becoming superhuman—was sourced in trauma and neurosis and the root of greater evils to come. It was never suggested as a cure for it. The TV version manages somehow to have it both ways. It eschews the need for masks—vigilantism—and it soft-questions the use of force. But at the same time, it presents force, authority, power, as necessary to restore balance, equality, and justice to the world. The ethos has come full circle, from right is might to might is right, all over again. There is nothing wrong with shooting, just so long as the right people get shot. Poor Alan Moore may have no clue as to what his playing in the superhero sandpit has wrought. Dave Gibbons has his name on the show, however; he should know better.

HBO’s Watchmen is a counterfeit. Like all counterfeits, it superficially resembles what it counterfeits, which is what makes it fundamentally cynical and exploitative. Contrary to what we may think, idealism and cynicism are not mutually exclusive. Actually, they seem to be becoming more and more complementary, just as nihilism seems to be more and more visibly at the root of the liberal-progressive mindset. It makes sense, though: social progress and justice have replaced “patriarchal” religion and now they must answer the same needs, fill the same void within us. Yet social progress is a very poor substitute for eternal life (heaven). That the Watchmen show cavalierly plunders—dare I say rapes?—the source material and forces it to submit to its own liberal-supremacist designs is perhaps a non-issue to the social justice pirates, however, just as heaven is a non-issue for Cal. It’s only the creativity—the life force—of a privileged white male that’s being exploited, after all. Turnaround is fair play.

Admittedly, the show does have some clever moments, which may partially explain some of the extravagant praise it is receiving. With its visual flourishes, occasionally cutting observations and the odd twist, and a compelling character or two (the updating of Laurie Blake as a world-weary FBI agent is well-handled, at least in her first few scenes), it kept my attention for nine hours, albeit morbidly. It even offers moments of dialogue that emulate Alan Moore’s unique ability to create pulp with depth. But there is nothing here that even dimly approaches the kind of mellow “genius” Moore displayed in this work, and nothing that resembles a unique personal vision, combined with the necessary talent, or the devotion, to give it form. It’s closer in spirit and mood to a book-burning.

Like Westworld, the Watchmen shows feel like it was designed in a laboratory, assembled in a factory, and coldly disseminated via a political campaign aimed only at getting votes. If it speaks to our time, it’s not by giving voice to the bubbling undercurrents of a collective id, the way Watchmen once echoed the yearning and dissatisfaction of several generations of comic book lovers. It simulates the zeitgeist, painstakingly, deliberately, opportunistically, cynically, via a committee-driven process of assembling its ideological transportation device. The end result is a shiny Trojan Horse, one that has passed for some viewers as edgy and innovative social commentary, and that has functioned for the many as a one-pointed projection device of covert cultural mind control.

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In his “Open Letter to Watchmen Fans,” written in May of 2018, Lindelof describes himself as “the unscrupulous bastard currently defiling something you love.” Which brings to mind Jimmy Savile “joking” about how much he hated children. To generate reader sympathy, Lindelof recounts being at his father’s death bed and praying to Cthulu and Dr. Manhattan. He then confesses his own crassness in writing about his father’s death as a bid for sympathy, calls himself “needy and pathetic” and the letter “an exercise in oversharing.” Lindelof sets out to preempt every possible negative response from us before we have even had a chance to have it.

At no point did I feel that Lindelof was being honest in his show of “vulnerability,” however (more like strategically self-indulgent). The letter is a performance of honesty, written in an imitation of Dr. Manhattan’s “quantum observance” time-hopping, and it is self-serving through and through. The same is true of Lindelof’s version of Watchmen, which is Lindelof’s homage to himself, not to the comic book. Lindelof admits that Alan Moore has made it “abundantly clear that he doesn’t want anyone to adapt his work [so] to do so is . . . unethical.” For spiritual insurance, he wrote a letter to Moore “humbly asking him not to place a curse on me.” And then he wrote this letter to the fans asking basically the same thing.

What sort of artist tries to preempt his (imaginary) audience’s negative reaction with a long and tedious series of rationalizations? The narcissistic sort, clearly, whose attention is not on the work at hand but on the world he is hoping will applaud it (and dreading will reject it). That’s the difference between Lindelof and Moore, apparently, and it’s the difference between Lindelof and a real artist. Not that I want to glorify art and artists, but if anything could make me nostalgic for those values, it’s a show like Watchmen.

But maybe I shouldn’t be too down on it: for one thing, it has helped me to see something more clearly. There seems to be a correlation between a culture that becomes increasingly secular, and hence nihilistic, and the narcissism of its “makers.” What happens, apparently, is that the culture-makers, formerly artists, lose focus on their interior life where inspiration happens, and their gaze moves progressively over to the world, to society, where all values are now sourced. As a result art, so-called, is no longer about articulating the still, silent voice within us, or giving voice to the soul; it is about addressing social injustices in the world in order to be relevant and “radical.” Yet I doubt there is any way to be radical if your only frame of reference is social justice, because at that point the creative process becomes all about reacting to what’s already there, in the world, instead of discovering what’s latent within you. And being radical suggests introducing something that is new into the mix, surely, rather than merely reacting to the old?

LIndelof’s Watchmen wants to be art that is making the world a better place by addressing the injustices in the world. What it is, what Lindelof is, is one more reactionary sock puppet for the dominant ideology of critical theory identity politics-grievance studies. By relating primarily to the past, by reacting to the manufactured shadow-realities of Empire, it has achieved the aims of propaganda, and propaganda, no matter its spin, is always in service of Empire. But deep down, I suspect Lindelof’s aim isn’t really to change the world, so much as it is to improve his position in the world, and that of his favored minorities. These days, this is largely achieved by asserting an identity, such as the “making the world a better place” identity. It is the new age of the social justice narcissist, and Watchmen (the TV show-as-loving-defilement) is perhaps the fullest and most depressing expression of the new “ethos” of virtue signalling. 

In his openly narcissistic open letter, Lindelof makes it as clear as can be that he is a man with a mission. He is the man who created a Writer’s Room in which “Hetero White Men like myself are in the minority” so he could understand the comic book’s “potential through the perspective of women, people of color and the LBGTQ community.” And his show, he reassures fans, is the New Testament to the Old Testament of the graphic novel: “it did not erase what came before it.” True enough; it only defiles it.

Placed so casually at the end of his preemptive apology letter, Lindelof’s statement echoes like a smart bomb through the wasteland of a “confession” that drips with feigned humility and fake transparency. Like the take-no-prisoners onslaught of a TV show that followed after, it’s a counterfeit that’s all spin and no sincerity: all signal, no virtue. To cap it off, it’s signed “with respectful Hubris”—a phrase that’s about as meaningful as “soothing dyspepsia,” or “loving defilement.”

Unless, I suppose, you are lost in a bardo realm for writers busy structuring and policing a better, kinder world for the narcisso-progressive artistes of newthink to disappear forever into.

 

 

45 thoughts on “Kids with Matches: HBO’s Watchmen, a White Fantasy of Progressive Agitprop”

  1. The following white people are not just white, but are (at least partially) Jewish:
    Damon Lindelof
    Nicole Kassell
    Nick Cuse
    Claire Kiechel
    Steph Green
    David Semel
    I wonder if their background and experiences growing up had an effect on the direction the Watchmen mythos has been taken?

  2. Great article. I can’t stomach much TV, so I haven’t seen any episodes, but I’ve read some other analyses of the show, and this one lines up with those, but also eloquently places the problems with this show in the broader context of the social-engineering being perpetrated by pop-media. I hadn’t heard of Lindelof’s letter to fans, a nice cherry on top to help explain the neurosis of the show. I find it difficult to imagine the same person who casually mocks any thought of heaven to also have prayed to Cthulu and Dr. Manhattan – actually, scratch that, it makes perfect sense.

    Couldn’t agree more that the propaganda is clearly fine with authoritarianism and “might is right” ideology as long as the” marginalized” are perceived to be in power. It seems the idea of a racial war is being pursued by college-educated leftists instead of uneducated right wing wackos. I fear they’ll be more successful with the entire media apparatus at their disposal.

    One point of interest and perhaps disagreement. You wrote:

    “There seems to be a correlation between a culture that becomes increasingly secular, and hence nihilistic, and the narcissism of its “makers.” What happens, apparently, is that the culture-makers, formerly artists, lose focus on their interior life where inspiration happens, and their gaze moves progressively over to the world, to society, where all values are now sourced.”

    That’s not how I’ve perceived it, though I think in a way you’re correct. To me, artists of old made art in dedication to god. Now these narcissists puke out the pain of their existence. Lindelof, tormented by white guilt, vomits up a fantasy of black empowerment and white annihilation, but it has no correspondence with the outside world or reality. It’s his own anxieties and confusion being put forth – he cares not about truth or beauty or the good. He justifies it to himself by believing that by pushing his political ideology, he is pushing something good. But of course, since he’s a nihilist, he doesn’t believe in truth or beauty or goodness, so instead he says – “look at me, aren’t my anxieties virtuous?”

