Is it beyond consideration that the opportunistic “passions” of the Democratic Party are especially meant as preparation for another presidential run by Hillary? –far from it! She has taken this situation (which she may have played a role in creating) to put herself very much back in the public eye, and, clearly she has no hesitation in criticizing Republican politicians for saying derogatory things about women that are pretty much the very same things she had said in terms of the women involved in Bill Clinton’s dalliances and/or assaults. When it comes to the Clintons, there is no opportunism too far–who would really challenge this?
“The ongoing disaster for any real feminism and struggle for women’s liberation in all this is that now it’s just come down to the players and the played.”
[H]ere’s the kicker: if Kavanaugh is forced out, then Trump is likely to nominate Amy Coney Barrett, who is, at least in conventional terms (that are mostly meaningless now) to the right of Kavanaugh, and she will sail through the process.
“I even wonder if this was Trump’s scenario from the start. That’s highly speculative, but I do believe that Trump is certainly canny enough to have conceived of things this way.
“In other words, the Lib-Dems and their ostensibly “progressive” and even “radical” allies (unwitting or otherwise), will have achieved a hat-trick of own-goals …
Probably it’s best that I’m not a real journalist, capable of meeting deadlines, because the perspective represented in what follows is so at odds with the current liberal/left orthodoxy on all things Trump-related, and at the same time so highly-charged, it is better that some time has passed.
I was going to title this essay “The Kavanaugh episode,” but upon further reflection and in light of the way some things I say here were overtaken by events, I think the present title is more appropriate. Furthermore, it appears the Kavanaugh episode will continue for now.
In this essay, and one that will follow (regarding the case of Prof. Avital Ronnel and Title IX), I am going to discuss feminism and “women’s issues.” In response to one part of what follows that I posted on Facebook (in a roundabout way, on someone else’s page, in part because I didn’t want to deal with certain kind of reactions at that point), I was told that, “as a man,” I have no right to comment on such things. Perhaps it is the case that every such commentary for the foreseeable future will have to open with some sort of apologiafor “being a man.” Certainly, men have a great deal to apologize for, indeed beyond anything that can be apologized for. I also in my life “as a man” have things to apologize for, and I will try to do my best to be a decent human being in my interactions with other human beings. I recognize my failings, and I have no intention of excusing them.
Do my failings and the failings of many men “as men” mean that I, or perhaps all men, should simply shut up when it comes to our fellow human beings who are “not men,” who are women, and their specific issues that are not addressed sufficiently by the term “human being”? I do not reject these questions out of hand. If one is attempting to deal with real questions that are a matter of “real politics,” by which I mean a real effort to bring about a good society, then there certainly is a problem of “representation.” Just as Kant said that “All thought intends a system,” we might say that all truly political writing and theorizing takes on a representative character, aiming at universalism. In the present context this problem of representation becomes one of addressing the failings of universalism and addressing the promotion of what we might call “scams” of universalism (or “false universalism”), on the one side, and the recent attempts to provide an alternative to political universalism under the heading of Identity Politics, on the other.
My own view is that Identity Politics is not truly “political,” in the sense just mentioned (having to do with the polis), but instead a matter of strategy and tactics predicated upon the power interests of different demographics and “constituencies,” the latter themselves defined in terms of power-interests. For sure, the basis of demographic calculation here is a vast and variegated multiple of real grievances, following upon real oppressions, dominations, deprivations, and (important term here) dehumanizations. There is certainly a very good argument to be made that, taken as a group (obviously a “group” of many billions), women have suffered all of these things more, probably much more, than men, and, moreover, at the hands of men. Thus countless acts of rebellion and struggles for liberation on the part of women in every place in the world and at every time in history and undoubtedly in pre-history, too.
The question is whether these struggles should be understood in the context of a liberated humanity, which would speak to particularities of sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, culture, color, and class (the latter having no real place in Identity Politics, because it is something other than these other categories) within a universalist frame, or whether all we can do is to emphasize the differences and proclaim as misguided or false or a sham/scam any claim of universalism and any claim to think or speak in terms of “humanity.”
However well-intentioned and however much it is based on real grievances and oppressions, it seems to me that Identity Politics is a disaster for any real politics, for any real struggle for the general emancipation of humankind. There is a cynical side of Identity Politics, in that it has simply given up on the emancipatory project, and/or simply allowed itself to be assimilated to the existing circuits of power, albeit with certain twists that present themselves as something new.
Accordingly, Identity Politics appeals to those who have already had a taste of power, sometimes a substantial taste. To complete Plato’s version of what Buddhists call the “three poisons,” the appeal is especially to those who have also had a substantial taste of material wealth and have been able to pursue desires that are not in the reach of most people in the world. In and of itself there is nothing wrong with at least the latter two “poisons,” up to a point, but it is when everything is subordinated to power, money, and desire that the real problems come in. It should go without saying that the point here is not that privileged women should be oppressed; the point is what people do with their privileges.
The case in point are the recent heroines of Identity Politics Feminism, such as Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow, Beyoncé, Lena Dunham, and now Christine Blasey Ford. The first two of these, especially, are big promoters of U.S. imperialism and militarism. What is especially important here is the fact, if we are going to consider the question of whether “being a man” disqualifies one from saying anything that relates to (the many things that might present themselves as) feminism and “women’s issues” (here I am simply using a term that was put to me in criticism), or to anything at all (in my case I was told to stick to “brocialism” and “fantasy football,” as if I’d ever had anything to do with either of these things), then we also have to consider the question of “representation” in the case of, say, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who somehow gets a pass in supposedly being able to speak for women. Christine Blasey Ford, similarly, is put forward to speak for all of the trauma that women have experienced, at least to the point where it is simply not permissible to raise questions about her claims. This is not to say that she has not experienced traumas—and certainly anyone would be right to ask, “Who are you to say one way or the other?”, if I were to claim otherwise. There is a qualitative question here, not merely a quantitative one. It is not simply a matter of comparing zero-percent (how many “men” can speak credibly on feminism and women’s issues, or perhaps anything) and 100% (what percentage of women can speak on these questions). It is instead that the distinction is not sound as a matter of either epistemology or of apportioning credibility and responsibility, and making the distinction in the case of powerful women such as Hillary Clinton speaking for all women goes quickly past the fact that the majority of voting-eligible women did not support Hillary Clinton. To call these women ignorant and uneducated, or to say that they are simply too much under the thumbs of men and the patriarchy, is simply a way of indicating (dog-whistling, in the current parlance) the class dimension of all of these questions. Identity Politics, as taken up strategically by the Democratic Party, is simply a way to further exploit and dominate or even to eradicate the working class. A good deal of the (“deplorable”) working class, of many colors and genders, etc., recognize this, and the so-brilliant advocates of Identity Politics and Hillary-feminism have found no better counter to this knowledge than to label these people ignorant and stupid, along with Donald Trump himself. That these liberal/left-types only get by with this in their own echo chambers of academia and other professional enclaves is something these same types seem completely resistant to sussing out.
In this context I am going to try to do what I think I can do to contribute to important questions, and I take no question to be more important than the defeat of patriarchy and the creation of a non-patriarchal society. This is to say that I see no future for humankind without the creation of global, if also regional in some significant respects, communism, a just society, a society of mutual flourishment, a society without exploitation and oppression, a society without patriarchy.
That I believe in these things and have shown a commitment to these things for many decades by now does not mean that I haven’t made serious mistakes from time to time, too. Someday, hopefully not so far off, I will write about this side of things in detail. If anyone, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to read what I write and think about the arguments I put forth, that of course is their “right”—though these persons will simply be joining the rather large group of people who seem to feel the “right to not read” (at least anything longer than a few, often misspelled, words) is the most important right. In any case, I offer no excuses for my failures “as a man,” and as a human being, and I remain sorry for these failures. I simply hope that these failures and those of men since pre-history will not prevent us from having the kind of discussions we need to have. There is too much at stake here to have attempts at new and creative thinking simply be dismissed by Identity Politics-based ad hominems.
Having said all this, this is not really about women, per se; it’s about the horrible Democrats, and what and who they are willing to sacrifice for the privilege of serving globalist finance capital.
