Equity and Symbolic Paranoia.

By Greg Scorzo –

We live in strange times. In the English speaking West, we are supposedly experiencing a resurgence of a frighteningly populist Right, with figures like Trump and events like Brexit signalling a return to the infamous catastrophes of 20th century fascism. This is a time when many people of all political stripes are drawn to the Left, simply because they see it as a necessary rebuke to a more dangerous far right alternative.

At the same time, many on the Left are expressing an increased dissatisfaction with our side of the political spectrum. This has led to a good deal of defecting, with many figures who would self-identify as left-wing, now being associated with, or sometimes joining sides with, the Left’s traditional opponents (Conservatives and Libertarians). The result is paradoxical. Figures associated with the right-wing side of today’s culture wars are often people who, even ten years ago, wouldn’t be seen as particularly right-wing. Podcaster Sam Harris was a fierce opponent of George W Bush’s foreign policy; the comedy creation ‘Jonathan Pie’ is both a Socialist and Remainer, while writer Tim Pool mostly holds views that wouldn’t be out of place in the Democrat Party of 2008. Even the infamous Helen Pluckrose encouraged her fans to vote left as recently as the 2018 US mid-term elections. 

Yet these people have careers where, regardless of how they define themselves, they are mostly associated with a backlash against the Left.

This state of affairs exists because many of the biggest critics of the 21st century Left are people that would have easily fitted into the 20th century Left. The lesson here is obvious, but difficult for many to see: the 21st century mainstream Left is in many ways, more like the radical 20th century Left. The mainstream Left of the previous century has largely been excommunicated from today’s idea of what left is. This is why so many figures who would have fitted comfortably in the 20th century Left are now only given platforms in circles associated with the Right. 

Yesterday vs Today 

By the late 20th century, the English speaking West’s mainstream Left mostly stood for the expansion of the welfare state, worker’s rights, and the protection of certain essential services from too much commodification (like health care). This Left was also associated with abortion rights, gay marriage, and the decriminalisation of drugs. It was primarily responsible for the cultural changes that happened in Western society because of the 60s; changes like the abolishment of Jim Crow laws, full suffrage for African Americans, the social acceptance of sex outside of marriage, the legal availability of contraception for women, men being able wear long hair without fearing violence, and popular music and films sometimes having cultural respectability, despite being deeply strange. Because of the 20th century Left, it’s much easier to practice an alternative lifestyle, and people who feel uncomfortable gender presenting in ways associated with their birth sex can gender present and call themselves whatever they like. 

Of course, this isn’t to say that the 21st century Left has abandoned its 20th century stances on welfare and rights. Rather, the philosophy and attitude behind it all has changed.

The 20th century Left’s philosophy of freedom, individuality and equal rights has been replaced by an ideology that in the name of equality, demands that the ‘powerful’ demographics of Western countries become subservient to women and minorities. This subservience entails not just the curtailing of everyone’s democratic rights, but a thorough repudiation of the free Western society that inspired so many lefties in the 20th century; the egalitarian capitalist democracy that could still embrace diversity of thought, fearlessness, and individuality.  

Standing in opposition to all of this, the new 21st century Left advocates equality of outcome, also known as equity. Equity is the type of equality where no two populations can have unequal statistical outcomes, either financially, or in terms of their incarceration rates, misfortunes, ability to get high profile jobs, attract a sexy mate, or be represented in tv shows, fashion adverts, and boardrooms. 

The new equity politics of the 21st century Left presupposes five things. 

  1. Belonging in a demographic group that on average, is more successful than another demographic group, means the members of the former demographic group have collectively oppressed the latter demographic group. 
  2. The reason for any inequality of outcome between two groups is always that the more successful group was unfairly privileged by a society that (morally) is obligated to re-distribute the privilege back to the less successful group. 
  3. The person (or groups of people) at the bottom have the right to take privileges away from the persons (or groups) at the top. If the people (or groups) at the top suffer as a result of this privilege redistribution, their suffering is morally irrelevant. 
  4. If the people (or groups) at the top lose certain freedoms or democratic rights, (such as freedom of speech, due process, or freedom of conscience) as a result of this privilege redistribution, their loss is a good for society. Democratic rights and freedoms are only good if they help the people at the bottom. 
  5. Capitalism is the source of both inequalities of outcome, and a geographical landscape that hurts the planet because of capitalist industrialisation. Hence, a world where people are protected from (rather than exposed to) capitalism is not only a more economically moral world, it’s a more environmentally friendly one.  

1-5 are why the 21st century Left is now far worse than the side of the political spectrum that fights against universal health care, abortion rights, and gay marriage. A liberal democracy, after all, could survive in the absence of universal healthcare, abortion rights, and gay marriage. A society which had fully internalised equity politics would, in effect, cease to be a liberal democratic society. 

Everyone is a unique individual, with qualities that are different to the qualities of other humans. That means the free choices of individuals always generate new inequalities of outcome, unless every sub-division of the population behaves in exactly the same way. Expecting any two populations to behave the same way is like expecting two coins to never land on heads, no matter how many times they are simultaneously flipped in the air. If two coins consistently land on tails every time they are both flipped, you know it’s because an external force (perhaps a magician) is preventing the coins from landing in the positions they would naturally fall into.

This is why a society which prohibited inequality of outcome would have to largely prohibit the free choices of individuals. No two groups of people ever behave in the same way, unless you socially engineer them to behave in the same way. In the absence of socially engineered behaviours, no two groups will ever have the same outcomes, regarding money, incarceration rates, misfortunes, their ability to get high profile jobs, attract a sexy mate, or be represented in tv shows, fashion adverts, and boardrooms. To expect whites and people of colour to have equity is hence, the equivalent of expecting two coins to always land on tails, no matter how many times they get flipped.