    • I don’t disagree with this interpretation – it adds to the picture rather than detracts; by definition, a social justice narcissist, when s/he/they looks out at the world, sees only their twisted reflection and feel passionately driven to change it, while at the same time powerless to do so, because they aren’t actually seeing the world but only their projection onto it. I could be more charitable and say “we,” since this is a universal condition and it’s all about inclusivity, right? 😉

  3. Legacy-wise, Lindelof’s reimagining of Watchmen has the beneficial (for him) side-effect of taking some of the attention away from his epic fail in wrapping up “Lost”. It is a lot easier to start complicated myth -arcs than it is to resolve them. It seems to me that with the new Watchmen, he’s taken a page from the uber-bankable Quentin Tarantino, that a simple revenge fantasy is usually a satisfying solution for general audiences, the seductive allure of justified violence. The violence on display in Lindelof’s Watchmen also reminds me of an episode of the sci-fi showcase Black Mirror, titled “The Black Museum”, wherein brutal “poetic justice” is served to an oppressor.

  4. Searing, incisive, some of your best work. Seems they are retrofitting all culture from 1960’s on to infuse it with this stuff. They are in a hurry arent they.
    Too many internal contradictions, it is bad magick that will devour itself as you have previously suggested.
    John Michael Greer is currently publicly counselling an increasing number of young men who are plaintively beginning to question their socially acceptable porn and maxturbation addictions. They are starting to see it as “Demonic” .
    Fascinatng but not surprising in this sorcerers culture.

  5. Loved reading this—and I haven’t even watched the show! Very interesting, your tying SJW to narcissism. So absolutely true. And crucial to understanding this is, as you also point out, the kind of arrogant scientism-secularism (read: nihilism) that forms the bedrock of these desperate ideologies. Because, since they lack faith and belief, they can go no further than mere ideology.

    I had a friend (who falls in this camp) say to me just yesterday…”it almost felt like fate, which is crazy because I don’t believe in fate at all.” She even emphasized “at all.” Like she had to publicly make it known that there’s no bone in her body that could fall for any notion or belief not fully sanctioned by secular scientism. It was sad to witness this. I tried my best to register my sense of sadness. Because you can’t possibly have a conversation about these matters with these kinds of people. Their game is words. They’re fully ensnared in the trap of language; they literally can’t conceive of a way of perception outside.

    Also, like your points in how Moore’s anarchic spirit in this was raped. Don’t need to see it to know that’s true. And don’t doubt either that Moore cursed him.

  6. I have not seen the show, and doubt I’ll ever watch it. What I see is a lesser artist or culture-maker Lindelof attaching himself like a parasite to the work of a greater artist, and sucking whatever juice he can out of that marrow. Any form of cultural capital is mined, reprocessed, reproduced, repackaged, recontextualized – with very little imagination. Just knowing that this tv show exists inspires deep cynicism in me.

    The portrayal of Dr. Manhattan seems designed to have one segment of the audience say “why did they make him black?” and then another segment of the audience responds by saying “he’s not black he’s blue.” Are those really the kind of creative decisions driving this thing?

  7. I saw this coming and said as much in a comment in a Rolling Stone piece. It’s both frustrating and sad to be proven right. I still felt like up until the end they had an opportunity to do something interesting with the concepts they were playing with, but it wound up in the most obvious fashion. Which is antithetical enough to the spirit of the original to rise to the level of insult.

    The predictable fall of the utterly unlikable Trieu was about as close as they got to saying something interesting. And because of everything around it, as well as it’s aesop shallowness, it didn’t stick the way it should have with the audience.

    That said, I have to fundamentally disagree with you about art and ideology. All art is an attempt at depicting the truth. However objectivity will always be filtered through subjectivity as a result of depiction, and subjectivity contains ideology within it. Therefore no art is going entirely free of ideology, the question is only what ideology it is and how much the subjectivity obscures the objectivity. Mathematics in its purest form might be free of this, but art most certainly is not. “No man has lifted the slightest corner of my veil.” etc.

    For example, consider China. The artists there are inevitably shaped by their experiences and environment and this shows in their work. Whether or not it is critical of its environment is a choice on the part of the artist and informed by their ideology. Yet it’s hard to look at some of the more stellar examples of either acceptance or critique as not art. Just a narrowness in vision. This is as true of the modern artists laboring under the totalitarian CCP state as it was of the social elite in the Song dynasty. Just because they chose to depict birds and landscapes as a measure of honoring the masters before them and expressing their Confucian values does not make them less ideological than Ai WeiWei.

    The only way to really defeat the presence of ideology in art is to turn it in on itself. To bring it out deliberately, mock it, invert it, or combine it with its polar opposite so as to demonstrate its fundamental unity and essence as a facet of subjective experience. This is something Moore does really well, particularly in Providence. Of course, this is usually off-putting or jarring to the audience who may identify with a given ideology or view it as inherently objective. But for those who can get past this, it creates the opportunity for more honest characters and the revelation of deeper truths. Therefore I’ll agree that any art that attempts to move its witnesses beyond ideology is definitionally more radical. And “Great” with a capital G. This is risky though, often failing in the attempt and succeeding only at appearing edgy. This is because of its high demand of understanding from both the subjective depictor and witness. So, popular art can hardly be expected to try given the risk/reward ratio, a narcissist less, and a propagandist even less so. That doesn’t make it not art, just less effective art.

    And thank goodness for that in the case of the propagandist.

    • I agree that we cannot help but be unwittingly, because unconsciously, delivering ideological content because of having been turned into carriers of them. And that a better dichotomy than art vs propaganda is probably good art (relatively ideology free) vs. bad art, because the alternative seems to be to sustain the idea of art as somehow sacrosanct and pure, which of course is central to the ideological hegemony of culture. The idea of art, I mean, above and beyond the practices of it, has itself become ideological.

      The point I am making in this essay around Moore vs. Lindelof relates to the consciousness, and awareness, of the artist in question, how honest they are with themselves in their lives. Central to this, I suppose, is the honest awareness of what they do NOT know. The more present that awareness is for them, the more their creative process is able to be, or become, a process of discovery, of both the self and the world. While there will inevitably be ideological implants distorting their ability to uncover the truth, what they will be uncovering, primarily, if they stay honest, is the existence of these implants. This way, the art itself is the secondary product of a process: the dispelling of the artist’s illusions about himself and the world, and so this product can then serve a similar function for the witness. I think it is fundamentally a question of humility, and the whole idea of being an artist has become one more obstacle to humility, and more and more compatible with narcissism, self-deception, and self-aggrandizement, and so ever more in service of Empire ~ the false identity externalized.

  8. Look. The social justice warriors aren’t for social justice nor are they warriors.

    What critics of SJWs and political correctness say is “Left” ain’t Left. It ain’t even liberal in the Roosevelt/Kennedy sense. It is NEOLIBERAL in the Reagan/Clinton/Dubya/Obama sense. And NEOCON in the Reagan/Clinton/Dubya/Obama/Hillary/Pelosi international interventionist sense.

    Moreover, Identity politics of the NEOliberals fills the gap left by “social issues” of the Falwell/Moral Majority literalist fundamentalist Dominionists right now given expression by roaring Trumpist fascism.

    But *neither* identity politics nor fundamentalist social issues are about constitutional rights / human rights … as in dissent, abortion, voting rights, gay marriage, voting rights, the 3/5s rule, actual, authentic democracy, freedom of speech, no regime changing, no standing army, the works.

    LEFT is about Authentic Democracy and starts with class analysis, wealth analysis, power analysis, patriarchy analysis, white supremacy analysis (electoral college, lifetime appointments of mostly white and male corporate judges) and looking out for what is good for the bottom-up rather than the top-down, race, creed, color, national original and sex-inclusive. If it doesn’t START with this, is ain’t Left!

    In short, THE DEMOCRATS and SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS AIN’T LEFT!

    And neither are the self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing NARCISSISTIC psychos presenting themselves in false consciousness SJW/PC contortions that DISTRACT from authentic social consciousness that critiques globalized imperial financialized capitalism. In the way this show clearly distracts from and distorts the authentic original.

    And as the current Big Pharma-funded, media rage for TransiaWorld REINFORCES patriarchy rather than critiques it and ELIMINATES hard-won womens’ rights and basic human rights rather than enhancing them.

    • I just did a podcast with Tom Hart and he mentioned how the only ideology is leftist because ideology is itself a construction of the left, where what is called the right is merely those aspects that are excluded by leftist ideologies and branded as false or outdated ideologies, such as religion. He argued that the three principal ideological movements of the last century or so were leftist, Marxist-Stalinism, Fascism (National Socialism), and liberal-progressivism, the latter of which being the one that has won out.

      It seems experientially true today that being right-wing is largely a matter of being deemed so by the dominant leftist/liberal/progressive ideologues and that this is becoming a simple and inevitable a result of stating facts of social psychological or biological reality. And one recurring element of this constant gaslighting by the dominant ideologues is the recurring claim from this or that proponent that, those guys aren’t really left. The fact is they are, just that they are manifesting different strands or pathologies or paraphilias of the ideology and showing the ways in which, when followed through to their inevitable end point, they reveal themselves as grotesque impositions on reality (obvious example being the idea of equality, which can be true at a spiritual or religious level but not at a social, biological, or psychological one).