I’m still willing to accept that most of my liberal and leftist friends have their hearts in the right places and mean well, but, dammit y’all, you are being played and shaped into uncritical dupes for the Democratic Party and the establishment. And you are going along with this because you believe—and you may be right—that your middle-class interests coincide with finance capital’s globalist agenda. You paper this over with a bunch of “social justice” terminology, but what you have in fact embraced is an anti-politics of mere interests. Not only does the far greater part of humanity not share your interests, but, far more important for the reemergence of a real politics, justice does not lie on the side of Identity Politics globalism.
Every bit of what is wrong with this anti-politics has come out around the Christine Blasey Ford episode.
But hey, everyone—rejoice! Hillary is back! Bill too!
I am going to say something up front that liberals and so-called leftists and so-called feminists of the Hillary- or Lena Dunham- or Rachel Maddow-type will not want to hear and probably can’t hear: the Christine Blasey Ford episode, especially her testimony to congress, was a stunt by the Democratic Party, pure and simple.
This is not to say that some terrible things did not happen to Prof. Ford when she was a teenager. (And I do accept fully that it is not my place to say one way or the other.) These things happen to millions upon millions of teenage girls and young women. Nothing justifies this, nothing even justifies thinking about the idea that something could justify this.
As for what specifically happened to Prof. Ford, she was not much help on that point, and so everything was supposed to come down to “believe her.” She didn’t help her own case very much with her outright lies on many points, such as her supposed fear of flying and her “never” having been coached on the workings of a polygraph, and her failure to remember much about what happened and when it happened (even within a period of two-to-three years). To then say what was “indelible in the hippocampus”—well, that’s where things divide into two worlds, those who find this a sign of great credibility, to go along with Prof. Ford’s supposed great stature as a psychologist and professor of psychology (her vita, in other words), and those who find it nothing more than a weird performative twist in what had been declared in her opening statement a “terrifying” situation—the situation being that of her congressional testimony.
Here’s a little test for what world one is in. Is there anyone who honestly believes that Hillary Clinton was speaking the truth when she said she was shocked and disappointed upon hearing the revelations about Harvey Weinstein?
Should anyone this gullible really be trusted to be able to speak on any matter of importance?
But, you see, this isn’t about truth, it’s about power, and it’s about interests and what team seems to work better for one’s interests.
I doubt many women actually believed Hillary on this point, but hey, going along with it is just part of staying with your team. Never mind that this is a way of validating the things Harvey Weinstein did, or at least of letting oneself feel okay that the Democratic Party was fine with taking his large contributions—at least until after the elections. I imagine that Woody Allen did not make such large contributions, so, sure (and on no real evidence), to hell with him.
The women who find Christine Blasey Ford to be credible and even heroic, however, are not gullible. Instead, they have been provoked, “triggered” (in the current parlance), and even forcedto relive terrible experiences from their lives. In the name of speaking to these experiences they have been told that they, and everyone, needs to support and empathize with Prof. Ford, on the basis of “because …” and “believe … .”
On the part of the Democrats, this was a virtual “Gulf of Tonkin resolution” in the struggle to establish Title IX “feminism” beyond academia, in the larger social arena. The underlying premise of this effort is that the situation of girls and boys and women and men in this society is so deeply broken and unjust that it can be likened to a state of war; therefore, such niceties of bourgeois-democratic society as legal procedures, real evidence, credibility of witnesses, and judgments rendered by more than a single, ideologically-driven, all-powerful authority (in Title IX, this is called the “single-adjudicator system”) have to go by the wayside.
Anyone who honestly looks at patriarchy and its workings through millennia, and anyone who looks at gender relations in the United States since its inception, would have to, I think, have to at least take a few moments to consider whether this view is correct. The idea that things are so bad between women and men that something like a “separatist” or “two system” solution is the only way to go should not be dismissed out of hand. The same can be said for “race relations.” In other words, I don’t think we can blame anyone for thinking that, after all this time, this “thing”—a world where people of different genders and colors interact mutually to create a free and flourishing society, just is not going to work out.
These questions have to remain on the table, as part of the big picture, not necessarily because they are based on a completely realistic picture of life as it has been lived by women and men, or because a world of gender separatism is likely to come about, but because everyone of good will needs to confront the injustices of patriarchy and to ask what can be done to create the conditions wherein the lives of women do not have to be mediated through the lives of men.
What the Christine Blasey Ford part of the Kavanaugh episode has to do with, however, is something else again. Let’s ask ourselves the old question, cui bono?
Who benefits from these divisions in society? Who benefits by attempting to marshal the real and terrible pain that girls and women have experienced and placing all of that as a kind of wager on being able to defeat a Supreme Court candidate without arguing on the basis of the candidate’s judicial record? Who benefits by presenting a “case” that is so weak and even absurd that, in the end, it just comes down to “because Trump” and “believe women”—and, let’s be clear, in this context these expressions mean no more than “Hillary Clinton was supposed to be president” and “don’t believe men, and don’t talk about outdated legal protections and procedures.”
It is a very sad and unjust and messed-up thing that the trauma of millions of women has been used this way, that women have been used and played this way. It is not hard to understand that it is difficult to confront the fact that one has been used and played; it’s easier to hate on those who point this out. This is the sort of liberal delusionary mindset that, in my view, is the biggest impediment to moving in a better direction.
Blaming the messenger, using Identity Politics as the basis for doing no more in a disagreement than name-calling, and blaming working people, or “rural” people, “because they’re stupid,” etc., is just a way of going deeper into delusion. And let us note that the majority of people blamed are women. That’s the thing, “believe women” seems to work with the proviso, “except those women,” who turn out to be the majority.
The Blasey Ford episode tracks very well with the way that Title IX operates in universities: believe women, don’t believe men, and the accusation isthe “evidence.”
It is worrisome, very worrisome, that there are people, women and men, who cannot see how everyone will lose and everyone will be hurt, if this becomes the model for how things are going to work in society more generally, and not just in academia.
But still, the question stands: Are things between women and men, and the overall situation of women in this society (including even the generally quite-privileged women such as Christine Blasey Ford who are leading the movement for the Title IX-ization of American life) so dire that, in effect, martial law needs to be declared on boys and men? If only we could have a real social discussion and upheaval in society around this question, and around the reality that millions of women do in fact believe, and not without reason, that things really are this dire.
The Democratic Party’s stunt has nothing to do with the foregoing, absolutely nothing. The Democratic Party’s commitment to Identity Politics is not a commitment to the real issues and questions that are the basis for Identity Politics, it is a commitment to marshalling people’s energy around these issues and questions to the imperatives of finance capital globalism and American imperialism. It’s not an accident that the heroes of this Democratic Party/Identity Politics “feminism,” such as Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow, are so open and bloodthirsty about their militarism.
Is it a good thing that president Trump made an opening to North Korea? Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow and even most ordinary Democrats apparently cannot bring themselves to say this. This is nuts, it is insanity. They have rendered themselves incapable of recognizing that this is not about North Korea, it is about China. But they cannot bring themselves to agree with Trump that “a world where Russia, China, and the United States get along is a better world.” Because … you know, Trump. And because … “Believe Women”—Believe Hillary—well, if you really believe that Hillary didn’t know all about Harvey Weinstein when the Democratic Party and her campaign were getting all that money from him, then you will believe anything.
So now, in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh episode (so far), Hill and Bill have gone out on a national speaking tour. She’s back!
I have many friends, from “moderate” Democrats to supposed Marxists and radical feminists who really wish Hillary wasn’t doing this. Do they suppose that she just got the idea the day that Kavanaugh was confirmed? Get real, people: those wheels are always turning in the Clinton empire. My friends say that I’m the one who needs to let go of talking about Hillary, that they are looking for some fresh faces. Whatever happened to trying to understand a social system? There’s a machine there that will either shape any actual, idealistic Democrat into a tool of finance capital globalism (now with an Identity Politics scent!) or just get rid of them.
Without any hesitation, I will say that I sincerely hope the Democrats will go down in flames.
As for all my liberal and supposed leftist friends out there, I love you, I care about you; you may hate me, but I don’t hate you. I hope you will find your minds and stop letting the Democrats use your trauma, and whatever good intentions toward humanity that you have, for their nefarious and ignoble ends.
We are at a point where the “conventional wisdom” of the Left is just as hackneyed and dogmatic as that of the “Right,” if not more so. And neither political category is of much use in the present moment, this moment of what I call the “Trump Clarification.” Obviously, we are in a different moment when Tucker Carlson has more interesting things to say about the State and the ruling class and class in general than most who are bogged down in received categories that needed a radical overhaul already a generation or more ago, if not indeed much longer.