A society hell bent on equity would additionally be anti-democratic, because democracy presupposes the will of the majority having priority, when determining society’s future direction. Giving the majority priority over any minority is, by definition, inequality of outcome. A decent liberal democratic society will certainly accommodate and provide rights protections to minorities. But in order for it to be a liberal democratic society at all, the rights (or desires) of minorities can’t take precedence over the rights (or desires) of the majority. Everything from social etiquette to public safety requires that priority be given to the majority. Yet for the equity obsessed 21st century Left, this is an example of oppression (where the powerful majority dominates the powerless minority). 

Even more terrifying than this, the equity politics of today’s Left is so excited at the prospect of bringing down the powerful, that it relativizes cruelty and sadism. If you sadistically abuse somebody at the top, (even if it’s just psychological abuse) the Left gives you a handy script for characterising what you’ve done as self-defence, or ‘levelling the playing field’. You can never be responsible for hurting others, if the pain caused adds to the social value you equate most with justice and fairness (equity).

This is why if any society had fully internalised equity politics, the visceral excitement at bringing down the powerful would be more important than raising people up from the bottom. By raising people up, you only bring them closer to the powerful positions where they become targets for those itching to tear them down. In an equity society, you are literally safer, the less privileges you have. The degree to which you are entitled to both your property and your social advantages corresponds with how little, rather than how much of them, that you have. 

The 21st century Left’s equity politics is hence an extremist politics; a politics which has little time for liberty, and instead associates vengeance and scarcity with virtue. 

Trump and Brexit

The call for equity in the 21st century Left is psychologically grounded in a highly effective and dangerous cognitive distortion; an all encompassing, fanatical belief that the majority demographics of Western countries are aggressively oppressing women and minorities. Although this idea makes little sense (women are the majority), it’s still emotionally compelling, partly because of the election of Donald Trump in the US, and the 2016 UK decision to Brexit. Both decisions are read by the Left as symbols of popular racism and xenophobia. 

Of course, the 21st century Left isn’t wrong when it observes that Donald Trump often uses language and iconography that, from a left-wing perspective, sounds both racist and xenophobic. Nor are they wrong in observing that Trump often behaves like a spoiled child with deeply reactionary, not to mention narcissistic tendencies. The modern Left is not even wrong when it observes that Brexit could incur a substantial cost to the British economy, if done properly. And if we’re honest, Brexit was easier to defend from a right-libertarian, rather than left-socialist perspective.

But what the left gets fundamentally wrong is the reasons why Trump and Brexit happened. 

The British referendum and the American election were not primarily about scapegoating minorities, or making Western countries more backward and provincial. Trump and Brexit were a giant “NO!” to the Left itself, a message delivered straight from the populations of the United States and the UK. Trump and Brexit were, more specifically, a “NO!” to leftist ideas about what makes you racist or xenophobic. This predictably is why both the Left and mainstream media has largely characterised Trump and Brexit as a giant “YES!” to racism and xenophobia. 

In reality, Trump and Brexit were a reflection of how the 21st Left had lost its moral high ground. That is, it lost its very ability to be the authority on how not to be a racist or a xenophobe. This was because, by about 2014, left-wing activists were experiencing something like a collective mental health crisis. Like a paranoid schizophrenic convinced he is being followed by mafia dons, left-wing activists couldn’t help but see majoritarian bigotry and oppression in places where it clearly wasn’t there. They were eager to punish people who were innocent of this bigotry, excited to disproportionately punish people who were only mildly guilty of it, all the while engaging in bigotry themselves (against the majority), and conveniently insisting oppression could only be oppression, if it was against women and minorities. 

Concerns the general public had about uncontrolled immigration were suddenly deemed out of bounds by the new leftist orthodoxy. Any worries about the social cohesion of a society with an incoming population of people who did not share Western values was deemed outrageously intolerant. But because the mainstream media of both the US and the UK assumed that the 21st century Left’s cultural stands on bigotry were the same stances they had always been, the media unwittingly took on the orthodoxies of the 21st century Left. The media, with little self-awareness, became much more radical and extreme in its views on oppression, particularly regarding gender and race. 

By 2016, both the Left and the mainstream media had turned racial politics into equity politics, where racism was now defined in terms of inequalities of outcome. If people of colour had worse statistical outcomes than whites, this was racism, by definition. If Leftists called white people racial slurs, made stereotypical generalisations about white people, essentialised their experiences, verbally abused them for being white, demanded they adopt a different etiquette where they prioritise the emotional needs of people of colour, or excluded them from even having opinions about race, this was not racism. It was racial justice. It was redistributing privilege from whites to people of colour. 

Gone was the 20th century’s universalism; the idea that independently of who was most or least privileged, the people on the bottom do not get special privileges to abuse and denigrate the people at the top. The idea that everyone should be treated as an individual who is beholden to the same public behavioural norms, was simply re-branded by the Left (and mainstream media) as racism. The mainstream media, not noticing how antithetical these new politics were to the values of beloved civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, accepted them as though they were simply the application of King’s views to the 21st century. 

This mainstream media establishment still thought of itself as the non-extreme, reasonable centre, pushing out anodyne candidates like Hilary Clinton and the Remain answer to EU referendum. What this establishment could not see was how its idea of the centre had itself become not just uninspiring to many, but a deeply dangerous hybrid of corrupt status quo politics and equity based extremism. 

Hillary Clinton, like a typical Centrist Democrat, seemed to speak with both sides of her mouth when it came to wooing both the nation’s poor and Wall Street.¹ Many Leftists claimed she had nefariously undermined the election campaign of fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders.² In 2016, Sanders was more aggressively socialist than both Hilary Clinton and any serious presidential hopeful in quite some time. Many believe Clinton squashed a unique chance for a truly socialist American President, and with her shocking tactics against Sanders, was responsible for making American voters give crazy Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt. 