      “Those guys are’t really left” or “That isn’t real socialism” is a very weak (non) argument and somehow exemplifies the shell game of the liberal-progressive ideology in that it seems primarily geared towards the refusal to face reality, beginning & ending with the reality of its own contradictions, hypocrisies, and delusions and fundamental lack of efficacy – because solutions that are sourced in denial of certain key aspects of reality can only ever breed more problems. As Dr. Manhattan says, “nothing ever ends” this way, because ideology is the insanity of repeating the same moves over and over again and expecting different results.

      • “I just did a podcast with Tom Hart and he mentioned how the only ideology is leftist because ideology is itself a construction of the left, where what is called the right is merely those aspects that are excluded by leftist ideologies and branded as false or outdated ideologies, such as religion. He argued that the three principal ideological movements of the last century or so were leftist, Marxist-Stalinism, Fascism (National Socialism), and liberal-progressivism, the latter of which being the one that has won out.”

        One wants to give people the benefit of the doubt as to their good faith when they speak, but I’m having a real hard time with Tom here. Good heavens. Problem is, arguing on the internet is a recipe for hemorrhaging brain cells, so…

        I am reading POI now (fantastic book) and I’m getting to the bits where you start quoting heavily from The Aquarian Conspiracy (p. 146 or so). I have my copy right here, so instead of wasting everyone’s time addressing the above I’ll just step over it and offer a quote from The Aquarian Conspiracy for consideration (p.61):

        “The director of policy research at Stanford Research Institute, Willis Harman, said that if *materialism had been the philosophical base for the Old Left, spirituality seemed likely to play that role for the New Left.*”

        After heaping a sentence or two of praise forthe books’ parent document, Changing Images of Man, as a landmark handbook for “how individual and social transformation might be accomplished,” the Prophet of the New Age quotes the latter:

        “‘The emergence of a new image and/or a new paradigm can be hastened or slowed by deliberate choice,’ the study noted, adding *that crisis can be stimulated.”

        • wait until the podcast before deciding; I didn’t find Tom’s proposition hard to accept – tho it was startling in its simplicity. Radical even. 😉 I have certainly reduced its cogency by paraphrasing it from a place of less than full understanding or familiarity.

  9. I apologize in advance for what is an extremely pessimistic appraisal of all of this.
    When I was around ten years of age I read fantasy novel (“Conan and the Road of Kings” by Karl Edward Wagner) that had the Conan side with a revolutionary movement against a tyrannical king. After the fall of the tyrant, the rebel leader becomes king and… surprise of surprises, becomes a worse tyrant than the man they overthrew.
    I recall that as a child, whenever I would bring up this theme in the dynamics of actual history, I would be mocked and castigated for drawing my conclusions about historical and social realities from a fantasy novel…
    I have long since ceased to read such novels, and have done a great deal of study in history. Strangely, I have found nothing whatsoever to disprove the basic premise of the book. Today’s rebels almost inevitably become tomorrow’s tyrants.
    Here’s the hard cold fact; I am beginning to think that humanity deserves the horrors it brings on itself. How many times have we watched this play out? The revolutionaries of France that overthrew the monarchy, aristocracy, et alia, had many good reasons for what they did. But, then, mere months later the new “kings” were in place, and the guillotine was doing a brisk business. Living under the rule of the Tsars in Russia was admittedly a nightmare. But, then in response to that, we ended up with Stalin.
    My point here is not even as simple as saying “we shouldn’t rebel, but work toward peaceful solutions”, because clearly if your government responds to your efforts at dialogue by killing you, or throwing you into a prison or death-camp, discussion isn’t an option.
    So, you see, this is the issue. I think that we run this cycle, over and over and over again, because we either in some perverse, unconscious way desire it; or we are simply too lazy to exercise any effort toward a legitimate attempt to change.
    At the rate that things are going here in America, we are going to see bodies piling up, and camp gates being swung wide to receive the dissenters. It may be a Leftist tyranny, or the the Rightest may pull off a last minute coup. Either way, it’s the same. Bodies hitting the floor, smoke rising from the crematoria. And, when it’s all over, (if it ever ends), those remaining will stand around with this befuddled look, and claim again and again that they never saw it coming.
    And, they’re lying. Anyone can see it coming. In this age, with so many books, movies, first hand accounts of people that suffered and died under Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, colonial European rule, communist dictatorships, Fascist dictatorships, and…. so on and so on.
    There is not excuse. But, we’re going to let it/make it happen anyway.
    Read a 1994 book called “The Lucifer Principle”, and it will become clear to you.

  10. I enjoyed your article, though not having watched this “Watchmen” series your piece had limited resonance.

    I think part of progressive ideology in films and media could be described as a sort of redistribution of cultural capital. In the past, socialists and progressives looked at redistributing wealth, but today, in the developed world, most people have their basic needs met (even people with modest incomes, like a single mother I know, have smartphones, Netflix, computers etc); so the egalitarian quest turns to culture.

    All ideologies (secular religions) have some connection to reality, even things like progressivism or communism have some contact with reality in a weak way—it’s just that the purity spiral between activists bidding to be holier than each other causes them to move further and further from reality. So, for example, the progressive idea that media products have been made for the “white male gaze” has a strong element of truth insofar as Hollywood dominated the visual culture of the world in the 20th century (and even now) and its products were made by and for straight white males (and females).

    The progressives portray this as sinister or a conscious attempt to demean other racial groups in the cause of “white supremacy”, but, really, it just reflected the fact that for most of the 20th century America was 85% or more white (with a 10-15% black minority); so films would, as in the case of, for example, the original Ghostbusters, have three white protagonists and a black protagonist (i.e. basically reflecting the demographics of the US at that time). Of course, Hollywood had a global reach and whites (white Americans in particular) are a global minority, but people of any race or religion were happy to buy the product.

    In other words, I think that when progressives say “representation is important in culture” they are speaking a limited part of the truth. Because of where and who started Hollywood, whites (white Americans; a minority group in global terms), achieved cultural hegemony. This is cultural inequality, just like wealth inequality. The solution, for progressives, is to argue for a redistribution of cultural capital (i.e. woke casts and storylines being the equivalent of wealth taxation).

    They also assert, probably incorrectly, that a lack of representation for non-white racial groups (and groups like gays) in film has contributed to social problems for those groups, particularly in majority white societies (the role model argument). This is the justification for inserting a particular ideology into programs; although, in fact, all Western cultural products show evidence of earlier iterations of progressive ideology to various degrees anyway (e.g. the medical drama Quincey ME in the ‘70s).

    Obviously, straight white male fans of things like Star Wars or Watchmen are genuinely hurt when they don’t see themselves represented in heroic roles as they used to be (in fact, they are now often demonised); especially since for many people these cultural products are partially a substitute for religion. I suspect this is going to create a lot of resentment and backlash—a kind of populist cultural backlash of the type already seen in “Gamergate” a few years ago.

    Again, there is an element of truth to what the progressives say: people do want to identify with characters in cultural products and are hurt when they aren’t represented. When James Bond is beating up “sinister oriental villains” like Dr No this is obviously excluding a 1/4 to a 1/3 of humanity (East Asians) and presenting them in a demeaning way. Just as “exotic foreigners” used to be the foil for adventurers like James Bond or Indiana Jones, so now “straight white men” must always be the villain in progressive cultural products. I don’t think this will actually crush or destroy people (except marginal and highly nerdy people) as progressives assert, but I do think it will cause a kind of malaise or depression; just as the German Jews must have felt depressed and numbed in the 1930s when every German cultural product they saw demonised them.

    The answer to this is freedom: people should be allowed to make whatever cultural products they like. If most people—of any race or religion—want to see straight white male leads, then that’s just what people want; and the same goes for having a black gay lead or straight Indian lead.

    Whiteness carries a beauty premium. Progressives claim this has been artificially overlaid on people, but, in reality, the standards for beauty are objective and it seems that people prefer white (and, perhaps, in women, Far East Asian) characteristics over other groups (see, skin whitening creams in India or black Britons evaluating who has lighter skin). The result is that if you let people be free to create cultural products as they want, you will end up with inequality. You will end up with Hollywood glamour.

    This is an example of ideology conflicting with reality. If beauty is objective and biological, then people cannot be equal; if people are unequal in an innate way (biology), then equality is impossible; therefore, an egalitarian ideology must claim that beauty preferences are an imposed construct (“white supremacy”). In reality, it is progressives who are projecting their artificial beauty standards (think about Dove soap campaigns about how “everyone is beautiful” or “beauty is on the inside” featuring obese women) onto reality and not vice versa.

    It follows, therefore, that if the terrain of political struggle is to be cultural—not industrial as in the past—that regulating cultural products will be a major concern for the progressives, particularly inserting the latest iterations of their ideology into those products.