(Just to be clear: Yes, I do recommend Carlson’s book, Ship of Fools.)
I’ve been gone from CounterPunch for a couple years now. I’m not a journalist, and I can’t keep up with things in real time, at least in terms of what I’m trying to do, which is to figure things out. There are others here, such as my friend Gary Leupp, who are also not primarily journalists, but who are very good at doing a deeper analysis within whatever passes for the “news cycle” these days. I’m very bad at it. So, most everything I write for submission to CounterPunch has already been overtaken by events, and all I can hope for is to have worked through some issues in a way that might offer some other direction that departs from the conventional wisdom.
After the series of articles I wrote on the 2016 election, beginning with “Bring on the Crackup: Hoping for a Trump-Sanders Election (March 28, 2016) and (at least temporarily) ending with “The Self-Justifying Fantasies of Clinton Democrats” (Nov. 25, 2016), I found I couldn’t at all keep up with the pace of events, with others things in my complicated life of work as a philosopher and musician intervening as well. Part of what made things very complicated was some fallout within academia of my having been very critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton—as with everyone who was critical, the blame was placed upon us for somehow having made Donald Trump president, as if a handful of intellectuals in this anti-intellectual society could have done that. But, to those who now operate within the limits of the “Anti-Trump Movement,” that’s “What Happened,” to refer again to the aforementioned “self-justifying fantasies.” (Jeffrey St. Clair did a fine job of pillorying HRC’s complete lack of self-questioning in “Hillary Happened,” Sept. 15, 2017.)
I haven’t done any kind of study on this, but I would wager that, of those who have written on Trump, Clinton, etc., in these last three years, I may be close to alone in remaining not sorry that Clinton went down to the defeat that she and her crew richly deserved. As one might imagine, this does not make me loved by my many liberal friends, especially in academia. Of course, feelings have run quite high around the Kavanaugh episode (I speak to some aspects of this in what follows). I have asked myself whether it is worth it to persist in this atmosphere with writing about what I am attempting to think through, when everything is easily dismissed with a few code words—most of which I would associate with the prevailing Identity Politics of the current “left.” What this Identity Politics amounts to in current conditions is the ability to dismiss actual analysis with crude ad hominems on social media.
These days there seems to be an inability to penetrate beneath the surface of things to see such problems on the part of the left, and this problem has perhaps reached a critical point with the Kavanaugh episode, or, perhaps more accurately, the Christine Blasey Ford/Democratic Party stunt. The “stunt” has nothing to do with what did or did not happen to Prof. Ford decades ago, except for the fact that whatever did happen to her (and I don’t doubt that something happened to her when she was a teenager and young woman, probably more than one thing) has been used to buy credibility for the Democratic Party and its “left” followers. For sure, the Democrats did a good job of constructing things such that the appearance has been created that anyone with the least shred of conscience would jump on board with the scenario they have run out, and this includes leftists and feminists who were not onboard with HRC in 2016. Literally millions are being duped here; millions are duping themselves.
Here’s the bottom line on this present moment: Anyone who really believes that the leadership of the Democratic Party, and the Clintons and their minions, wouldn’t mobilize an outpouring of the real and terrible abuses that women have suffered for the sake of a political stunt and to advance their own power as representatives of the ruling class (especially the part of it concentrated in finance capital) has gone around some kind of bend. The Democrats are counting on these people staying around the bend, and, unfortunately, with this latest stunt, which included a new rollout for Hillary, who previously had all kinds of obnoxious things to say about the women who were the objects of her husband’s dalliances and/or abuse. Obviously it is a great irony that some of those who said, twenty-five years ago, that they would also line up to get their “presidential knee-pads,” are now populating the offices of Title IX and other elements of (what I call) State Feminism. Again, all this makes about as much sense as the idea that Hillary Clinton was “shocked” to learn about Harvey Weinstein’s career of abuse and assault. But actually, all this does make sense in the terms of Identity Politics, where “truth” is simply a matter of interest and strategizing.
This should be a moment of great shame for Hillary and the Democrats and this terrible “left” that, in the end, will do no more than feed into the Democratic election machine. Undoubtedly, though, this will be a moment for just the opposite from these witting and witless actors. For the former, it will lead to the thrill that power is perhaps once again in view. For the latter, it will lead to the further ossification of their brains. It is hard to be optimistic about the sort of deep discontinuity that will be needed for this segment of people—the ones subservient to the existing Left, I mean, not ones who directly seek to rule—to find their minds again.
Hence, while on the one hand, I feel a strong imperative to continue to analyze as best I can what I think is the main phenomenon holding humanity back these days, on the other hand, I do have to wonder what audience there is for this analysis. There was a Left, going back to Marx and before (arguably millennia before), and even coming into the 1980s, perhaps even a little more, that, for all that it could be contradictory (not always a bad thing in any case), dogmatic, sectarian, anti-intellectual, over-intellectual, condescending, fragmented, overbearing, mush-mouthed (“the revolution’s a grind, but someone has to do it) and all the rest (and me often enough along with it, I’m not just pointing fingers here), could also be truly critical and creative in its thinking, and vibrant, compassionate, and powerfully- and inspiringly-internationalist and anti-imperialist.
I think we have to face the fact that, however one parses this period, the time of the Left is over.
This does not mean that the time of radical, discontinuous change is over. Indeed, it is because humanity needs changes of a kind and on a scale hitherto unknown that we have to think in very new terms, terms that will not necessarily or at all points be absolutely unrelated to the terms we have known before, but all of the old terms will have to radically recast in light of something unique and unforeseen, something that shatters this present order of time.
Herewith begins a long philosophical footnote, for those interested …
Those who know any of my other work will easily see the imprint of Alain Badiou here. Let me just take a moment to talk about Badiou in terms that I think go to one of the major problems with the Left, including Marxism and feminism and Black liberation movements. This is a problem that has been around more or less since forever, and I will straightforwardly admit that it is a problem I’ve contributed to as well, both in theory and practice.
What got me thinking on this was hearing a piece on NPR (Sunday afternoon, Oct. 7) on the passing of a great jazz musician, Hamiet Bluiett (best known for playing baritone sax and clarinet in the World Saxophone Quartet). It was a good piece, and I was appreciative of it, in part because it is too easy these days for truly great, but, for most people, obscure, musicians to die without enough people knowing they were ever alive to begin with. (One of Bluiett’s best performances can be heard on the brilliant album by Julius Hemphill, Coon Bid’ness, especially the intense, twenty-minute long, “The Hard Blues.”) NPR and PRI are still pretty good for this sort of thing, if you can wade through all the annoying, typically-liberal political coverage. (Good story on PRI’s “Studio 360” the other day, too, on Juana Molina, whose new album, Halo, is really good, IMHO.) What I’m thinking about here, in terms of Badiou’s philosophy, is that politics and art are not the same thing, and the criteria for judging what is good in one is not the same for the other.
In Badiou’s work, there are four “conditions of philosophy,” domains of human activity in which truth may emerge: art, science, politics, and love. Yes, in all cases, there is the criteria that something new emerges, such as when two people fall in love, and one way we know that something new has emerged is that the previous “situation” is “evacuated,” and the previous terms of things are recast. So, when two people fall in love, there is a new situation, and pre-existing relationships with other people are recast.
Since the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, everyone has gotten used to saying and thinking that “everything is political.” There is much to be said about this, and it is not entirely a simple question, but I think, following the distinctions that Badiou makes, we people of good political will need to rethink this idea and basically reject it. This idea has led us into a big mess.
Speaking of music, here’s another example, an anecdotal one. Back in the mid-‘90s, one of the grad students in my department asked me if I had heard a certain song by Tori Amos, and seemed to say with a tone that endorsed the song, “It’s about rape.” I asked if it was a good song. The student seemed befuddled by the question. I don’t think it is a great leap to say that the student figured that, since the song was about a heavy and important subject, then of course it’s a good song. Certainly, and even despite having read Adorno for some decades and generally agreeing with his formalist perspective, there was a time when, for all kinds of reasons, some of which had to do with being harangued by people with a certain view of art, and who I went along with because I more generally agreed with their views on imperialism and internationalism and economism (except their view of art was itself economistic, I see now), I for a long time would have accepted this idea of what a good song is, or what a good work of art is generally. (By the way, this isn’t really about Tori Amos, who I think is a talented songwriter and performer; furthermore, I don’t agree, or at least I disagree in part, with Adorno on jazz and rock, and with Badiou on rock—but I accept for the most part their concerns.) In other words, the perspective is that art, and everything else, should be judged by political criteria.