This Leftist narrative casts the 21st century Left in the position of the underdog, ruined by a bland centrist who unwittingly gave power to far right elites (Trump and his billionaire buddies). 

The problem however, is this narrative underplays the extent to which equity, rather than socialism per se, is the core of 21st century leftism. In terms of the equity politics which attempt to redistribute privileges to women and minorities (what’s also called ‘identity politics’), Clinton was as much a 21st century Leftist as Bernie was. She ran on an explicitly pro-feminist and LGBT+ platform, while also promoting equity based narratives about racial oppression.

To characterise Clinton as a centrist would be inaccurate. This is because all equity politics are radical politics, regardless of whether they are supplemented by a bland form of corporatist welfare economics. This is why, even if Clinton was a centrist by mainstream media standards, this was only because the centre itself had become extreme in its unreflective endorsement of equity politics. 

Moreover, Clinton wasn’t merely a culturally left-wing extremist. She was also a Democrat with a foreign policy record in the style of George W Bush, at a time when it was looking like a geopolitical conflict between Russia and the West would quickly spiral into a third world war. Hence, the contest between Clinton and Trump wasn’t, contra the media, a contest between a far right lunatic and an establishment career politician. It was a contest between two candidates who both stood for different varieties of divisiveness and war.

But compared to Clinton’s stands on foreign policy, Trump was (ironically) a peace candidate. His stances on US relations with Russia were closer to Leftists like Jill Stein and Cornel West, than they were to the actual Democrat opposing him.³ If Trump was a dangerous extremist, he seemed like he was, globally speaking, the safer of two dangerous extremists. But the mainstream media, by now little more than a transparent propagandist for Democrat party narratives, couldn’t see anything except the surprise victory of a far right misogynist against a centre left pragmatist who stood for common sense, internationalism, and a way of keeping power away from the US population’s more unsavoury elements; elements Clinton iconically referred to as a ‘basket of deplorables’. The way she spoke of Trump supporters mirrored the way the UK’s now left leaning media routinely characterised Brexiters, after Remain lost the 2016 UK referendum on June 23rd. 

In the UK, Brexit was (and still is) largely characterised by the BBC as a call for nationalist extremism, the demonising of immigrants, and a resurgence of a new Far-Right (much like Trump). But Brexit, although it contains supporters from all over the political spectrum, is more accurately characterised as a public rebuke to the 21st century Left’s internationalism. Like their US counterparts, the British mainstream media has largely internalised the 21st century Left’s views of what xenophobia is, condemning the British population as backward and dangerous, insofar as it raises any worries about either immigration, or the European Union’s specific immigration policies. 

Brexit is hence, more than just the British population’s decision to disentangle itself from a neo-liberal corporatist organisation that makes trade deals in secret (like the infamous TTIP).4 Brexit is also the vehicle by which the UK challenged its own left leaning establishment’s nasty habit of associating the British population with moral unacceptability; unacceptability this establishment wanted to have no influence in British politics. The Remain establishment, in a way that the Brexit victory clearly exposed, prefers to give its population diminished sovereignty, in exchange for trade, communication and human rights law proposals, that representatives of more than two dozen countries vote on. Britain becomes one of many countries sending representatives that can have a relatively minor say in whether Britain must abide by these law proposals, proposals that Britain doesn’t create as a response to the needs of the British population.

This is dangerous, because it reinforces a power hierarchy where a democratically unaccountable organisation (the European Union) can control the parameters of what decisions the British population have a say in. British law becomes increasingly distanced from changes in the values of the British population. When this happens, people feel disconnected from the country they live in, a situation that greatly damages social cohesion. A population can’t believe in the laws and institutions of its own country, if it knows there’s no point in trying to change anything that international organisations have decided beforehand. This is especially true if those decisions involve rights packages and internet regulation directives infused with equity ideology, ideology the internet using British public may not share.5

This equity ideology presents itself as the moral conscience of Britain, advocating policies that make the UK more compassionate, and supposedly improve the lives of the working classes. Yet this is a smokescreen for the true raison d’être of all equity politics; to protect minorities from the majority population. This anti-majoritarianism ironically gives the British working classes good reason to doubt that the 21st Left is truly “for the many, not the few.”6

In British Labour Party campaigns, figures like Jeremy Corbyn routinely tout the Left as a movement committed to taking financial power away from a minority of billionaires, redistributing it to both the pocket books and social services benefitting those who are not well off. This populist message is self-undermining for the British Left, precisely because it always plays second fiddle to an aggressive social politics which, in paranoid and punitive fashion, scolds ordinary people both for their bad habits and unacknowledged privileges. 

You can’t appeal to such people by telling them you are going to redistribute privileges to them from the top end of society, while chastising them for not checking their own privileges (re: women and minorities). In Labour Party politics, straight working class white men are chastised more for their treatment of women and minorities (who may be rich), than they are for the way they treat homeless people. This perhaps explains why Labour are not in government at present. If you want your voting base to resent people above them, you can’t simultaneously encourage your base to resent themselves, because of (potentially) well off people you insist are below them. 

This same contradiction plays out in the more explosive left-right battles across the pond. In the US, an establishment Left accuses working class white American men of being privileged on the one hand, and simultaneously suffering because they continue to vote against their own interests (democratic socialism). Large sections of working class white men find this accusation unfair, seeing capitalism (rather than democratic socialism) as the engine of prosperity capable of efficiently generating class mobility and jobs. The Left then insists these white guys are both deluded about the government help they desperately need, and still dickishly unaware of how privileged they are, relative to women, people of colour, and LGBT+ Americans (who include economically successful and culturally powerful figures like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres, and Kaitlyn Jenner). American voters (many of whom were not white or male) responded to this leftist contradiction with Donald Trump, exacerbating the ideological conflicts of the UK to cartoonish American proportions. 