    • The answer to this is freedom: people should be allowed to make whatever cultural products they like. If most people—of any race or religion—want to see straight white male leads, then that’s just what people want; and the same goes for having a black gay lead or straight Indian lead.

      Is that an answer and if so what is the question? Freedom is a word (that I rarely using without thinking, mm-hmmm) – that points to a concept that has so many moving parts that it verges on the meaningless. Freedom may be the solution, but it is also the problem – as in the case of LGBTQ-style “freedom” that is “given” to us, or that we take by force, as a pseudo-solution to a feeling of being oppressed by conventions. Generally this process of “liberation” (lacking enough de-liberation, excuse play on words there) does not address the causes of the unfreedom, only the effects.

      IOW, what good is freedom to make your own “culture” if you are already possessed by monoculture, and your version of the “changing image of man” as black gay or straight Indian (or black blue godman) is just one more iteration of the never-ending Empire of Narcissism? I suppose one answer (besides freedom) is that this kind of bogus liberation/self-expression can allow the person so expressing their “freedom” (unearned because un-comprehended) to go on to unconsciously recreate the conditions of their bondage, as they inevitably do (spreading the virus of culture). This means they have a chance to see how they are “de-liberating” themselves.

      As per your example of the fat person who gets to “celebrate” being fat – and impose her form on the norm – without ever addressing the shame it causes (and that probably caused the eating disorder to begin with), save by wiping it out with a forced & culturally-incepted assumption of “pride.” All the while, she gets to ignore the bodily aspect to shame, which is, uh, y’know, fat bodies aren’t as healthy as unfat ones, never mind being slightly unsightly (there are functional reasons to be unsightly; not so many to being unhealthy).

      No offense meant to any fatties reading this. 🙂

  11. The point that you miss, that so many miss, is that Mr. Lindelof is not “white”, he is “Jewish”, and this identity the key to understanding his culturally subversive nature, and the subversive nature of American media. That they are pursuing and aggressive cultural and racial agenda in our civilization shouldn’t be controversial if you aren’t hopelessly brainwashed by the propaganda. To break the propaganda, you first must recognize the nature of the phenomenon and not be afraid to name the main players.

  12. “…the Watchmen show seems to implicitly signal us to trust in authority. This contradiction may be at the heart of the new leftist-progressive mindset, which is becoming more and more compatible with—even indistinguishable from—authoritarianism.”
    “…nihilism seems to be more and more visibly at the root of the liberal-progressive mindset…”
    “…I suspect Lindelof’s aim isn’t really to change the world, so much as it is to improve his position in the world…”

    In Curtis Yarvin’s recent piece (The Clear Pill, Pt. 2), he seems to condense your impressions above into a quite chilling little motto, which has kept ringing in my head:

    “Progressivism”, he says, “is a way for elites to feel important by supporting the government.”

    We are used to thinking of progressivism as an entire worldview, with a rich set of ideas, critiques, goals—a culture unto itself, really. But what if it has long ceased to be anything but a vehicle for sheer nihilism-narcissism? (Relatedly, what if the entire framework of “ideology” and “government” itself is *inherently* progressive, so that we beg the question even before we begin to question?)

    Yarvin’s motto then, by its very self-referential emptiness, represents the only coherent kernel that is left (or Left) in progressivism: support the state apparatus so that you can take pride in being on “the right side of history”… and, *it just so happens*, on the right side of power.

    I read Watchmen some years ago and was entranced by it. I also saw the movie, which though generally panned seemed at least straightforward and recreated much of the same mood—a strange, operatic, hyperspatial dread. From your review, it looks like the new series achieves the same level of icy spiritual desolation at least, alas unintentionally. Tragedy returning as farce—or, much the same thing, as ideology.

  13. “Is that an answer and if so what is the question? Freedom is a word (that I rarely using without thinking, mm-hmmm) – that points to a concept that has so many moving parts that it verges on the meaningless. Freedom may be the solution, but it is also the problem – as in the case of LGBTQ-style “freedom” that is “given” to us, or that we take by force, as a pseudo-solution to a feeling of being oppressed by conventions. Generally this process of “liberation” (lacking enough de-liberation, excuse play on words there) does not address the causes of the unfreedom, only the effects.“

    This is the etymology of the word “freedom”:

    “Old English freodom “power of self-determination, state of free will; emancipation from slavery, deliverance;” see free (adj.) + -dom. Meaning “exemption from arbitrary or despotic control, civil liberty” is from late 14c. Meaning “possession of particular privileges” is from 1570s“

    As you can see, freedom means, in part, to be privileged. The fact that progressives wage war on “privilege” (roots of the word mean “private law”) in all its forms demonstrates that they are, at base, against freedom.

    Part of progressives ideology or leftism is the inversion or corruption of language so people can’t understand what they’re talking about. This is why the leftist regimes of the 20th century—the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and the progressive liberal democracies—have all attacked language with cliche and “newspeak”. They want to conceal reality by preventing people from using language to reveal reality.

    When progressives talk about “freedom” they really mean “licence”. To take the example of overeating or gluttony: the obese person is not really free, though they have taken licence with food to eat what they like. Licence means doing what you want without boundaries or constraint (as in libertinism in sex), whereas as freedom, as you can see from the etymology, requires people to be responsible in order to be self-determined—particularly from arbitrary rules. The free man uses reason and responsibility to make sure the way he acts is not arbitrary.

    The person who just eats whatever they want, regardless of consequence, is acting in an arbitrary and enslaved way—they are slave to their passions or their gluttony. The left, wanting to keep people unfree, tells them that there is nothing wrong with this. On the contrary, it should be celebrated as “freedom to be yourself”—a distortion of the meaning of the word.

    In truth, most people cannot act responsibly or in a self-determined manner; only a minority of people can ever be free. Freedom, therefore, is inherently inegalitarian. The left, standing for equality in whatever dimension (class, race, sex), must be against freedom. Children, for example, do not act responsibly; they act in a whimsical and capricious way because they cannot reason like an adult. They need someone to take responsibility for them, or else they will be enslaved to their base passions—and exploited by other people. A child cannot be the equal of his parents. The left, by contrast, claims children should be allowed to vote, have sex, take drugs, change sex etc etc. —should, in fact, be the equal of their parents. In reality, granting children licence to do as adults do is a way to enslave people who do not know better.

    To be free is to take responsibility for yourself; especially to reason and think for yourself so that you don’t act in an arbitrary manner and can give reasons for what you do. By taking responsibility for yourself you create psychological boundaries and differentiate between things that are “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”, and so on. This differentiation leads to further inequality, and, in the political sphere, it leads to the creation of national borders, criminal laws, and so on.

    The left controls people by saying “everyone has the equal capacity to be free and responsible”. In reality, responsibility—correlated with intelligence (among other biological & spiritual factors)—is the preserve of a few, the aristocracy Aristotle talked about (“rule of the best”). When you act as if everyone is equally responsible you end up with tyranny because allowing irresponsible people licence to do what they want leads to their control & enslavement by a corrupted few.

    In the West, this corrupted elite is composed of state & corporate bureaucrats, journalists, failed bankers, academics, and entertainers. They tell people to do whatever they want in the name of “freedom” (really licence and libertinism) in order to control and take advantage of them.

    • “Part of progressives ideology or leftism is the inversion or corruption of language so people can’t understand what they’re talking about. This is why the leftist regimes of the 20th century—the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and the progressive liberal democracies—have all attacked language with cliche and “newspeak”. They want to conceal reality by preventing people from using language to reveal reality.”

      Mr. Hart, can you please explain for the curious how it is that nazi Germany was a leftist regime?

  14. “Mr. Hart, can you please explain for the curious how it is that nazi Germany was a leftist regime?“

    Left and right are situational and relational, existIng on a spectrum. In the 20th century the spectrum ran from Pol Pot’s communism at the most left to progressive liberalism (the liberal democracies, such as America and Britain) to fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The fascists were the rightest part of a general movement to the left; they were still far to the left of 19th century liberalism or straight reactionary thought.

    Fascism or national socialism is, as the name suggests, socialist. Socialism is a democratic ideology that holds that the means of production should be owned socially (i.e. by the masses), not individually. It is, by definition, egalitarian. Mussolini, the practical originator of fascism, was originally an international socialist. He became, after WWI, a national socialist or fascist: someone who thinks that there can be socialism for his nation, ethnicity or race and not for the whole world. In other words, fascism is a kind of constrained egalitarianism; it’s still leftist, since it wants to overthrow traditional religious, aristocratic, and middle class hierarchies in the name of the people (“demos”) in order to create a fairer society. An internationalist socialist or progressive thinks people from across the world can be made equal, and a fascist thinks that only all people from his race or ethnicity can be made equal. There is only a slight constraint on the sphere of equality. The idea at work is democratic resentment against capable people; only the scapegoat is varies—fascists blame Jews and Freemasons for the world’s problems, while progressives and communists blame capitalists or “the privileged”.