Now, let’s remember that a clear distinction should be made regarding the term “politics.” The ordinary use of the term has to do primarily with the pursuit of power. I call this “anti-politics.” The exceptional use of the term, in both discourse and practical matters, has to do with the pursuit of the good society, and here “good” is meant in the sense that we see in Plato and Aristotle: that which encourages a general and mutual human flourishing. (My book, Ethical Marxism, is all about this; in my own thinking, since that book was published ten years ago, I have had a “return to Plato,” which Badiou recommends.)
Yes, there are senses in which art is entertwined with politics, in the sense that the overall social relations and power configuration of a society will play some role in what kinds of art is being made, or the material circumstances of its making. And, again, there is a sense in which art and politics must submit to the same criteria of aiming to open the way to new truths, and these truths will contribute to a better world for human beings. The same can be said about science. The situation is a little more complicated with love; certainly, though, we could say that social conditions might be more or less conducive to love relationships. (This is why the term, “love marriage,” is often used in Japan, for instance—unfortunately, often by women who are in marriages not based in love.) But the truth of art is not the truth of politics and so on. That Beethoven was inspired by the universalist ideals of the French Revolution is not in itself, or enough, to make his music great. The same could be said of Archie Shepp and the “fire music” inspired by the Black Liberation Movement. It’s not that the inspiration hurt, either (on the contrary), or that the inspiration is absolutely irrelevant—just that we do not really appreciate art for what it is if we boil it down to something else. If we do this, we lose the contribution that the art makes as art.
There are two kinds of reduction that Badiou is concerned with. One is the reduction of one condition of philosophy to another: e.g., art to politics, or to science; or politics to science—as Marx and Lenin, or, for that matter, Hobbes, hoped for (and one lesson here is that, no matter how “dialectical” one hopes to be in this pursuit, you will always end up with a mechanical materialism); or science to politics, or love to science or politics, and so on. In the reduction in which “everything is political,” you end up, by and by, and regardless of intentions, with the power-oriented, anti-political view. This is what we see coming to complete fruition in recent years, and the idea that the core and limit of “politics” today is the “struggle against Trump.” This is the model of “politics,” easily intermixed with Identity Politics, that reduces everything to “power vs counter-power.” In other words, this is a “politics” in which, by design, the emergence of the new truth that we need, does not stand a chance. This is why Badiou says that, from the standpoint of the existing situation, the change we need is impossible and illegal, and the change will also seem irrational.
(A couple of additional philosophical notes for those interested in these things …)
1) There are some who are blaming Herbert Marcuse, of all people, for the emergence of Identity Politics, and others who blame Jacques Derrida for all politics of “difference.” This is complicated, and there are some issues, but it seems to me that, if there is one figure from contemporary philosophy/social theory to “blame” everything on, it would be Michel Foucault. His “power/knowledge” model represents well the idea that there is nothing outside of power. This is complicated too, so let us just say that Foucault created a model that represents and in some cases was seized upon by those for whom there is only power, and the only model for resistance to power is also power, even if “counter-power.” Starting in the early 1980s, many were entranced with this model, largely because it seemed to respond to what might be called the “difficulties of transcendence.” I myself can be counted among those who were entranced [my first publication, back in 1985, was titled “Foucault: Power/Counter-power”]. One approach to these difficulties is to simply negate, as best as can be done, anything that opens the door to the “transcendental” or—and this is an important connection to Identity Politics—the “universal.” For shorthand, this could be called the approach of Althusser, Foucault, and Deleuze. The other approach is to ground [or otherwise find] the transcendental—and the universal—in immanence. This is the approach of Sartre and Badiou, with the latter proposing a mathematical form of the transcendental/universal that does not open the door to the theological—in other words, God. I would place Derrida in this mix as well. This question plays out in analytic philosophy as well, from Frege to Davidson and beyond. [A very helpful guide to these questions, across the analytic/continental divide, is Paul Livingston and Andrew Cutrofello, Contemporary Philosophy: A Critical Guide for the Unaffiliated; Polity, 2015.] Certainly the question of immanence and transcendence is complicated in the twentieth century by discoveries in linguistics, logic, and the philosophy of language, and in the “hard sciences,” especially physics, but there are certain basic features of this question that go back at least to Plato and Aristotle in the Western tradition, and to Buddha’s break with central aspects of Hindustani cosmology in ancient Eastern thought.
2) There is talk of “overturning the Trump/Pence regime,” which is a problematic notion in various ways. There is no “Trump regime,” per se. The “regime” is that of Pence, who was put in the administration, along with numerous others, as an attempt at controlling Trump. Pence is the one there to bring things back to a stable, right-wing Republican “regime” if the scales tip to where the powers-that-be decide to “remove” Trump in one way or another. The more difficult problem concerns this idea of a “regime” (somehow consisting in one or two people and their support team—which perhaps less than ever helps with understanding the administration “under” Trump, given that much of it is not “under.” The goal of “overturning” a “regime” leaves the ruling class and the basic features of the system intact, indeed perhaps more stabilized than they are at present. And the idea of the “regime” does not begin to touch the problems of the “deep state,” which I believe is real, if more complex and variegated than often presented.
One theme that connects both points is the shallow empiricism in which we are caught—and perhaps the point is that, just as a “materialism” that is predicated on the mapping of power relations of whatever kind, because that is what is “real” from an empirical standpoint, will become ever-more mechanical and reductionistic, so will an empiricism that accepts too much the “solidity” of what appears become ever-more shallow and caught up in “the way things are,” or what appears to be “possible.” Thus appears “politics” as “the art of the possible.” It is in this respect that Badiou recommends a “return to Plato,” which means a philosophy that takes mathematics as its north star. This return means getting Plato out from under millennia of Aristotelian interpretation, and getting mathematics out from under logic. On this last point, this is why Badiou argues for the “materialist dialectic” rather than “dialectical materialism.” Some have argued that, to prioritize the dialectic over materialism is a turn toward idealism, and it certainly adds to this impression that Badiou calls himself a “rationalist” and a “formalist.” Again, complicated stuff! –for my part, I wonder what is the standing of dialectics in mathematics, which hinges on the relationship of contradiction to inconsistency.
Okay, that’s seven or eight research programs bundled up there; for now, back to our regularly-scheduled program.]
To simplify greatly [everything that is in my “footnote”], there is a kind of reduction, that the philosopher Alain Badiou is worried about, whereby the “everything is political”-claim reduces all of our attempts at finding or pursuing (or “inventing,” “constructing”) truth into a matter of the play of “political” power. In this way, “everything” (that is supposedly “political”) becomes assimilated to the workings of power. However well-intentioned this move might have been back in the Sixties and its aftermath (e.g., in the days of the growing influence of pensee soixante-huit), one can see here how “politics” becomes a matter of either those with power, those who have a taste of power or hope to acquire this taste—in other words, the “well-born” and the “educated.” Those left out of this equation in the United States are the deplorable, uneducated, marginal working people and the so-called “underclass.”
The other kind of reduction that Badiou is concerned with can be seen in the reduction of art to entertainment, science to technology, love to sexuality (or possibly to “a kind of friendship”), and politics to power. These, in other words, are reductions of quality to quantity, but they also point out the problem of thinking that the emergence of something new can be accounted for by a magic trick called the transformation of quantity into quality. What the latter accounts for—though almost never in a very straightforward, linear way—is the breakdown of the existing situation. What mayemerge from such a breakdown is a new situation, but that point of emergence is not so much a “moment in the dialectic” as a radical discontinuity, born in contingency and rife with contingency, with the dialectic at work in the previous situation.
This kind of reduction is just Hegel and Marx 101, but it seems as if the dominion of numbers purely for utilitarian purpose has expanded so far that practically everything comes pre-quantified. This is the world in which just “doing the numbers” and making calculations based on interests has come to count as “politics,” and as “progressive,” “left,” “feminist,” etc. Let us not fail, however, to mark the central place of capitalism in these reductions. Let us note as well, then, that it’s a peculiar new “feminism,” and a ready-made application of “everything is political” to Identity Politics that excludes most people, of whatever gender or color, etc.