President Donald Trump’s personality is virtually like Lonesome Roads, the populist right wing demagogue in Elia Kazan’s 1957 film, A Face in the Crowd. He’s a lying, and insensitive oaf who loves playing the part of vulgar demagogue, as it frightens his opponents and supercharges his base of adoring un-PC fans. 

During any other period in American history, the idea of this sort of man as POTUS would imbue most reasonable people with a sense of disappointment and apprehension. But not in a time when his left wing opponents are less like Lonesome Roads than the actual totalitarians of the 20th century. This is perhaps the most unexpected (and poignant) history lesson of the first two years of Trump’s presidency. 

Trump may be a conservative nationalist with despotic tendencies and God-awful statesmanship. But those things are infinitely preferable to a ‘resistance’ which has views that are far more hostile than Trump to important democratic rights (such as free speech, due process, and freedom of conscience). Trump’s left wing opponents are also far more tribal, authoritarian, and contemptuous of their political opponents than Trump himself is. Trump merely taunts and threatens to sue his opponents. Donald Trump’s left-wing opponents are working to create a social environment where they have no opponents they can see; where their opponents are too scared to announce themselves as opponents.

Unlike Trump himself, Trump’s resistance has been quite effective at changing America’s cultural etiquette and institutional norms. They are the reason why even wearing a Trump hat is often conceptualised in the American mainstream media as the equivalent of wearing a swastika. This intolerance towards dissent is minimal on Trumpian side of the political spectrum. Not even a narcissist like Donald Trump has a desire to make a blue hat into the equivalent of a hammer and sickle. This, in, part, is why Trump is the lesser of two evils in the US. Something similar is true of Brexit in the UK. The intolerance Brexiters have towards foreigners is minimal compared to the intolerance the Left (and mainstream media) routinely display towards Brexiters. 

Outlooks and Tactics

To a much greater extent than either Trump or the Brexit movement, the mainstream Left now promotes the exercise of state power, hawkish foreign policy (in the US), increasing calls to regulate the private sphere, and highly effective attempts to informally (and formally) censor views it disapproves of. After #metoo, the Left has attitudes towards due process that are little more than a barely concealed excuse for mob justice. The modern Left also has virtually no respect for freedom of conscience, because such freedom allows citizens to disagree with each other over who is male and who is female. It may only be a small percentage of the population who have deep emotional investments in the way they are categorised by others, but for the modern Left, even highly unusual psychological desires in a minority population are more important than freedom of conscience for the majority. 

Like the far Left always has, this new 21st century Left wants to radically change society. But this radical change is less a populist revolt than a repressive, bourgeoise revolution. 

After this revolution is successful, disagreeing with the Left will be virtually impossible. Any deviation from leftist orthodoxy will result in a barrage of job losses, online insults, business boycotts, twitter storms, public denunciations and death threats. Even if one is officially allowed to question the more bizarre demands made by left-wing activists, the febrile atmosphere will make most too scared to speak up, no matter how extreme, unfair, or counter-productive these activist demands turn out to be. The religious reverence with which society will view both left-wing activists and the marginalised peoples they speak on behalf of, will be like the reverence 20th century totalitarian societies had for their dictators. 

Also worrying is that, within this leftist etiquette, women and minorities are seen as having special epistemic insights into social reality that the rest of the population lack. The non-female, non-minority demographic groups of Western populations wind up being treated like subservient classes, expected to genuflect before women and minorities. A class is subservient, when (1) it is beholden to behavioural norms and expectations the class above it is not, and (2) these divergent expectations are specifically designed to send a message that the class at the bottom owe something to the class at the top.

In the case of the 21st century Left, the message is that the majority demographics have done wrong by minorities, and need to ritualistically atone both for past oppressions, and present day inequalities the majority demographics benefit from. 

What is perhaps the most terrifying feature of the 21st century Left is how much more psychologically effective it is than 20th century totalitarianism. In the age of social media, the new Left efficiently induces its own would-be subservient classes (men, whites, heterosexuals and cisgendered people) to join the Left, celebrating their subservience, conceptualising it as “radical equality.” If you join the new left-wing campaigns that denigrate the so called oppressor groups you are a member of, you are given the reward of being seen as an unusually virtuous person. 

In a similar way, you are seen as an unusually tolerant, open, and inclusive person, if you promote the left campaigns that have the effect of limiting freedom, regulating the private sphere, and curtailing the democratic will of the majority. This Orwellian understanding of progress and inclusion is something the modern Left does much better than fascism ever did. The modern Left brands itself as a continuation of the 20th century Left, even though it’s a repudiation of the major attitudes in the 20th century Left’s more freedom loving counter-culture. It’s also a repudiation of the mid 20th century civil rights movement, whose core value was universality, rather than equity. 

But the 21st century Left can effectively ride on the brand name of the 20th century Left, because it constructs a psychologically compelling narrative of how ‘privileged’ Western majorities are a menace to the marginalised. Here, left wing activists (and the mainstream media who report on them) often rely on a powerful sleight of hand. 

Activists routinely make demands on behalf of minorities, without consulting those minorities, or doing anything as mundane as ‘taking a vote’. Some of the demands made are sensible. Some of them are extreme. Some are ridiculous. But they are all demands society can’t possibly satisfy at the rate at which they are demanded. Society is then condemned for the slow rate at which it satisfies these demands, demands that activists keep making at an increased pace. The more society attempts to raise conversations and debates about them, the more the Left explains this as evidence that mainstream society is oppressive; a mass of bigotry normalising and complacent consumers unwilling to do anything other than dig in their privileged, white heels.