    In practice, all the ideologies that dominated the 20th century made use of the same techniques and strategies of social control and manipulation: mass propaganda, mass ideology, and attempts to socially engineer society through welfare states or Five Year Plans (both Hitler and Stalin had one). This is because they shared a view that traditional, religious, aristocratic, and liberal societies needed to be swept away in the name of the people (the masses or the proletariat who became so important in the 19th century factory system) by a scientifically trained elite in order to bring about a more egalitarian system than free market liberalism or reactionary aristocracy provided.

    This explains why you find intellectuals, especially on the continent, easily swapping between fascism and communism before the war. The systems were similar enough that you didn’t have to change your ideas much to swap sides. There are even jokes about this from the time. Obviously, as with the way brothers fight, the more alike ideologies are, the more viciously they hate each other; so the communists and fascist were always at odds.

    Jasun has ably charted how intellectuals like H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw—Fabians (progressives or progressive socialists)—had admiration for Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler. All three of those dictators were, in reality, no different to those advocates of the New Deal in America and the Welfare State in Britain—men like Wells and Shaw. Mussolini and Hitler effectively implemented the economic ideas advocated by Keynes, the arch-Welfare Stater, before those ideas were put into practice in his own country. Adherents of all three ideologies thought that society could be re-engineered through mass propaganda, mass education, and scientific planning. Communism, fascism, and progressivism are just different flavours of the same thing.

    Fascism essentially promises to recreate a new hierarchical system, a kind of neo-Medivalism, using technology and mass propaganda. It retains an overt hierarchical element, so it is relatively to the right of communism and progressivism; but it wants to overturn the old hierarchies to do so. Fascist propaganda constantly attacked aristocrats, the Church, and “reactionaries” (we don’t hear about this much under the progressive system, since it makes the fascists sound, correctly, leftist).

    Fascist egalitarianism is the egalitarianism of the army, i.e. you are in a hierarchy and must obey orders but the army will also take care of your basic needs (cf the free market where you’re on your own). In the long run, the fascists, just like the communists and progressives, hoped to use science (especially eugenics) to raise the general level of people upwards; to make them equal through scientific processes. The same thing, using different scientific techniques, was the goal under communism—-and remains the goal of progressivism today (“I F!cking Love Science”, if you’ve seen that Facebook page, is a hangover of this scientistic cult). The fascist liked to talk about “progress” too, you see.

    Admittedly, progressivism, the thought system that won out, was the least vicious flavour of the three ideologies, but what Americans live under today is completely different from “the Old Republic” before the New Deal—just as in Britain “liberal England” died during the First World War when planning and mass government propaganda were implemented for the first time. This is what Orwell meant when he spoke of the rise of the “smelly ideologies” (and ideological thinking) that were unthinkable in his Edwardian childhood.

    We lost huge amounts of freedom, and even today people are propagandised by the state media and education complex (which is huge) into understanding who the “enemies of progress and social justice” are: straight white males. In Nazi Germany, it was the Jews; and in the USSR, the Kulaks and “wreckers”. The celebration of women, ethnic minorities, and LGBT people in the West is no different from the USSR’s celebration of “workers and peasants, the vanguard of socialism” or the Nazi lionisation of “Aryans”. We even have huge state-sponsored parades for LGBT days, just like the North Koreans do to celebrate the proletariat and the Party leadership.

    If you watch all our party political leaders speak you will find, from Conservative to Liberal Democrat to Labour, they will all say that they are progressive sooner or later—or speak of “progress and social justice” as laudable goals. They all think the same thing; though this is changing with Trump. In the USSR, they would have hailed “socialism” and in the fascist countries “the people’s state”. Just as East Germany had a Christian Democratic party, a Liberal party, a Farmers’ party, and so on, we have lots of different parties; and just as all those different parties in East Germany lauded “socialism and the path to communism”, so all our parties, despite different labels, work towards “progress and social justice.”

    After WWII, the communists and progressives demonised fascism—partly because of genuine crimes committed under those regimes, partly because it was their main ideological rival, and partly to differentiate themselves from it. Subsequently, the term “fascist” has become a control word in the West, basically used to refer to anything that sounds right wing—including traditional Christianity (fascism opposed it), classical liberalism (hierarchical and opposed to fascism), reactionary thought, aristocratic thought, or just anything our regime dislikes (think “Islamofascist”).

    • Seconded; it’s a compelling thesis & I don’t have any nits to pick about it (except maybe the omission of Bertrand Russell as a key exemplary of this “crossover” between allegedly opposed ideologies).

      However there’s a possibly nittish element in your previous comment that begs closer inspection. I couldn’t agree more with

      When progressives talk about “freedom” they really mean “licence”.

      that

      The person who just eats whatever they want, regardless of consequence, is acting in an arbitrary and enslaved way—they are slave to their passions or their gluttony.

      and that

      “freedom to be yourself” [is] a distortion of the meaning of the word.

      Christians would agree, ironically, or perhaps not.

      It’s about here that I start to feel something itchy on my skin:

      In truth, most people cannot act responsibly or in a self-determined manner; only a minority of people can ever be free.

      Very Crowley-esque a sentiment — “the slaves shall serve” — & wholly in accord with the hidden ideology of the Fabians, who have done everything they can to make it true by the means you outline above. This suggests that opposing two perspectives (right & left) as if one is simply true and the other an ideological imposition doesn’t add up (even if it seems like it now one pole has taken such prominence).

      I suspect this is mappable back to the very “aristocratic elite” you cite as being something the Left-progressives are supposedly opposing, and/or a degeneration of. The latter I can see holding up to scrutiny, but it becomes tricky to separate degeneration/incompetence from changing methods, i.e., how much have the ruling wolves become nasty house dogs, and how much have they merely put on the sheep’s clothing to extend their access to prey?

      At root, perhaps, is this idea of “us and them,” i.e., the desire to separate humanity into the people who can be free, and those who can’t. This, IMO, is central to the ideology of the elite, and it is what reconciles right & left into two hands, or horns, of the same beast. Both sides can agree that they know better than the masses.

      >Freedom, therefore, is inherently inegalitarian.

      Unless individual freedom is an oxymoron, being impossible without collective freedom, i.e., one in bondage all in bondage. If the shepherd is responsible for the lost sheep then you could say freedom is inherently egalitarian, not in the leftist sense but in the Christian one, that we are all created in the image of God. This might be observable in how communism & socialism are politicized distortions of Christianity, i.e. reactions against it, which would make them bedfellows, not just with fascism but with occultism. Of course, by Christianity I don’t mean the organized state religion so much as the transmission/gospel itself.

      Children, for example, do not act responsibly; they act in a whimsical and capricious way because they cannot reason like an adult.

      They also act in spontaneous and liberated ways, they do not de-liberate (over) their own impulses, making them both unruly and natural, pure. Or they would be if they escaped trauma-indoctrination for even a second.

      They need someone to take responsibility for them, or else they will be enslaved to their base passions—and exploited by other people.

      Don’t they also need to receive the water of unconditional love that allows their innate nature to flower, free from enculturation?

      A child cannot be the equal of his parents.

      Does the reverse also apply? Can a parent be equally spontaneous and joyful to a child, and if not, can the learning be a two-way process? Equality needs to be a relative term, surely, not an absolute one; i.e., in what specifically are we or are we not equal? A farmer is not equal to a computer programmer, and vice versa.

      The left controls people by saying “everyone has the equal capacity to be free and responsible”. In reality, responsibility—correlated with intelligence (among other biological & spiritual factors)—is the preserve of a few, the aristocracy Aristotle talked about (“rule of the best”).

      Urm. And what makes the best the best? Or more to the point who gets to say who is better? Can we observe such hierarchies within a single species anywhere else in nature and if so, how fixed and final are they? What if the desire to rule is itself a symptom of a pathology?

      It seems to me that you may be falling here into a common trap of extrapolating a solution based on a direct reaction to, or against, a perceived problem. Since Leftism posits a false equality as a means to control people, then the solution is to reinstate old aristocratic or transegalitarian systems—as if they weren’t the very systems of thought and practice that have evolved, or devolved, into the present systems.

      You may want to look into Brian Hayden’s work on prehistorical transegalitarian societies and aggrandizers, to get an idea of how far back this problem goes. IMO there is no template for anything resembling a just social arrangement, at least without positing the mythical garden of Eden. And even that went to Hell pretty fast.

      When you act as if everyone is equally responsible you end up with tyranny because allowing irresponsible people licence to do what they want leads to their control & enslavement by a corrupted few.

      As do you (end up with a tyranny) by acting as if everyone is unequal and the majority need herding by a benevolent dictatorship – an oxymoron if ever there was one. Power corrupts, etc.

      In the West, this corrupted elite is composed of state & corporate bureaucrats, journalists, failed bankers, academics, and entertainers. They tell people to do whatever they want in the name of “freedom” (really licence and libertinism) in order to control and take advantage of them.