In a situation where love is rendered impossible because of the reduction of love to mere sexuality or to “the politics of love” or “the science of love,” true love may emerge. But there is no “dialectical guarantee” that this will happen; there is no “synthesis” simply in the order of things. And so on with the other conditions.
There is a sense, therefore, in which the idea that “everything is political” is part of the problem. Indeed, there are two senses: first, politics is smothered in anti-politics in our existing society and, second, politics is reduced to other conditions that are not aimed at the truth of a good society.
One might be correct, however, in saying that “everything is anti-political,” and therefore “political” in that sense. Another way to put this is that the basis in capitalism, in which the dominant “understanding” of “politics” is instead an “anti-politics” of mere power-manipulation, is also the basis in which reductionism in general occurs. The kind of “feminism” I am criticizing here indeed seeks to work within and does nothing, absolutely nothing, to challenge the capitalist (and American imperialist) framework; on the contrary, instead, it actively seeks to work within the system, and indeed to “work the system.”
This is a win-win proposition for this kind of “feminism”: either more power is gained for those whose conception of “politics” is nothing but power, those who are already established in this world of power (or a few clever opportunists who hope to become established), or, in the case of the failure to secure more power in any given sortie, there is a “win” in being able to call all those who oppose this bullshit-parody of feminism “misogynists,” “ignorant and stupid,” “deplorable, chauvinist pigs,” “straight, white, cis-men,” “cis-women” (and even “cis-feminists”), etc.
That many and perhaps most people are on to this bullshit constantly eludes the Democrats. Or perhaps it is more that the Democrats have nowhere else to go, and nothing else to offer, than their power-plays dressed up in “social justice” rhetoric. This is certainly the case in reality, but it seems that the Democratic leadership and even Hillary Clinton, no matter how deluded they are, must know this on some level. Still, what choice do they have but to dig into their narrative deeper and deeper?
This is seen in the recent ridiculousness with Elizabeth Warren. The outrageous scam she first perpetrated in order to gain admittance to Harvard Law School, which has unfolded into further iterations in her subsequent career until today, is an offense to Native Americans and therefore to all decent people. Certainly, though, it makes sense that neither she nor her “progressive” admirers can recognize any of this, because no cracks can be allowed to mar the façade—everything could come crashing down.
The larger liberal/anti-Trump narrative, in which truth is fully-defined within the narrative and the narrative is what must therefore be defended, come what may, is the context in which the Blasey Ford stunt took place.
A big part of what makes this narrative run is the claim that the stakes are so high because Donald Trump is a “fascist.” Add to this in the Kavanaugh episode and in general the idea that (at least de facto, but one can easily find this de jure as well, especially in academia) the stakes in gender relations have reached the point where martial law needs to be imposed over men, especially “straight, white, cis-men.”
Nothing attests to the fact that the Left is tired and worn out than this idea that Trump is a “fascist” and that the U.S. is or is becoming fascist because Trump is president. This is perhaps the supreme example of the Left tendency toward going after low-hanging fruit, and the inability to come up with anything new or deep.
In connection with my worries about the addressees of these comments, let us ask, What is that “main phenomenon” to which I referred earlier? Well, to be sure, it is still something to understand as the social form, the mode of production, the forces and relations of production, the ideology (or ideologies) associated with these structures, the apparatuses for generating these ideologies, etc. Of course there is the question of the State, in all its aspects, from military to legal-juridical. There is much that has to be re-thought here. Within the ideological sphere, however, I would argue that, at least in the United States, a crucial role is being played by what I will call “Liberal Delusions.” These delusions need to be understood, deconstructed, and dismantled. “Same as it ever was,” someone might say, from a certain Marxist perspective on ideology. The problem now, however, is that, whereas in much of the past periods of capitalism, it has been “conservative” ideology that needed deconstructing (except not really, as it isn’t that hard to just poke holes in many conservative ideas, such as the “free market”—How is it a free market if you need billions and billions in military expenditures to allow it to function? –and “natural hierarchies” within humanity, for which there are no end of counter-examples), now it is Liberal Delusions and the entire Left’s embrace of them, that keeps minds in chains and dismisses out of hand an openness to something truly new.
Indeed, it has been commonplace for my Left friends to dismiss my arguments about the Clintons and the Democrats by saying that there is not going to be a revolution. Well, as the song goes, “if that’s all there is, then let’s keep dancing.” Of course it is completely out of their ability to consider the idea that, at least in our time-frame, if there are truly only two ways to go, the Clinton, global finance-capital way is by far the worst of them.
The two specific liberal delusions that are intertwined here, in the Kavanaugh/Ford episode are:
1) the idea that the solution to patriarchy is to concentrate power in a State Feminist apparatus, with the Title IX apparatus playing the leading role in this in the present period;
2) the idea that Trump is a fascist and therefore the “anti-Trump” movement is the locus of meaningful “progressive” political action in this period.
One sensible response to the foregoing might be to ask, again in the ideological sphere, “What about racism, misogyny and sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.?” Right—why are these not bigger problems? They are big problems, there’s no question. My argument is that these problems are made worse by the false “solutions” offered in the realm of anti-politics, with the power agendas of the Democrats in the lead of this effort. By “Democrats” here is not meant the ordinary dupes and petty power-players, but rather those such as the Clintons who have positioned themselves to be the leading representatives of finance capital globalism. Despite all the talk of Trump being a “white nationalist,” this finance capital agenda is completely “nationalist” in the sense that matters—it is the leading edge of American imperialism in the world, and it is no less “white” in terms of the bourgeois-colonialist nation state (a slavocracy, no less) that was established in North America by European invaders. This ongoing venture has now been dressed up in the language of “diversity” and identity—which, ironically, depends on the same essentialism as that of classical conception of the modern Western nation-state. One thinks of Lenin’s argument that bourgeois democracy is the “best possible shell” for capitalism and imperialism; diversity and Identity Politics are the proposal of the leading Democrats for this sub-stage of American imperialism that has been called “globalism” and “neo-liberalism” (and that I also call “postmodern capitalism”).
(One sees this white, European identity well enough in the typical “educated” response to Trump’s attempts to renegotiate the relationship with NATO; all of a sudden, these diversity warriors are worried about damage to “our relationship with our traditional, European allies.” There is a good deal more to be said about this, but leave it for now that these concerns are misinformed at best.)
In the terms that the Democrats have established as the new orthodoxy of the Left, and where there is the lame plea that we “at least have to vote,” we at least have to “get involved,” I will respond again that I am not at all sorry that Hillary Clinton went down to defeat, that Trump became president rather than a Democrat or a Republican, and that the Kavanaugh nomination went through. Better Trump’s “nationalism” than the Democrats’ globalism. I am indeed happy that the Prof. Blasey Ford stunt did not work—except most likely it did work in terms of the “win-win” I described earlier. In addition to the gratuitous name-calling that gratifies Identity Politics-people so much, but that mainly serves the purpose of pushing people into positions they might not otherwise have gravitated toward (“This ‘feminism’ they’re pushing seems like bullshit to me, so I guess I ama misogynist,” “I’m not dreaming of a white genocide, so I guess I am a racist”), positions that, in the purely anti-political terms of interests and identities, make as much sense as any other interests and identities.
There is no justification whatsoever for the abuse of highly-privileged, professional, white women; there is also no justification for these same women, especially the ones who are graduate students and college professors, to lecture low-income working people on checking their privilege. What’s more, it does not help, except in further building dismissal of ordinary working people as “deplorable.”
Will the Trump disruption and clarification open doors to what the world really needs, which, in my view is internationalism, anti-imperialism, and the possible roads to the global community of mutual flourishing (which is what I understand by the old word, “communism”)? To paraphrase Mao in a more limited way: There is a great deal of disruption in the present, ordinary working of things, this is a good situation.* The anti-Trump/”Trump is a fascist”/Blasey Ford-stunt path is a great waste of opportunities, in the name of completely outworn left orthodoxies and big power-plays on the part of those who should be deprived of power, starting with the Clintons, George Soros, and the Koch Brothers. Thankfully, John McCain shuffled off the mortal coil on his own. But I don’t expect liberals to give up their delusions—they’re too smart for that.
[Mao: “There is disruption (chaos) everywhere, the situation is excellent.” In the context of China, this is an anti-Confucian formulation.]