According to the latest activist demands, it’s not enough that caucasians refrain from performing in black face or using the N-word. Caucasians can’t even write fiction in which they adopt the 1st person narration voice of a POC character.7 It’s also now not enough that men attempt to treat women as their equals, capable of sharing a thriving workforce where both genders can co-operate on various mutually beneficial projects. Men must now attend classes where they are taught how not to rape women. That’s how bad men are, according to 21st century left-wing descriptions. In a similar way, it’s not enough that cisgendered women allow transgender women to use female bathrooms. Society must allow trans woman who don’t look like women unconditional access to female bathrooms. Any cis woman who displays the slightest discomfort sharing a public toilet with a person who looks like Chuck Norris is a bigoted monster who must be cast out of polite society. Some left-wing activists go further than that, thinking she (at least) deserves a punch in the face.8

This is the core of the mainstream Left’s strategy for sustaining the illusion that society hasn’t improved since the 20th century, while women and minorities are being systematically persecuted by whites, males, heterosexuals, and the gender conforming. Because of Western guilt over its treatment of women and minorities in the past, it’s difficult for many to give up the belief that the persecutions have never diminished. Yet in a world where bigotry against minorities is deeply stigmatised, pretending it isn’t only entrenches social divisions and antagonisms. People in the supposedly privileged demographic groups are vilified and stigmatised for inequalities of outcome the Left describes as oppressions they are specifically responsible for. If the people being accused defend themselves, they are stigmatised and vilified even more. The message of the vilification is that you can ignore their claims to innocence, because they are nothing more than fake news, much like Fox News.

This fits a broader authoritarian pattern of 21st century left-activism: disagree with the Left, and they describe you as both the very enemy they are fighting against, as well as a disreputable source of information. 

The Left’s Anti-Science Environmentalism 

Instead of uniting majority and minority, the modern Left is creating a world where black is white and up is down. This is true even in the areas outside of identity politics where the Left takes particularly strong stances. Here, critics of identity politics and PC culture often reluctantly side with the Left, believing that the Left’s stances on the economy and the environment are so important for humanity, that even the left’s paranoia over the persecution of minorities is a price worth paying. But the modern Left’s stances on these issues, like their stances on race and gender, wind up creating more dangerous problems than they actually solve. 

The 21st century Left’s stances on the environment typically portray the planet as being on the verge of catastrophe, where our very survival depends on dramatic reductions of CO2 emissions, and a thoroughgoing international commitment to various forms of de-industrialisation. The Left often portrays its intellectual opponents on this front as extreme right conspiracy theorists who are paid by evil corporations to deny the overwhelming consensus of scientists. The Left repeatedly refrains that both global warming and the solutions to it are not a matter for debate. Hence, any skepticism towards either the Left’s solutions or the idea that there are debates to be had, is characterised as something akin to religious fanaticism. The phrase “denier” is often used to describe critics of left-wing environmentalist explanations and solutions, even when those critics are scientists and public policy experts who have a litany of academic publications in respected journals. 

One such environmentalism critic, physicist Ivar Giaever, happens to have won the Nobel prize for experimental discoveries regarding tunnelling phenomena in superconductors.9 But that didn’t stop his environmentalist detractors from labelling him a ‘Climate Pseudoscientist’, after professing his skepticism about global warming science.10 Rather than simply attack his arguments in a debate, his critics (as is the norm) had to give him a label that lets you know before you’ve heard his arguments that he’s an ignorant quack you can dismiss more quickly than a flat earther. Like his critics charge, it’s true that Ivar Giaever is not a specialist in climate science. But neither Michio Kaku or Stephen Hawking ever got the label “Pseudoscientist” because they made careers pontificating on scientific fields outside their area of expertise. Giaever is being held to a standard that Kaku and Hawking are not. 

This is what regularly happens to well esteemed scientists who insist there are still conversations to be had about the truth of left-wing environmentalist stances. Like every other skeptic of environmentalist orthodoxy, they are normally described as extremist nutcases, or systematic purveyors of disinformation. If this characterisation doesn’t stick, the alternative is that of the evil capitalist who doesn’t care about the planet, provided he can make a profit (think of the scientists who work for the Koch brothers). The latter label has also been attached to Giaever, because of his connections to the tobacco industry.11 But this labelling is fallacious, because his ties to tobacco are not evidence Giaever is wrong about either superconductors or climate change. If Niels Bohr spent decades of his life working for the tobacco industry, this wouldn’t suddenly invalidate quantum mechanics. 

Sometimes, the Left goes as far as advocating that verbally expressed skepticism about global warming should literally be a crime.12 This is consistent with the 21st century Left’s stances on how one should be allowed to dissent from left orthodoxy, stances that equate public safety with curtailing publicly acceptable debates (and pluralistic freedom of speech).13 

But like the Left’s stances on race and gender, the Left’s position on the environment harms the very institution that is needed to fight climate change: science. Because the Left can’t acknowledge that there are scientific debates to be had about its activist solutions to the problem of global warming, the Left winds up stigmatising anyone (including any scientist) who doesn’t toe environmentalist party lines. That means scientists who are not global warming skeptics become stigmatised, simply if they raise worries that rapid de-industrialisation takes too heavy a toll on the poor, or that the facts of climate change don’t warrant measures that prevent so many people from having access to the comforts and protections of industrial civilisation.14 

Because of the Left, scientists and public policy experts are now stigmatised if they are climate change believers who happen to believe that the much lauded Paris climate deal is an inefficient (or inhumane) means of forestalling climate change.15 Leftist stigma even extends to scientists who take issue with the Left’s denunciation of nuclear energy and fracking, believing both practices are undeservedly maligned on the one hand, and on the other hand, potentially useful for the reduction of carbon emissions.16

Stigmatising scientists, public policy experts, and other intellectuals who fail to toe environmentalist party lines is a variety of informal censorship that comes at the expense of science, since science depends on the views of the majority being able to dialogue with and take seriously, the view of those scientists who are in the minority.