      I suspect here is the root of our initial disagreement on Twitter: you presume that an ability to organize and control society at more profound levels would only be possible by a virtuous elite, hence you call my view overly conspiratorial and “an avoidance of responsibility.” But what if it’s the result of having seen more deeply into the levels and levers of control, and having learned that a pathological desire to control human beings “for their own good” is by no means incompatible with high levels of intellect, organization, and even apparent benevolence (and certainly good intentions), as well as the ability to cooperate, or conspire, with like-minded individuals? In short, what if your ruling aristocracy already exists, and it is the idea of the elite that is itself corrupt, and corrupting? Ironically, this is in accord with leftist ideology, and so it is tempting to throw out the baby as presumed dead, once we have seen just how corrupt and corrupting the bathwater is. So then all bases have been covered, the truth is both “occulted” and weaponized (turned into both a mine field and missile launcher).

    • Interesting but unconvincing. Some of your writing reminds me of Humpty Dumpty telling Alice that words mean what I choose them to mean.

  15. I agree, Jasun, with your point regarding Russell. I would class him as a progressive and very similar, though not identical, to Shaw and Wells in thought.

    “Very Crowley-esque a sentiment — “the slaves shall serve” — & wholly in accord with the hidden ideology of the Fabians, who have done everything they can to make it true by the means you outline above. This suggests that opposing two perspectives (right & left) as if one is simply true and the other an ideological imposition doesn’t add up (even if it seems like it now one pole has taken such prominence).

    I suspect this is mappable back to the very “aristocratic elite” you cite as being something the Left-progressives are supposedly opposing, and/or a degeneration of. The latter I can see holding up to scrutiny, but it becomes tricky to separate degeneration/incompetence from changing methods, i.e., how much have the ruling wolves become nasty house dogs, and how much have they merely put on the sheep’s clothing to extend their access to prey?

    At root, perhaps, is this idea of “us and them,” i.e., the desire to separate humanity into the people who can be free, and those who can’t. This, IMO, is central to the ideology of the elite, and it is what reconciles right & left into two hands, or horns, of the same beast. Both sides can agree that they know better than the masses.”

    I think dividing into dichotomies is central to human survival. We need to do so to understand the world, ultimately to survive. In order to avoid death you have to divide friend from foe, nourishing food from poison, true from false, and so on. These divisions constitute hierarchies of good and bad things. The anthropologist Levi-Strauss said that human societies can be understood as being composed of these dichotomies. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong about dividing things into two opposed categories—Jesus, after all, came to separate the sheep from the goats.

    Three of the dichotomies relevant to this discussion are: good and bad, true and false, and just and unjust. Further, two central questions for politics revolve around these dichotomies: “what is a just or unjust political system?” and “who should rule and be ruled?”.

    So, keeping this in mind, and returning to your last point: we can’t escape from humans being divided between rulers and ruled, since humans are hierarchical and make hierarchies to survive. All we can do is make the most just system possible, though, since humans are flawed, such a system can never provide perfect justice and will always be subject to degradation.

    The question of what is degeneration and what is progress (although the word is misused, there obviously is progress in human affairs—especially technology and science) is part of the wider political question. I think that humans have been shaped for hundreds of thousands of years by evolution and that, further, they have been served by traditions that have been passed on over the centuries—especially the old religious traditions. Even if these religions are not literally true, they were true enough to survive and this means their beliefs and practices have a proven survival truth. This gives those traditions value, even if I do not believe in them literally.

    Therefore, I take degeneration in a system to be: (a) Anything that moves humans away from their natural inclinations developed by the deep evolutionary environment, and (b) Anything that deviates from the teachings of ancient, well established religions. In practice, these two are very similar.

    Although it is possible to innovate, we should be cautious. Changing a society is like taking your own TV apart and putting it back together, I think it is the case that most (though not all) changes are going to be for the worse; it’s more likely you’ll screw up than do anything fantastic—especially with human societies, which are more complex than we can understand.

    “Unless individual freedom is an oxymoron, being impossible without collective freedom, i.e., one in bondage all in bondage. If the shepherd is responsible for the lost sheep then you could say freedom is inherently egalitarian, not in the leftist sense but in the Christian one, that we are all created in the image of God. This might be observable in how communism & socialism are politicized distortions of Christianity, i.e. reactions against it, which would make them bedfellows, not just with fascism but with occultism. Of course, by Christianity I don’t mean the organized state religion so much as the transmission/gospel itself.“

    I think that this touches on the idea of duties. A person who is a just ruler doesn’t just do it for pleasure; indeed, someone who rules for the pleasure of ruling others is probably a tyrant. In classical political thought, being a just ruler is onerous because the ruler understands that his freedom and justification for rule comes about through the use of his reason, his self-restraint (sense of self-responsibility), and his virtue. In exercising these, he realises that he has responsibilities and duties to other people who are less fortunate than him or less able to be free; they obey him, but it is only just to obey him if he is fulfilling his duties to them (they must also fulfil their duties to him).

    In doing so, he allows people who cannot take responsibility for themselves more freedom than they otherwise would have (for example, he prevents them, through law, from being able to indulge in vices; he prevents them having licence). The tyrant, by contrast, gives people licence to indulge themselves, so allowing those who cannot act with restraint to ruin themselves, and so increasing his arbitrary power over them.

    “They also act in spontaneous and liberated ways, they do not de-liberate (over) their own impulses, making them both unruly and natural, pure. Or they would be if they escaped trauma-indoctrination for even a second.”

    I think children are spontaneous and liberated when very young, but they quickly learn how to lie, cheat, and take advantage of other people—as in “Lord of the Flies”. If a child is not instructed correctly, they will turn into a person who takes licence rather than freedom and will be run by their vices (eating sweets all day). Children need some training to be able to use their reason and self-restraint to the best of their abilities. However, many of our current methods, particularly schools, are trauma-inducing.

    “Don’t they also need to receive the water of unconditional love that allows their innate nature to flower, free from enculturation?”

    Basically, they need both. They need a mother who gives unconditional love and a father who provides discipline and reason. All parents fulfil these roles to one degree or another, with more or less success. Movements like feminism and socialism distort and destroy these roles by denying the maternal instinct and claiming that fatherly discipline is evil. These movements destroy what children need to flourish.

    In society, the Church or the dominant religion takes on the motherly role (e.g. priests are there, even for the worst murderer) and the state takes on the fatherly role (punishment, discipline).

    “Does the reverse also apply? Can a parent be equally spontaneous and joyful to a child, and if not, can the learning be a two-way process? Equality needs to be a relative term, surely, not an absolute one; i.e., in what specifically are we or are we not equal? A farmer is not equal to a computer programmer, and vice versa.“

    They can be spontaneous and joyful while still being superior to the child. And, yes, I think parents learn from children and vice versa (being superior doesn’t mean you can’t learn from inferiors), but the basic inequality remains—at first due to superior strength and intelligence, and later simply because the parent knows more through longer life experience. At the end of life, when the parent is very weak, the roles are reversed; and this reversal of an unequal relationship is very poignant for most people.

    Regarding inequality, this can exist in different dimensions. The most salient ones for human survival, politics, and life are intelligence and beauty (these are also correlated). People are generally superior to other people when they are more intelligent and more beautiful, and usually these two factors are also correlated with health and fitness. These metrics predict life success and value to society. Finally, virtue and just behaviour make people superior—and these traits also correlate with intelligence, beauty, and health.

    “Urm. And what makes the best the best? Or more to the point who gets to say who is better? Can we observe such hierarchies within a single species anywhere else in nature and if so, how fixed and final are they? What if the desire to rule is itself a symptom of a pathology?

    It seems to me that you may be falling here into a common trap of extrapolating a solution based on a direct reaction to, or against, a perceived problem. Since Leftism posits a false equality as a means to control people, then the solution is to reinstate old aristocratic or transegalitarian systems—as if they weren’t the very systems of thought and practice that have evolved, or devolved, into the present systems.

    You may want to look into Brian Hayden’s work on prehistorical transegalitarian societies and aggrandizers, to get an idea of how far back this problem goes. IMO there is no template for anything resembling a just social arrangement, at least without positing the mythical garden of Eden. And even that went to Hell pretty fast.“

    This has long been the subject of philosophical debate and, of course, because all men wish to rule, many unworthy men lie about what “the best” is. I say it’s the intelligent, beautiful, healthy, and virtuous (literal meaning “manly”; it’s synonymous with justice) who should rule. Nature is, if anything, more hierarchical than man (e.g. alpha wolves, ant nests etc); we know we are part of nature, but we cannot transcend nature—or she will punish us.

    Man was formed by war; it’s a war universe, as William S. Burroughs said. The evolutionary struggle to survive has made us ruthless competitors, and most of our technological achievements come about through the need to wage war. We can struggle for a just order and constrain the worst for.a while, but we are struggling against man’s hell-baked nature. We were made in murder, rape, and lies—plan accordingly…

    As for solutions, I think that human civilisations obey a natural cycle. Our civilisation is old, decayed, and corrupt now; it will soon be burned down like a dead forest to allow new growth.

    “As do you (end up with a tyranny) by acting as if everyone is unequal and the majority need herding by a benevolent dictatorship – an oxymoron if ever there was one. Power corrupts, etc.“

    Tyranny is arbitrary rule; if rule is by reason and the laws of nature and God, there is no tyranny.