Undoubtedly the reader appreciates that it is not so easy to say these sorts of things in the current situation. It is even likely that most readers, even here, will think this is a good thing, that these sorts of things shouldn’t be said. Certainly most of my liberal/leftist friends think this, and they seem incapable of responding to what I’m saying other than to call it “GOP talking points” and the like. I suppose I could call them “lemmings” in response, but it would be good if we could actually deal with some arguments.
One way I take the measure of my unpopular views in the period since spring 2016 (when a Trump-Sanders election looked possible) is to post something on Facebook. However, there has been a change for me during the period of the Blasey Ford episode.
Many of my academic FB friends posted that they did not want to hear a single remark critical of Prof. Ford, or even of the circumstances in which she found herself testifying in front of Congress, for fear of being taken further back into their own traumatic experiences. Despite thinking we need more discussion of the epistemology of trauma and “triggering,” and what demands might be made on the basis of this epistemology, in almost any particular case where someone makes a demand of the kind, “It is traumatic for me to hear about x, so I don’t want to hear about x,” it seems straightforward that we ought to honor this request/demand.
At the same time, in the Facebook posting situation, especially during the week of Prof. Ford’s testimony I wanted to avoid having so many angry-but-gratuitous comments thrown at me, not mainly because it’s hurtful but more because this sort of silly free-for-all is not helpful. But of course I’m not only not in charge of how people engage in discourse, or name-calling, or whatever, but I’m not trying to place myself in charge, the way State Feminism and Title IX have done—especially the latter.
Therefore, of the two comments I made on the Blasey Ford chapter of the Kavanaugh episode, one was buried in a thread I had started a few weeks before on my page, and the other was posted on the page of my partner. Here they are.
[1. The following is in response to comments on a post I originally put up, with Rob Urie’s CounterPunch piece, “Donald Trump and the American Left.” The comments were saying that I gave Trump too much credit for having a plan and a vision, that he is purely self-motivated and -centered, but also the person making these comments admitted that he has “too much hatred for that man [an “unhealthy amount”] and cannot be objective.” This last part was also a response to my response about the “vision thing” (as George H.W. Bush put it when he was running for president), where I had asked if Trump deserves no credit at all? So that’s where things start.]
On the assumption that Trump is not a “real Republican,” I think a big part of the issue from the past twenty years, basically the Clinton period of the Democratic Party, is that all they learned from things is to be completely power-based, so that truth doesn’t enter into anything. The truly bottom line is that it is a better world, or at least it’s an existing world, where the U.S., Russia, and China get along, and the fact is that Hillary Clinton (and her gang, which includes the whole globalist gang within both establishment parties, and trans-state actors such as George Soros), in her own selfish pursuits, was leading toward a world that very well might not exist much longer. And so, in pursuit of a globalism that would serve U.S. finance capital, which is the leading-edge of U.S. capital, we have Hillary, Rachel Maddow, even Bernie Sanders to some extent (his whole “talking with despots and dictators” thing), beating the drums for militarism. On the epistemological aspect of this, perhaps considering the objectivity of this situation could help with your unhealthy hatred.
On the idea that Trump is purely self-centered–I think a good case could be made (as has been made by Paul Craig Roberts and others) that Trump is sacrificing quite a lot to be president, in the terms that supposedly matter to him–money, power, longevity. On the last of these, it’s not clear how much longer the globalist part of the ruling class will let him go on–this Kavanaugh thing could be the last straw.
In any case, I think it is imperative to gain a larger sense of what is going on than something to do with an individual named Donald Trump, or another one named Hillary Rodham Clinton–but the Democrats are the main ones blocking that bigger picture, certainly in their own minds, and the awful thing in the Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford scenario is that they are perfectly willing to use millennia of patriarchal abuse to this end, and too many people are falling right in line with that, either out of a misguided, liberal, non- (and even anti-) emancipatory sense of “feminism,” or simply out of fear regarding what might happen if they call bullshit on this Democratic Party stunt, or out of their own opportunistic aim to get over with people. The cost of employing/expending such bits of bad epistemology, e.g. the blanket statement “Believe Women” (tell that to Emmet Till), which is also “Don’t (ever) believe men,” will be large, especiallyfor women.
Sorry to go on at such length, I’m trying to work out some of these issues. Part of what I’m trying to say is that the politics of simply “anti-Trump,” based overwhelmingly on hatred for an individual (which, I suppose, does confirm that he is not really a figure of either establishment party), is leading us down a very bad path. And it’s not that the opportunism of the leadership of the Democratic Party is a case of passions having overcome reason–Hillary is a great example of a consummate politician who knows how to serve power, through the employment of a purely instrumental reason–it is that they are inflaming passions, including hatred (which is simply poisonous, especially when aimed at people rather than institutions), it’s that these passions are being opportunistically-deployed in the service of “political” ends that have nothing to do with addressing patriarchy or any of the other oppressive institutions of our capitalist society.
For sure, what an “opportunity” this Kavanaugh situation is–or at least can be fashioned to be. I really think it’s being shaped as a kind of “national referendum” on what I call “State Feminism,” especially the part of it that has tremendous power, Title IX offices in universities. In U.S. society in general, this effort to grab more power will backfire. Probably it will work in universities, though. And, soon enough, that will be the end of the university, at least as a place where people actually learn and question and attempt to break through to new ideas.
Okay, back to work on my “liberal delusions” books, the one on the Trump phenomenon and the other on State Feminism and Title IX and the university–noting, though, that these two phenomena are overlapping at so many points at the present moment.
PS–Is it even beyond consideration that the opportunistic “passions” of the Democratic Party are especially meant as preparation for another presidential run by Hillary? She has taken this situation (which she may have played a role in creating) to put herself very much back in the public eye, and, clearly she has no hesitation in criticizing Republican politicians for saying derogatory things about women that are pretty much the very same things she had said in terms of the women involved in Bill Clinton’s dalliances and/or assaults. When it comes to the Clintons, there is no opportunism too far–who would really challenge this?
The ongoing disaster for any real feminism and struggle for women’s liberation in all this is that now it’s just come down to the players and the played.
[2. (My partner wrote this on her FB page:) This is from a response Bill Martin wrote in the discussion of the article on attacks on and protests against a professor at the University of Southern California for raising issues about raising questions about due process, the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and the power of Title IX. Bill thought it would make a good post on its own, but he isn’t ready for the backlash that will ensue if it is posted on his own page. Originally this was written as a response to comments made that used, seemingly in derogatory way, a certain word … ]
Please, though, reconsider using a term such as “dyke.” (Yes, I know that some lesbians use this term themselves.) Not only is it offensive, but I happen to know from several of my lesbian friends in academia that they are as terrified as anyone of Title IX and other aspects of the recent liberal/Hillary “feminism” because of the role being played by trans-activists (basically biological males claiming to be the “real women,” and being offended because lesbians–and others, of course–have raised some questions about that). This, in turn, is by no means the position of transsexual people generally, but of a certain militant faction, which, among other things, has recently engaged in physical assaults on lesbians at the San Francisco Pride parade. That’s just beyond any kind of pale.
Several friends who are lesbian have told me that they are terrified of speaking out on any of this. For my part, I am also refraining from saying anything on my own FB page about the Kavanaugh case, though I am writing an article dealing with it, [and also an article discussing] the Avital Ronnel case, which is a case involving a self-identified lesbian.
I do want to write something by and by addressing the use of the names Stalin and Mao, and [the terms] Red Guards and Cultural Revolution to describe some things going on in the Title IX “feminism” milieu. I can see certain superficial similarities, but I think something really quite different is going on. But that’s for another day.
Regardless, I do think the Kavanaugh case is being set up as a kind of referendum on what this kind of “feminism,” which I call, broadly, “State Feminism,” the most empowered part of which is Title IX, can get away with. The silly Lib-Dems are so bloody smart they can’t see this at all, despite all their class-markers as “educated women,” etc., and I suppose they are fine with this in any case, as evidenced by the apparent logic regarding 90-98% of men that I mentioned above.