This doesn’t mean that majority opinion should not be given priority over minority opinion. But science can’t work if anything other than majority opinion is dismissed as quackery. Science would never have evolved in the extraordinary manner it has, if this were one of its methodological constraints. 

This is because every view which is now a mainstream presupposition of science was once a minority view within general scientific opinion. Scientific progress hence depends on the views of scientific minorities being taken seriously, because all scientific revolutions depend on a minority view becoming the majority view. Yet this pattern is what environmentalism deliberately jeopardises, often using the ad hominem that any dissenter of environmentalist orthodoxy, no matter how much an expert, must be either a global warming skeptic, a religious fanatic, or corrupt capitalist. Yet debates with prominent scientists who dissent from orthodoxy is precisely the means by which science increases both its empirical accuracy and the effectiveness of its technologies and budgeting plans. Excluding dissent from scientific orthodoxy creates an environment where confirmation bias runs amok. 

The Left often parades misleading data to encourage an almost religious acceptance of environmentalist platitudes, such as the infamous “97% of scientists accept that climate change is man made” statistic.17 The use of this statistic is a vicious rhetorical trick, as it says nothing about which percentage of scientists reject any alternatives to left-wing solutions to the problem of climate change. Such rhetorical tricks are the real threat to public safety, as climate change solutions depend on an honest appraisal of what most scientists actually believe, rather than a misleading conflation of “settled debates” with the demands of anti-industrial environmentalists. Believing in the existence of man made climate change, after all, is not synonymous with feverishly accepting all of the Left’s positions on climate change. 

There are debates to be had, whenever there is science to be done about something of such grave importance. 

How the Left Can Even Hurt The Poor

It is commonly believed among many who feel that everyone has a moral obligation to help the poor that the 21st century Left’s solutions to the problem of poverty are the only viable solutions.

From a left perspective, rejecting these solutions to the problem of poverty is tantamount to throwing people on the street, restricting the poor from the possibility of class mobility, as well as giving the rich a coercive stick with which to beat the poor. But much like the Left’s stances on environmentalism, leftist economics can hurt the poor in the name of helping the poor. This is because it relies on the same equity stances which produce bigotry and authoritarianism, in the context of identity politics. For both 21st identity politics and 21st century socialism, equity is associated with moral virtues like justice and benevolence, while its absence is associated with vices such as greed and malevolence. 

No social institution is associated with the absence of equity more than capitalism. 

This is why the 21st century Left equates poverty and social decay with capitalism, simultaneously equating economic regeneration with government spending on social programs, an expanding welfare state, and artificial price fixing by the state. Capitalism is associated with a dirty, inegalitarian and conformist world of wage slavery and consumerism, while protecting people from capitalism is associated with the tolerant, tree filled multicultural city, where everyone has a basic income, breathes clean air, works when they want to, and is the beneficiary of a government controlled economy that provides everyone with just enough (but not more) of what they need.

Hence, the Left believes that government interference in the economy is synonymous with economic regeneration, while the free market is synonymous with social stratification, inequality, exploitation, and rising crime rates. 

The reality, however, is more complicated than these binary oppositions, and the Left’s denial of this complexity winds up undermining the very mechanisms that alleviate poverty.

While the Left’s welfare state can undoubtably protect people from homelessness, it’s not primarily what creates class mobility. What creates class mobility (and hence, the lifting of socially deprived people into a better life) is economic growth. Growth and investment are what, through job creation, allow people to trade their services with each other, develop a greater sense of contentiousness, and respond to multiple incentives to engage the world through sociality, rather than crime. As economists regularly note, even in supposedly socialist Scandinavian countries, economic freedom (rather than business regulation) is what corresponds with economic growth, growth which (in part) can fund the generous welfare states one sees in places like Sweden and Denmark.18

Growth is what explains why there is a difference between the present and the past of Western industrialised countries, when we observe the increasing levels of prosperity, the variety of jobs, consumer choices, affordable goods, possible career avenues, purchasing power, medical, practical and entertainment technologies, not to mention increasing levels of sanitation and longevity. Yet for the Left, business freedom (the very engine of economic growth) is associated with the freedom to exploit, and economic growth is associated both with inequality and the using up of the planet’s finite resources. Rather than call for technological developments to create new resources (or recombine old ones in new ways), the Left typically calls for growth stagnation, less consumption, and a halt to industrialisation. Yet these are the very things that explain the dramatic (and unprecedented) increases in both human safety and well being, that have been have observed throughout the two hundred years.19

So what happens if we follow the Left’s strategy of equating the welfare state with economic mobility, social programs with sociality, price fixing with affordability, and growth with environmental destruction?

We wind up with a society that, in the name of economic justice and environmentalism, is far less prosperous, socially cohesive, and conscientious than our current society, with virtually no class mobility, and even greater difficulties distributing affordable goods, as the prices have been decided by government bureaucracies. Such bureaucracies are man made institutions that are faced with the daunting task of having to control the market value of thousands of goods in a way that is responsive to the complexities of human needs, rather than the demands of the market. Such a task requires that the state replicate incredibly complex causal sequences the market does on its own, sequences that ensure most of the enormous range of products people need (and want) are available at affordable prices, without destabilising shortages or surpluses.20

Such a task would be fruitless, as one can’t extricate ‘human need’ itself from the ‘demands’ that actually express human needs in capitalist markets. Such an extrication is tantamount to rejecting actually expressed needs in favour of a top down vision of what is good for people, supplemented by a nanny state that seeks to socialise citizens, rather than create conditions that allow families and communities to efficiently socialise themselves. Because consumerism is effectively derided by the 21st century Left, its leftist future is one where you have little choice in what you can buy, you’re stigmatised for buying things that make your life more comfortable and efficient, and you endure constant pressure to behave according to social norms enforced from the top down, instead of evolving organically (from the bottom up). 