    “I suspect here is the root of our initial disagreement on Twitter: you presume that an ability to organize and control society at more profound levels would only be possible by a virtuous elite, hence you call my view overly conspiratorial and “an avoidance of responsibility.” But what if it’s the result of having seen more deeply into the levels and levers of control, and having learned that a pathological desire to control human beings “for their own good” is by no means incompatible with high levels of intellect, organization, and even apparent benevolence (and certainly good intentions), as well as the ability to cooperate, or conspire, with like-minded individuals? In short, what if your ruling aristocracy already exists, and it is the idea of the elite that is itself corrupt, and corrupting? Ironically, this is in accord with leftist ideology, and so it is tempting to throw out the baby as presumed dead, once we have seen just how corrupt and corrupting the bathwater is. So then all bases have been covered, the truth is both “occulted” and weaponized (turned into both a mine field and missile launcher).”

    People are fundamentally evil; all we can do is devise systems to limit the malevolence. There will never be a perfectly just system, but the most just system we can devise would maximise personal responsibility. Evil and malevolence come from chaos and a lack of responsibility and order. Responsible people—this correlates with intelligence—act to minimise chaos and so minimise evil.

    Evil will never be eliminated, but it can be reduced. The progressives, communist, and fascists promote chaos and evil by scape-goating intelligent and responsible people (Jews, Kulaks, straight white men) who have more stuff than other people, because intelligent and responsible people end up richer than others. These ideologies are evil because they tell the masses that other people are responsible for their problems and encourage them to give up self-responsibility to the state, not a king or aristocrat or virtuous person. These ideologies use lies to provoke envious murder. The state, being a fundamentally irresponsible and bureaucratic institution, creates useless chaos (except when it wages war) and so is evil.

    There will always be rulers; it is in our nature, just as ants and bees have queens. We have rulers now, but the problem is that they are irresponsible. They are not in a highly organised and tightly coordinated conspiracy that has total control; if they were, the situation would be less chaotic and better. What we have are a group of irresponsible people, in bureaucratic and priestly roles, all of whom think they are good people as you say (Plato observed all people think they are doing good, no matter what they do). What we need is a just king and aristocracy, or contemporary equivalent. This would not be perfect, but it would be better than the current chaos. No system is perfect, but a system that maximises responsibility is less evil than one that maximises chaos.

    • People are fundamentally evil;

      😮

      that’s a conversation stopper; it’s also oxymoronic if you think about it, at least if by people you mean humans, as opposed to socialized & traumatized people, but then the word fundamental wouldn’t be appropriate. I say oxymoronic because, compared to what? One can say humans are fundamentally good and that’s easy enough to back up with logic (if not evidence!); it is even tautologous because good only really makes sense when correlated with natural, as in, in harmony with existence. Natural here shouldn’t be limited to physical (or organic) nature however, because humans that only adhered to their biological nature might well turn out “evil,” since humans have faculties that transcend the animals and hence can become far more bestial then even the most ferocious of animals.

      The “Lord of the Flies” view of human beings as basically savage and destructive, once you strip away the veneer of civilization, is one that I think we need to be deeply suspicious of, especially if you think about how widely that book was prescribed in the (Fabian) education system on both continents, on the one hand, and how extremely useful this idea is to social engineering rationalizations, on the other. It gives you the old “problem, reaction, solution” formula on a macro scale: people are fundamentally evil, ergo we need a system of socialization to remold them into compliant and obedient citizens & only then can they be considered ready for freedom (that was Bertrand Russell’s rationale for a scientific dictatorship).

      A statement like People are fundamentally evil; says a helluva lot about the person who makes it, but very little about anything else – IMO.

      Weren’t you the guy who claimed not to hold any beliefs?

  16. “that’s a conversation stopper; it’s also oxymoronic if you think about it, at least if by people you mean humans, as opposed to socialized & traumatized people, but then the word fundamental wouldn’t be appropriate. I say oxymoronic because, compared to what? One can say humans are fundamentally good and that’s easy enough to back up with logic (if not evidence!); it is even tautologous because good only really makes sense when correlated with natural, as in, in harmony with existence. Natural here shouldn’t be limited to physical (or organic) nature however, because humans that only adhered to their biological nature might well turn out “evil,” since humans have faculties that transcend the animals and hence can become far more bestial then even the most ferocious of animals.”

    I take that view from, so far as I can tell, all the world’s religions and my own experience. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all hold that man is fallen and imperfect. Taoists and Buddhists hold that man has fallen from “the way” or into the dream of ego, while Hindus see us as divorced from the Atman. I see these as being all aspects of our biological nature and our development through the crude process of evolution, a process that is violent and vicious—a process that encourages deception, since deception is essential to violence and war. Our struggle is basically to minimise the evil we are inherently tempted to do due to our imperfection, though we can never eliminate it—except for a few saints and holy men.

    “The “Lord of the Flies” view of human beings as basically savage and destructive, once you strip away the veneer of civilization, is one that I think we need to be deeply suspicious of, especially if you think about how widely that book was prescribed in the (Fabian) education system on both continents, on the one hand, and how extremely useful this idea is to social engineering rationalizations, on the other. It gives you the old “problem, reaction, solution” formula on a macro scale: people are fundamentally evil, ergo we need a system of socialization to remold them into compliant and obedient citizens & only then can they be considered ready for freedom (that was Bertrand Russell’s rationale for a scientific dictatorship).”

    The Bible is a good alternative to “Lord of the Flies”; it is not Fabian and features just about the same type of behaviour as Golding’s novel, or worse. It features that behaviour because people are like that. Civilisation constrains that behaviour, but only through prisons, executions, armies, and the police. In fact, civilisation organises violence on a much wider scale than the limited violence of “Lord of the Flies”; it provokes wars and mass killings instead of little tribal killings.

    It could be argued, as many have, particularly Ted Kaczynski, that we’d be better off without civilisation. Crude tribal warfare is unpleasant, but it’s less unpleasant in many ways than napalm, nuclear bombs, and concentration camps. As you say, the freedoms granted by civilisation, by reason, are also a kind constraint since people have to be moulded into the right shape to be free by reason. This idea goes back at least as far as Plato, and even Rousseau, who thought that people are naturally good and are corrupted by civilisation, thought that the solution was that people should be “forced to be free”, by which he meant, rather like Russell, that they should be educated to accept the general will or general good.

    I think that if people were left unformed by a just elite you’d end up with Crowleyianism. He suggests “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”. This sounds like “give in to your base animal passions”, your will to gratify yourself—based on Crowley’s life, this seems to be what he meant. I don’t think the results are good; he ended up a slave to his passions, not free at all. Applied universally, his ideas would collapse all civilisation and human discourse and reduce us to a completely animalistic life dominated by Crowley’s perverted elite. I think this is why some fascists like Crowley, since they also worship a libertine aspect of nature and barbarism; so Crowley’s doctrine comes close to what they want.

    “A statement like People are fundamentally evil; says a helluva lot about the person who makes it, but very little about anything else – IMO.

    Weren’t you the guy who claimed not to hold any beliefs?“

    I am completely evil, and I am completely good. I am what I am.

    I don’t believe in anything, though I have thoughts and observations; some of these remain the same over time and others change, but I’m willing to change any of them—subject to evidence. The systems I need to understand and navigate the world are subject to lots of small corrections: I don’t accept that any one statement I make is “true”, so I do not believe anything; but some statements are truer than others. I am always provisional.

    • the difference between “people are fundamentally imperfect” and “people are fundamentally evil” is so vast I wonder what sort of psychic configuration it takes to casually alternate between them in order not to drop the thread of the argument.

      the closest Bible quote that comes to mind is “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” – an awful lot of conditions there (imagination, heart, youth), AND it’s from the Old Testament (Genesis 8:21).

  17. “The difference between “people are fundamentally imperfect” and “people are fundamentally evil” is so vast I wonder what sort of psychic configuration it takes to casually alternate between them in order not to drop the thread of the argument.“

    The reason I used “imperfect” is because Islam and Judaism do not have the concept of original sin, whereas Christianity has an idea of wickedness staining humans from the start. Imperfection is not the same as evil; though evil things are always imperfect. It certainly means humans aren’t naturally good—whatever else they are.

    Besides, these observations are metaphorical supports for the notion that humans are hell-baked by evolution: forged in violence, rape, and deception. This grants us the fundamental propensity towards evil, towards the creation of chaos; especially through lies, since lies facilitate disorder and chaos. Opposed to this is the desire for reason and order; ironically, in a world of social lies, the roots of reason and order can often be found in our pre-rational instincts. We cannot reason independently of evolution, and must take this into account when understanding our conclusions about the world.

    • My impression via this exchange, more than from talking with you, is that your arguments come from a somewhat fixed set of principals, or tenets, adopted, and probably adapted, from secondary sources. For someone who professes not to hold beliefs, your mode of argumentation suggests a whole edifice of them; maybe you have built your fortress as a conscious preemptive position to keep at bay the encroaching force of other people’s BS, but it’s the difference we discussed for the podcast, between a large knowledge base and wisdom which doesn’t require a knowledge base at all, outside or how to carry water and chop wood (ie, navigate the material world).