[This is referring to the following discussion … In the picture accompanying the article about the University of Southern California professor, there is a woman carrying a sign that says, “90% is how you respond.” I asked what this means, and there were a few proposals, then I said I had an idea but that it was too much to think about at that moment. Later I wrote:
Okay, I’ll say what I think it means. I don’t think it means what xxxxoryyyy said. I think it has to do with the statistic, however reliable, that holds that only 2-10% of allegations are false, and thus allegations are reliable 90% of the time. This leaves aside the possibly 10% even according to this statistic where the allegations are indeed false–it’s the “Kill them all and let God sort them out”-approach. But also, the expansion of Title IX has been shown quite conclusively to be based on a whole set of “statistics” that are wonky, to say the least, from both data-collection and ideological-slant perspectives.
Just earlier today I saw a post from one of my liberal-academic friends simply referring to Kavanaugh as a “serial rapist.” So, it’s gone from a teenager possibly groping another teenager, to serial rapist, and that is “statistically”-driven as well. I see no other realistic solution, then, than just rounding up all boys and men above the age of puberty, or perhaps earlier, and making plans to eliminate all males. I mean, that follows, doesn’t it?
After all, this “90%” equals 100%, so just do the numbers.]
Here I want to say something speculative, just so everyone else can say you heard it here first. Just as with Title IX, I think these Lib-Dem/”Hillary” “feminists” will declare a “win” no matter what, and they might succeed in getting Kavanaugh’s nomination withdrawn. The fact that there’s all kinds of fishy stuff going on with [and behind] Christine Blasey Ford will not affect this constituency in terms of what it really means for “Believe Women,” because the fact that some of these women are big liars and part of a political stunt connected to their heroic “feminist” liar Hillary does not deter them. Their conception of truth is purely determined by power, and the fact that they do great harm to women by playing games with truth is not part of their worldview. But here’s the kicker: if Kavanaugh is forced out, then Trump is likely to nominate Amy Coney Barrett, who is, at least in conventional terms (that I think are mostly meaningless now) to the right of Kavanaugh, and she will sail through the process.
I even wonder if this was Trump’s scenario from the start. That’s highly speculative, but Trump is certainly canny enough to have conceived of things this way.
In other words, the Lib-Dems and their ostensibly “progressive” and even “radical” allies (unwitting or otherwise), will have achieved a hat-trick of own-goals: 1) They themselves will have weakened the credibility of real claims of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault; 2) They will have strengthened the resolve of the “deplorables” to fight this crap; 3) They will get a Supreme Court even more problematic for them than they would have had with Kavanaugh. This last one is a problem to me, as well, and yet that ought to be pinned on the Hillary feminists, and there is a certain price to be paid for defeating them.
Of course, all this will send Lib-Dems into further paroxysms of virtuousness, and I do think the reign of Title IX terror will gain further strength for the time being–and it is truly unclear in their case whether there could ever be a point when they’ve gone too far, or any kind of mechanism for calling them to account. Hence where this discussion started, with the case of the professor at USC. This past week I have been more grateful than ever to be retired from academia, and to be living in Kansas with the brilliant and incisive xxxx. I would also pay her the compliment of being beautiful, but that’s the kind of thing that gets one in trouble these days.
Whatever the facts of the Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford interaction from decades ago (and I don’t find it easy to support prep-school/frat-boy types), this is not what this whole thing is about. As the USC prof and others here have pointed out, if it is allowed to stand that not only basic points of procedure and evidence and the standard of being innocent until proven guilty (which Title IX explicitly repudiates) can be trashed, but also that it is even some sort of crime (a speech and “thought” crime, in actuality) to raise questions on these basic guarantees (which, again, is indeed an offense from Title IX’s perspective), then everyone will be harmed, regardless of gender, sex, or what-have-you. It is already the case that, in reality, these guarantees are often not fulfilled very well (if at all); if they are overturned “in principle,” thenwe can really have a conversation about fascism–instead of this idiotic discourse that calls Trump a fascist.
As per usual, the power-machinations of the existing political system work to obfuscate the real issues, and the Democrats and those under their sway (again, wittingly or not) have become masters of bullshitting, along with being the leading edge of American imperialism and militarism and globalist exploitation of the working people. Fortunately, they mostly bullshit themselves; outside of the brilliant “educated” men and women of academia they aren’t fooling so many others. I appreciate that Donald Trump has thrown a wrench into the works of this system, and I look forward to things opening up further.
[End of Facebook material.]
Especially the speculation about Amy Coney Barrett was OBE (“overtaken by events,” not “Officer of the British Empire”). I still think that was in Trump’s back pocket. My FBI-loving Democrat friends were angry at the supposed “sham” of an investigation into Kavanaugh. As before, it’s the “What happened”-without a question mark-thing.
This is not about “supporting Kavanaugh.” On the other hand, Kavanaugh’s judicial record is a 93% match for that of Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. As for sexual abuse and assault, Hillary Clinton’s husband matched Kavanaugh almost certainly by a factor of ten or more, and that isn’t even looking into what Bill Clinton was up to as a teenager. And obviously the Clintons and other Democrat leaders could not take Kavanaugh to task for his judgments that supported waterboarding.
Trump is not a “fascist.” The people who support the idea that he is, and that a fascist regime is solidifying under Trump, are way off the mark. What the Democrats tried to do with their Blasey Ford-stunt was closer to “fascism,” in the attempt to further eliminate basic principles of bourgeois-democratic legal procedures and to more broadly ensconce the idea that, at least for a certain range of offenses, the accusation is the “evidence,” and therefore the accusation is the “case.” (In this mix it can also be quite unclear how the “accusation” is generated in the first place.) Everyone should be relieved that the Democrats did not get away with this, at least for now.
The last part of this essay was written while in Fredericksburg, Virginia, for the annual meeting of the North American Sartre Society. I’ve studied the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre since I was a teenager, and I’ve been a part of the Sartre Society for going on thirty years now. In general, the Sartreans are a lovely group of people. For some years now, however, many Sartreans have backed off considerably from the radicalism of Sartre himself—in France, too. At the beginning of my series of CounterPunch articles on the 2016 election, I cited Sartre’s famous—or, to many, infamous—essay, “Elections: A trap for fools.” (No question mark there, either! –though I think the title would be better rendered, “a trap for suckers.”) Back in 1996, when Bill Clinton’s opponent was Bob Dole, I gave a paper at the Sartre Society asking if elections were still a “trap,” and I argued that they were. Even at the meeting, as well as among various others in academia, I was treated to tales of how horrible it would be if Dole were to defeat Clinton. Dole was some kind of monster, you see, an agent of the same sort of “creeping fascism,” or “friendly fascism” (as it was called twelve years before) that was supposedly represented by Ronald Reagan.
Certainly, just because it wasn’t true then doesn’t mean it cannot be true now. What I think we see instead, however, is a lack of creative, critical analysis, regarding the Reagan period, but also especially the Bush/Cheney period. The latter was certainly closer to “real fascism” than anything under Reagan or Trump, and certain “fascist” elements of the Bush/Cheney period are still with us—e.g., the fundamental abrogation of the U.S. constitution by the Patriot Act.
At the meeting in fall 2016, not unexpectedly, many commented to me that they disagreed with Sartre—and me—on the elections question.
And many of my Sartrean friends seem to think it is true now that a fascist system is being put in place in the U.S. Indeed, the theme of this year’s conference, “Resistance,” was taken by the participants (myself included) to refer to Trump and the anti-Trump current. The welcome to the conference by the provost, herself a philosopher, made explicit reference to Trump as a fascist, and to current conditions in the United States as fascism.
Would it not make sense to argue, however, that, if the U.S. was truly under a fascist “regime” or “administration,” the provost of a public university would not be able to offer the sorts of condemnations she did? In my view, and I know it’s not nice, there is just a great deal of proud LARPing going on.* [*LARPing = live action role-playing.] It’s exciting to think one is part of some brave and dangerous “resistance.”
There was an excellent plenary session at the conference on Sartre’s (French) Resistance activities during the Occupation. There has been a controversy for some decades about whether Sartre did anything very effective during this period. All of the speakers made it clear that, while what Sartre, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and others in their small circle that they explicitly constituted as a Resistance group actually achieved was of not much practical consequence, the group was not only clearly well-motivated and radical in its aims, but, if it had been found out, the consequences would certainly have been severe, quite possibly death by firing squad. The work of this group did in fact include going to the houses of Jews to warn them that the Occupation forces were on to them, and helping them flee—and that was certainly dangerous work. There were clearly activities behind the scenes involving Beauvoir, Sartre, and others of their coterie that none of them would ever have boasted about later, undoubtedly out of respect for their friends who did not make it through the war. In addition to this, of course, Sartre also wrote plays (especially Les Mouches/The Flies—incidentally, it was at a rehearsal for this play, in 1943, that Sartre first met Albert Camus) that contained subversive ideas, and these plays were produced during the Occupation.