In any free society, the social norms, much like market demands, must come from the bottom up. 

As for the environment, the diminishing toll of industrialisation on the planet would be replaced by an increased toll of de-industrialisation on humans, with less of the economic mechanisms that protect humans from bad sanitation, poor health, crime, and poverty. The environmentalist technology required to continually protect the planet would be less readily available in a world committed to decreasing economic growth. Not only would such a world be less kind to the poor, it would be a world with many more poor people, with fewer resources to deal with the natural disasters that impact them. Insofar as we would see an increase in equity, it would be because everyone is much worse off. Such equity wouldn’t be anything anyone enjoyed, because if our imaginary leftist society were anything like the 21st century Left, it would encourage citizens to treat people not as individuals, but as representatives of the demographics they come from. For the 21st century left, treating people as individuals is associated with oppression, because individualism is associated with capitalism. 

But being treated as an individual is precisely what makes the West so attractive to most other parts of the world. The prospect of being treated as an individual is what made the Left itself attractive to Westerners, in the 20th century. 

Symbolic Paranoia 

The psychological tendency which unifies all these equity stances within the modern Left is symbolic paranoia. 

Symbolic paranoia is when you cease to see the reality of an empirical situation because you’ve projected a symbolic narrative onto it. The symbolic narrative makes you want to fight against a grave injustice, which now suddenly seems both pervasive, and something the rest of society displays a callous indifference towards. But this appearance of injustice is actually an illusion, an illusion borne out of an inability to perceive the features of reality that clash with the symbolic narrative. 

When one acts on behalf of a symbolic narrative, the clash with reality makes the act counter-productive and destructive. In the name of helping the powerless and the vulnerable, one winds up hurting everyone, because ‘help’ is impossible outside the constraints of reality. What’s particularly fascinating about symbolic paranoia is it’s almost always coupled with hypocrisy. The person trying to enact justice on behalf of a symbolic narrative is normally doing a greater injustice than the purported injustice he or she is trying to fight. This is partly because when one is in the grip of symbolic paranoia, one confuses solving problems with prohibiting symbols one associates with the problems one would like to solve. When one is in the grip of symbolic paranoia, one typically tries to solve problem X, primarily by prohibiting symbols associated with X. 

Donald Trump hatred has become, in some ways, the penultimate expression of the Left’s symbolic paranoia. He is the ultimate X. 

Trump, after all, constantly goads the Left, exhibiting obnoxious and childish behaviours that for lefties, trigger symbolic narratives about the emergence of bigotry, the persecution of minorities, despotism, and even fascism. When Trump uses hyperbolic rhetoric referring to illegal migrants as potential ‘rapists’ and ‘bad hombres’ he specifically becomes part of the Left’s symbolic narrative about how an otherwise liberal capitalist society descends into a far right dictatorship that brutally persecutes non-whites. The fact that Trump also periodically exaggerates and frequently peppers his speech with factual inaccuracies also fits a second symbolic narrative of how a right-wing demagogue becomes a repressive leader, riding the fact-free emotionalism of a sheep like populace to eventually dispense with the rule of law. 

The problem with both of these symbolic narratives is they mistakenly graft the political causality of the 20th century onto the politics of the 21st century, a politics whose meaning has been altered by having the 20th century as part of everyone’s collective memory. Trump’s incendiary remarks are less a pre-amble to the oppression of non-whites than they are a mechanism for enraging Trump’s left wing opponents. He deliberately uses the symbols and sentences the Left associates with 20th century racism and fascism, causing a hysterical reaction that plays beautifully to his base. 

But what the Left can’t see is Trump’s childish behaviour isn’t simply a contempt for the norms of basic decency; it’s also a form of political resistance. It’s a way of rejecting the Left’s criteria for identifying what a racist is, and even what a racist demagogue is. Trump’s behaviour is, for his base, a way of saying that the Left has become so authoritarian and arbitrary in the symbols it wants prohibited in the name of equality, that one should fight the Left’s authoritarianism by displaying the very symbols that frighten it most. For the Left, this winds up confirming their suspicions that Trump and his base are deplorables, just like Clinton had infamously characterised them.  

This, however, is a mistake. To see why, let’s do a thought experiment.

Suppose a fat kid called Marvin goes to school and gets bullied for a year in his science class. Suppose the next year, Marvin is enrolled in a new science class where everyone seems much nicer. But Marvin demands that his teacher give a speech to his new class about Marvin’s experiences being bullied the previous year. Moreover, Marvin also demands that his new classmates demonstrate to him that they don’t have fat phobic attitudes. 

His demands include a prohibition against adjectives such as ‘gigantic’, ‘huge’, ‘massive’, and ‘enormous’ as these were the words the bullies in his previous class insulted him with. The teacher agrees with Marvin, prohibiting Martin’s preferred adjectives so that the entire class can symbolically show solidarity with Marvin’s trauma. This winds up meaning that in a lesson where students are discussing the size of Jupiter, they must always use the phrase “very large” rather than the forbidden adjectives causing Marvin to experience traumatic memories of being bullied from an entirely different set of kids. 