      To counter your position, I would say that I do not believe that people are naturally good, and to some degree have always believed the reverse and still often think that way; but that at some pre-mental level I know (or trust?) that they in fact are, both intuitively and viscerally. From there, via the appliance of logic, I can understand fairly quickly (& I feel always have) that there is no other frame of reference for goodness besides what is most natural to us or, put differently, no other reason we would even have a sense of goodness, at all, except that it helps us orientate ourselves towards what is most natural. Our sense of what is good and of what is true, then, is a single sense-organ.

      Where we seem to agree is that human beings, collectively, have fallen very far from their true natures due to an overly traumatizing experience of physical reality; where we disagree is both in the inevitability of this and the proposed solution to it. You have a more evolution-based, linear model, mine is closer to religious faith and/or Dave Oshana’s journey of zero distance. All that’s required is to relax: to drop the armor of a trauma-identity that distorts our experience of, our awareness of, what we actually are.

      to my experience also, there is no reason something that is imperfect cannot also be fundamentally good (beauty that is perfect is less beautiful than beauty with flaws). It’s true even Jesus said “Don’t call me good coz only the Father is good,” so in that higher sense, he was probably equating goodness with perfection. Perhaps the only true good is in surrender to the will of the highest or supreme good. But even in that surrender, a human would remain a flawed expression of the ultimate goodness. Jesus is both the son of God & God the Son, suggests that even God only fully realizes Himself through embracing imperfection. In a similar way, evil is sourced simply and wholly in the rejection of imperfection as “evil” – a lack of self-acceptance.

      It may be helpful to recall here that the original sin, as you put it (not a term in the Bible), was “knowledge of good and evil,” i.e, the original split divided human beings both from existence and within themselves.

  18. “My impression via this exchange, more than from talking with you, is that your arguments come from a somewhat fixed set of principals, or tenets, adopted, and probably adapted, from secondary sources. For someone who professes not to hold beliefs, your mode of argumentation suggests a whole edifice of them; maybe you have built your fortress as a conscious preemptive position to keep at bay the encroaching force of other people’s BS, but it’s the difference we discussed for the podcast, between a large knowledge base and wisdom which doesn’t require a knowledge base at all, outside or how to carry water and chop wood (ie, navigate the material world).”

    I’m not, in any way, an original thinker. Everything I say comes from ideas I pick up, test, and recombine. So, yes, in a sense, it does all come from secondary sources—aside from my own interactions with people and observations, since those belong to me. I think everything sounds more definite in writing than in conversation, that’s the nature of the medium. I don’t consider myself to be a wise person, mostly I’m foolish. Still, I say things and write things in an attempt to understand the world around me—and also because it’s just what I do. I don’t accept any of my propositions, so it’s not what I believe.

    “To counter your position, I would say that I do not believe that people are naturally good, and to some degree have always believed the reverse and still often think that way; but that at some pre-mental level I know (or trust?) that they in fact are, both intuitively and viscerally. From there, via the appliance of logic, I can understand fairly quickly (& I feel always have) that there is no other frame of reference for goodness besides what is most natural to us or, put differently, no other reason we would even have a sense of goodness, at all, except that it helps us orientate ourselves towards what is most natural. Our sense of what is good and of what is true, then, is a single sense-organ.“

    I can’t argue with another person’s experience. I think that the good cannot be fully known, only the bad—so the only way to pursue the good is to identify and reduce the bad. It’s hard to say what a good man is, but it’s easy to identify what a bad man is.

    “Where we seem to agree is that human beings, collectively, have fallen very far from their true natures due to an overly traumatizing experience of physical reality; where we disagree is both in the inevitability of this and the proposed solution to it. You have a more evolution-based, linear model, mine is closer to religious faith and/or Dave Oshana’s journey of zero distance. All that’s required is to relax: to drop the armor of a trauma-identity that distorts our experience of, our awareness of, what we actually are.“

    Yes, I think so. What do you mean by trauma, btw? I agree that lots of things are traumatising (e.g. schools, mass media), at least as I understand the word.

    The state you describe is what I see as being the same as the enlightened state in Zen, the last years of life for a Hindu, and the Taoist way. It’s sort of a suspension of all conscious attention (the ego) that leads a person to be in harmony with the flow of the universe, so being protected precisely because they don’t defend themselves. I’m not a materialist and I think God exists—though my conception of God doesn’t match the definitions given by several religions. I think that art, science, and religion are the same thing.

    “to my experience also, there is no reason something that is imperfect cannot also be fundamentally good (beauty that is perfect is less beautiful than beauty with flaws). It’s true even Jesus said “Don’t call me good coz only the Father is good,” so in that higher sense, he was probably equating goodness with perfection. Perhaps the only true good is in surrender to the will of the highest or supreme good. But even in that surrender, a human would remain a flawed expression of the ultimate goodness. Jesus is both the son of God & God the Son, suggests that even God only fully realizes Himself through embracing imperfection. In a similar way, evil is sourced simply and wholly in the rejection of imperfection as “evil” – a lack of self-acceptance.”

    If beauty and the good are synonymous, then the good cannot be imperfect. Beauty is constituted, in part, by wholeness, and imperfection destroys wholeness. The latter part, about accepting imperfection, reminds me of Jung. I used to think like that, but now I think maybe that, rather than accepting evil or imperfection, we should strive to delineate ourselves from it.

    “It may be helpful to recall here that the original sin, as you put it (not a term in the Bible), was “knowledge of good and evil,” i.e, the original split divided human beings both from existence and within themselves”

    Yes, I think that’s why wisdom is forgetting and in the Kabbalic tradition God is synonymous with “0”—just like the ego dissolution you mentioned earlier.

    • I think that the good cannot be fully known, only the bad—so the only way to pursue the good is to identify and reduce the bad. It’s hard to say what a good man is, but it’s easy to identify what a bad man is.

      &
      If beauty and the good are synonymous, then the good cannot be imperfect. Beauty is constituted, in part, by wholeness, and imperfection destroys wholeness. The latter part, about accepting imperfection, reminds me of Jung. I used to think like that, but now I think maybe that, rather than accepting evil or imperfection, we should strive to delineate ourselves from it.

      This is not so different from my own approach or in fact from traditional Eastern spirituality, Neti Neti, Buddha under the tree again, identifying the illusion-distortions one by one until all that remains is the good & true. It’s certainly how I have written my last few books and I have been impatient with charges that I “focus on the negative too much” even while having my own doubts about doing so. It is a fine line between using “evil” (distortions) to orientate ourselves toward the good and simply being fascinated by them because they reassure us as to our own relative goodness, and/or feed that within is that is distorted and so keep it in the driving seat. There’s a quote from CS Lewis at this site somewhere about how demons love our disbelief as much as our overly obsessing with them. Fanatical Christians are just as lost as nihilists or staunch materialists.

      The ironic point about walking that razor’s edge and focusing only on the bad in ourselves & others as a means to orientate ourselves (map the contours of our buried trauma and so be able to “see” it as affect and dissolve it) – is that the bad becomes something other than bad, in relationship to us. Hitler or Crowley may be objectively evil as an isolate case study of human behavior, but in relation to our own process of discovery they become teachers and guides, i.e., good and useful. This depends on seeing them truly, however, which entails seeing their evil. In the same way, I think, to delineate ourselves from the bad requires the recognition of corresponding badness within ourselves, i.e, the very opposite mechanism to that of skape-goating: turning the other cheek and taking on the sins of the world.

      Yes, I think so. What do you mean by trauma, btw?

      Doesn’t Vice of Kings answer that? I think you’d get a lot from the preceding books, Seen & Not Seen and Prisoner of Infinity. Also in my last interview, posted at this site, I get into it.

  19. Jasun – I suspect you’d be a bit less glib about the Jewish issue if a Hollywood blockbuster had been made about the bible story of Jericho, Sodom and Gomorrah. I grew up in a town referred to as S&G by a St Louis newspaper because of prostitution (apparently wasn’t happening anywhere else.) BBC even came to town a few years ago to bring attention to it. In 1972, a music festival came to town and this time it was deemed worse than S&G. My small town was also referenced in the ABC made-for-tv movie “The Day After” about a nuclear event or rather the day after the event. It wasn’t pretty but we’ve all been warned about what to expect after such event.

    You seem to be well versed in the bible and since you saw yourself as the new Messiah, you should be more understanding. No worries though, hopefully like everyone else around -you have a nice big 4K TV to watch as the story of S&G unfolds before your eyes. I know the plan is in the works, pyrotechnics, missiles, ammunition are stockpiled just north of town. My small town is next to “Whiteman” Air Force Base… just a coincidence. The base was named for a fictional local man named Whiteman.

    2020 will see a Jewish man in the “White” House and God’s Will is taking shape. Nation against nation, man against man. Get some popcorn – the view should be fine in British Columbia.

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