I was very pleased that one of the speakers addressed the question of the tendency in recent decades to exalt Camus and downgrade Sartre, which also includes the proposal that Camus did everything during the Occupation while Sartre did nothing. Certainly it is the case that Camus did a great deal of very important work for the Resistance, and there is no doubt that he would have been executed if he had been captured. But it is also the case that, after the “Liberation,” Camus did not play up ideas of resistance, liberation, and freedom from occupation, and it is clear that the reason for this is that Camus did not support the liberation of French colonial possessions, such as Madagascar, Algeria, or Vietnam, from French rule. Meanwhile, Sartre became the most outstanding European voice for anti-colonial struggles.
We didn’t have much time for discussion after presentations, but I was able to insert the comment that, now having heard some graphic descriptions regarding what life under a fascist regime is truly like, it seemed to me “crazy” (that’s the word I used) to think that Trump and his “regime” are fascist. One fellow Sartrean told me right after the session that he agreed with me. Another Sartrean, who is very active in Antifa, and who was not at the plenary, told me that several people had approached him to make sure he had heard that I said that Trump is not a fascist. As this person is known for advocating the “punch a Nazi” tactic, I asked him if he was planning on punching me. I was relieved that he responded, “Why would I punch you?”
This time, my own paper at the meeting wasn’t on Sartre, it was on “the two Simones.” The one, Beauvoir, is often discussed at the Sartre Society meetings, while the other, Simone Weil, is rarely mentioned. However, in the plenary on Sartre in the Resistance, Weil was indeed mentioned, as she herself was a casualty of the Occupation, if in a (shall we say) complicated way. The subtitle of my paper was “We need them now,” and my main point is that we need them for the kind of feminism and radical struggle that comes from a universalist perspective, as opposed to the anti-universalism of Identity Politics. I intend to keep working on “the two Simones” in the coming period.
The response, in the form of a slogan, to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Brett Kavanaugh, was “I believe her.” This is an existential instantiation of the universal generalization, “Believe women.” We see the basic form of the syllogism here: (All) women are to be believed, Prof. Ford is a woman, therefore she is to be believed. QED.
Imagine the consequences of a legal system that worked in this way. We don’t have to go very far in such speculation, we can just look at the workings of Title IX in colleges and universities, and how the Kavanaugh hearings unfolded. I don’t think anyone can be too happy that Kavanaugh was confirmed, especially because of the opinions he had written supporting the use of waterboarding; given the alternative, however, I cannot be entirely unhappy, given the alternatives.
Furthermore, just as Hillary Clinton and her team only have themselves to blame for losing the election, the Democrats in the Senate and their supporters only have themselves to blame for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Believe women. Therefore, do not believe men (or a man). Do women never lie? Do women never misremember things? Do women never engage in plays for power? Is it instead that, yes, sometimes women lie, but either they do not lie about that (sexual assault), or the likelihood that they are telling the truth is so high, and the likelihood that a man would commit sexual assault and then himself lie about it is so high, that justice is best served by believing the woman and taking the accusation itself as the evidence and the case and, indeed, the determination of guilt?
Clearly the leadership of the Democratic Party has no sense whatsoever of how ordinary people, people who have not committed themselves to go along with the Democratic Party no matter what, think. So, they put out a candidate who lies all the time, seems thirsty to get into it with Russia, seems happy to pay the defense bill for the EU, seems happy to support Wall St. in its attempt to either move all working-class jobs overseas or to replace the working class in the U.S. with emigrants, seems happy to dismiss any positive contributions of U.S. workers (you know, like building the apartment or house you live in—those deplorable jerks!), and on and on. Now they bring forward someone to take Brett Kavanaugh down, and everypart of her story, except one part that cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed, is wonky. And she seems to have all sorts of connections to Democratic Party power-players, and she teaches psychology (as supposedly an expert on memory) at a university whose very charter seems to have been written by a Title IX coordinator sitting at a table with various other Identity Politics SJWs. (“SJW” is “social justice warrior,” of the liberal, Identity Politics/”anti-Trump Resistance” type.) These great “wins” for the Democratic Party mindset are followed up by Elizabeth Warren, who also needed to get a little more mileage out of the Blasey Ford stunt, with her DNA test to prove her “heritage,” which turned out to only prove that, at most, she might have as much Native American genetic heritage as any average American who appears to be white. Again, shameful bullshit that has to somehow be spun into a “win” for the Democratic Party.
What the DP has been aiming for in this period, leading to the mid-term elections, is a “come to Jesus”-moment for those who previously resisted Hillary Clinton’s presidential run and the Identity Politics (plus Wall St. and “American Exceptionalism,” and straight-up militiarism)/State Feminism agenda. Because so much of the rhetoric of this agenda is concentrated and has real effects in academia, it is easy in that arena to think that most people are susceptible to it. It’s the same sort of logic that led Hillary and her “educated” crew to not think they needed a concession speech in 2016. So now they think they have magic bullets in the form of the Blasey Ford stunt and Elizabeth Warren’s butt-hurt over her “heritage” (which has never extended to actually sticking her neck out for real Native Americans). As usual, my writing has been OBE; one can only speculate (and probably never know, thanks to the intelligence “services” the Democrats love so much) how desperate they will get.
To believe this horseshit from the Democratic Party, you have to believe that “because Trump” means believing anything. And love the CIA and FBI while you’re at it. Love Mueller and his “investigation.” That sounds more like straight-up fascism, though in fact I also think it is simply the way anything that calls itself “politics” in the present order works, and again that seems to deserve the name “postmodern capitalism.” Trump is at least somewhat outside of this (and the tweeting, which Democrats seem to especially hate, is a good example of how clever he has been in this situation), and causes problems for the postmodern capitalism anti-politics set-up, and shakes things up. He is especially good at taking things that have needed to be addressed for years, and pushing them another step (at least rhetorically) toward crisis—and what the existing structure is showing is that, whether Democrat or Republican, the system has no solution to these things, at least not without a major shake-up and (what’s more important), what’s more important, without loss of power by those who are entrenched in power. (How any of this could be happening is discussed to some extent in my previous CounterPunch articles, under the heading of the “rogue billionaire.”) Those who have committed themselves to a “solution” to any major problem within the system, and therefore for those who accept “#votebluenomatterwho,” have committed themselves to the complete elimination of any thinking that attempts to go beyond the existing system.
This is a confirmation of instrumental reason that no fascism or “totalitarianism” has ever achieved, but the leading elements of postmodern capitalism, such as the Clintons, seem close to doing it. (There is a discussion here that should take us back to Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectics of Enlightenment and Habermas’s rejection of their arguments in favor of a liberalism without metaphysical foundations—so Rawls and Rorty enter into this as well.) Except most people don’t believe the Democratic Party’s bullshit, and, in terms of a “politics” confined entirely to the non-idea of “pursuing interests,” these people have not only interests as well, but also real needsthat are not being met by a Democratic Party that not only does not really represent the working class (it never did, but at least it tied itself to the idea that it did), but even straightforwardly dismisses working people as “deplorable.” This is the Democratic Party that has been created by the Clintons, Al Gore, and others since the Reagan/Bush period. It is purely a liberal delusion to think there is anything to support there.
So, again, does anyone truly believe any of this would be a good way to structure a legal system (or any system where judgments are supposed to be fair and open to addressing particulars and details)? The State Feminism/Title IX Feminism view is that, on the range of issues around sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault, this is indeed the right way to go. I feel sure that, outside of the circles who accept Hillary Clinton’s account of “What Happened,” or who accept that Hillary Clinton was shocked at the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, or who believe that what Prof. Ford did by testifying and in her testimony was “heroic” and convincing, “ordinary people” do not think that handling serious questions of legality and justice this way is a good thing. I have no doubt that there are millions on the side of HRC and State Feminism on this, either seeking power (or more power) or simply duped and/or afraid of not accepting what has now become the conventional Identity-Politics wisdom. However, I also have no doubt that there are many more on the other side, and I have no hesitation in saying that I am one of them. Whatever Trump is, and whatever the Republican Party is or is becoming, I truly hope the Democratic Party crashes and burns.