The kids in his new class, even in their science discussion, are feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around Marvin. Very quickly, they wind up resenting him for this. They feel rightly that Marvin has, without consulting them, demanded changes in how they use their language. The rationale for the changes implies Marvin’s new classmates were always bigots simply because of adjectives they always used, adjectives most of them never used to bully anybody. Eventually, these kids get fed up with these linguistic demands and start taunting Marvin. They repeatedly use the words ‘gigantic’, ‘huge’, ‘massive’, and ‘enormous’ both to refer to Marvin, and to refer to any large object that gives them any excuse to use the adjectives Martin demanded prohibitions of. The teacher, of course, thinks what Marvin has done is expose the fact that most of her students are fat phobic bullies. She thinks the fact that they ever used adjectives like ‘gigantic’, ‘huge’ ‘massive’, and ‘enormous’ is evidence they were always bullies (even before Marvin joined the class).

The teacher’s attitude towards her students is much like the mainstream Left’s attitude towards Trump and his supporters. She can’t see that her students are using Marvin’s prohibited adjectives because the prohibitions are themselves, expressions of Marvin’s bigotry, his demands for special treatment none of the other students get, and the prioritising of his own negative feelings over everyone else’s. Marvin is so selfish in the way he only values his own feelings, that he has virtually no empathy for the experiences his classmates might be feeling because of him; experiences of being blamed for something of which they are innocent, experiences of being unfairly stigmatised with a bigotry label, and experiences of being told Martin’s hurt feelings gives him the right to control how they can express themselves, while their own hurt feelings have no relevance to what Marvin should be able to say or do.

What allows Marvin’s teacher to see only Marvin’s feelings is the symbolic narrative she overlays onto the entire situation. 

The narrative goes like this:

“Marvin was bullied by fat phobic kids in another class. This was because Marvin lives in a fat phobic society. Marvin lives in a fat phobic society where thin kids benefit at the expense of fat kids. Because thin kids are unaware of these privileges, they don’t think of themselves as fat phobic. But not only do they benefit from thin privilege, they reinforce their oppression of fat kids by using the very adjectives fat phobic bullies used to insult Marvin (‘gigantic’, ‘huge’, ‘massive’, and ‘enormous’). Using these adjectives both reinforces and normalises fat phobic bullying, because these adjectives are offensive and hurtful symbols of thin privilege; symbols at least one fat kid (Marvin) has asked more privileged thin kids to stop using. In order to redistribute their privilege to Marvin, they must heed his demands, and the offensive adjectives must be prohibited.” 

Because of the teacher’s symbolic paranoia, the teacher can’t see that neither fat phobia or fat acceptance is something you can easily identify, based on the prohibition of offensive symbols. Some kids may use Marvin’s forbidden adjectives without being fat phobic, while other kids may comply with all of Marvin’s demands, still believing that his fat body makes him a visually repulsive, thoroughly unpleasant person to be around. The problem with the teacher’s symbolic narrative is it conflates symbols with reality. This is why Marvin’s teacher cannot see that her students are not bullying Marvin because he is fat. They are actually standing up to him, using the symbols he forbade them from using, precisely because these prohibitions were themselves expressions of Marvin’s bigotry, selfishness, and attempts to control them. 

The teacher’s inability to see something so obvious illustrates the effectiveness of symbolic paranoia. Because this paranoia conceptualises every situation with a pre-established hierarchy of victim and victimiser, it puts cognitive pressure on observers to see these social hierarchies, even when they’re presented with counter-examples to them.

If you have rose tinted glasses, you see the rose tint even in situations where no such colour exists outside of the frames that are hooked into your temples, covering your eyes from the colours of the real world. The degree to which such glasses causes one to misperceive reality is akin to the symbolic paranoia transforming the mainstream Left into a repressive 21st century authoritarian movement. 

The symbolic narrative of the heteropatriarchal Western culture stops the Left from seeing how their activists practice racism and sexism, promoting etiquette norms that put the supposedly ‘powerful’ demographics of Western countries in a position of subservience, relative to women and minorities. The symbolic narrative of the greedy corporation, hell bent on profit at the expense of the planet’s safety, stops the Left from seeing that scientific opinion is not uniformly on the side of environmentalist activism, and that the acceptability of dissenting opinion is as important for science as it is for politics. And because of the symbolic narrative of the rich businessman who blames the poor for being poor, the Left can’t see how important capitalist wealth creation is for the spreading of wealth (and resources) to the poor. 

Symbolic narratives are, in effect, ways of explaining the world that block out empirical (and indeed, psychological) information. They block out the very information relevant to how one should explain the world, if one is to react to the moral demands of the world, rather than simply make childish demands upon our world. When we are mature adults, the way we see the world is fluid, capable of constantly shifting and adjusting, as new and incoming information pours in. 

In contrast to this, the 21st century Left has rigidly confined itself to a symbolic narrative that explains (and decides) all social conflict and change, prior to having investigated the particulars of situations. This prejudgement of situations and people is hence, why the modern mainstream Left is awash in so much bigotry and authoritarianism. Judging people based on assumptions that cannot be altered with new information is the genesis of bigotry. And when one experiences discomfort because of incoming information one would rather block out, the more comforting solution is to ban its expression.

The awkward uncomfortableness of truth is anathema to authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is happy to stifle truth in the name of reinforcing its certainties, by sustaining the delusion that one is actually fighting for the underdog, rather than punching it in the face. 

None of this, of course, is an argument that the ideal sectors of the political spectrum are to be found amongst conservative Christians or anti-state Libertarians. It’s an argument that the Left is now worse than those sectors, and this is another way of saying that all of politics is broken.

To fix it, we need a more thorough appreciation of our liberal democratic tradition, a tradition that allows most of us a level of freedom, prosperity, lawfulness, and health that would be unthinkable for most humans that have ever lived on planet earth. Without any gratitude, our tradition will atrophy and wither away, because of activists who are less like Martin Luther King than Veruca Salt.

The End


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