13 Dec Continuing our civil, thoughtful discussion about Jordan B. Peterson, the corruption of Identity Politics/Liberalism, and politicized economic theories from Marx to Pareto…
INSTALLMENT THE SECOND: With the arrival of “Doc,” our discussion of Identity Politics, corrupted Liberalism, and the monolithic, corporatized, “mainstream” media takes off!
Doc — I disagree that “the media” has predetermined narratives which are often false. Constructing “the media” as a monolithic unified entity gives us permission to complain about the things we don’t like, but it also simplifies the subject to an unbearable degree.
While I agree that the Telcom Act of 96 ushered in an era of increased corporate media control, I fail to see how “the media” is some kind of giant Death Star whose mission is to destroy progressive values.
In another way of looking at it, progressives have spectacularly failed to articulate, defend, and promote their values. The same kind of vitriol we hear about in identity politics also comes out in progressive politics in general. There is always the conspiratorial story about some hated group who is out to oppress us and destroy us out of some twisted immoral urge.
The “identity politics” we often kick down has a legitimate origin story as well. LGBTQ rights movements were not created simply so that leftists could sanctimoniously scold people, they emerged as genuine self-defense movements. Jordan Petersen doesn’t care about this, and therefore he hand waves away a trans person’s request to use a desired pronoun. To me, it’s plain that the people who cheer him on don’t really care about his smart phrases and rhetoric. They’re just pissed that trans people don’t know their place and they’re happy to see somebody kicking them back down. I’ve observed this in person, hearing JP weilded as a transphobic sledge hammer by a person for whom “cultural Marxism” might as well have been a band name.
Identity politics is not destroying America, it’s saving people who were previously abused and disrespected. “Identity politics” has become some kind of dirty word for a concept we previously referred to as “civil rights”. We seem to only identify and blame the victims when we disparage “identity politics”, but somehow the aggressors in identity politics remain invisible. For example, when suppressing the black vote in Georgia, that is identity politics being waged by mainly white people motivated by their white “identity”. However, only the victims, disenfranchised voters, are singled out and vilified for practicing “identity politics”.
I’d like to advocate for a repudiation of “identity politics” as some kind of problem that needs to be overcome. I also hope that “the media” is a monolithic concept we can try to let go of and maybe try to see it as an ecosystem or at least a food chain – corporate hegemony and all.
It’s helpful to visualize and describe our problems as systems rather than as conspiracies. We have complicated systemic problems which by the nature of their evolution are absolutely not just the fault of one or two evil overlords, but are participated in by most of us.
James O’Donnell III — Doc, I agree with much of what you’ve written, especially your views on Identity Politics and Jordan Peterson (while conceding that not everything he’s said/written is harmful). In other instances, I found myself disagreeing with you, but I’ll begin with the positive.
ON THE UGLY, OFF-PUTTING BASTARDIZATION OF IDENTITY POLITICS:
Like you, I think that ideally the term Identity Politics would be synonymous with “civil rights.” However, I do think that a perversion of ID Politics has generated a backlash that is damaging, making many, including JBP, want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Obviously, I think that would be a mistake.
I also agree that those who wish to denounce ID Politics in any form are misguided, and that the term needs to be reclaimed and redefined for the mainstream. As I see it, Identity Politics, in its purest form, is simply the sensible, self-preserving response of marginalized and vulnerable social groups struggling to reclaim their humanity in the eyes of the bigoted mainstream, and assert their equal rights in the face of a hostile, narrow-minded, white-male dominated (and white-supremacist) society.
That’s why I say it is “an ugly, off-putting bastardization of Identity Politics” that’s the problem, not Identity Politics itself.
The gross parody of ID Politics promoted by political parties and the corporate media is truly pernicious, IMO. This is the form of Identity Politics that has news programs consistently using black correspondents to anchor every story involving black Americans, even as they give short shrift to the grievances of the African-American community, generally (downplaying/censoring any talk of systemic, widespread racial profiling, the epidemic of racism in law enforcement, the New Jim Crow and modern slavery, environmental racism, the Southern Strategy, etc.). And the news programs do the same with other minority groups, when it comes to covering their issues: when they present a story that affects the Latinos, they trot out their Latino anchor, and so on.
Aside from the lousy journalism such a strategy offers, this practice undermines the principle that all moral, compassionate people have a stake in the just treatment of all other people, be they black, white, Asian, Muslim, homosexual, Jewish, labor leaders, peace activists, communists, or whatever.
The dangerous message the networks are reinforcing is that one has to belong to a certain minority group in order to be sensitive to injustices perpetrated against that group. And even that “sensitivity” is a farce. The anchors, afflicted by careerism and ignorance, offer nothing but a shallow parody of liberalism, while consistently and emphatically representing the views and interests of generally bigoted corporate executives and owners (almost all white males).
It’s not because these people are evil “Death Star” denizens, but because of basic self-interest. Today’s news corporations are humongous, monopolizing most news coverage any American sees (particularly since the Telecom Act has eliminated dozens of sizeable, minority-owned news outlets) — and their profit motives go well beyond “ratings.” Most of these media giants’ profits come from their many investments in the MIC, PhRMA, fossil fuel industry, etc. — as corporate interests have merged over the past few decades, as a handful of behemoths dominate most industries.
Ratings have become a secondary or even tertiary concern, coming after keeping the Corporatocracy profitable and peddling its chosen narratives… narratives that rarely, if ever, indict the powerful, no matter how great their crimes.
That’s not liberalism. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
In the political arena, the bastardization of Identity Politics tells us that, if we care about African-Americans we should vote for Cory Booker or Barack Obama or Kamala Harris — when in truth, there have been few worse enemies of African-Americans in the country’s modern history than these politicians. (As racist and profoundly uncaring as he was in office, it wasn’t George W. Bush who eviscerated welfare, exploded mass-incarceration, removed white-supremacist terror groups from the DHS watch list, or wiped out the post-Civil Rights Era economic gains of black households. Democratic presidents did those things, disproportionately devastating the African-American community.)
Using ethnicity and personal identity signifiers in such a cynical, exploitive way makes a mockery of Identity Politics and all the good it can do. It’s a corruption, and a systematic one. Identity Politics needs to be reclaimed by progressives and genuine liberals, unconcerned with corporate profits and official narratives.
THE MEDIA AND ME — A SAGA:
Where I couldn’t disagree with you more, Doc, concerns your assertions about the media industry, which all Coke/Pepsi branding aside, I see as terrifyingly monolithic. I feel that your assertions are speculative, founded not in close observation, but in your faith in the health of our institutions, which I think is misplaced.
Understand that I have dedicated some 40-60 hours/week for over two decades now, to voraciously consuming as much good journalism as I can find, trying to get to the Truth, wherever I can find it; and applying the scientific method to my analysis, to make certain that I’m building an understanding of events based in fact, rather than searching for whatever reinforces my preconceived notions.
I’ve learned to regard everything the corporate media and politicians say with extreme skepticism, to investigate every claim, particularly when the war drums start beating.
As with any sound approach to education, the more I learned, the more I was able to intuit the truth, confirm that truth through research, and even predict outcomes, often years ahead of the rest of my society’s understanding. To give you an idea how far my questing has taken me, I started off as a typical, clueless mainstream American — only with an open and idealistic mind, ravenous for information. My embarrassing starting point: my first vote in a presidential election was for George H.W. Bush! (Only one of the worst proto-fascist presidents of the modern age, a genuine precursor of Trump, someone who paved the way for Trump’s ascent — not just by discrediting the establishment, which he did, but by practicing race-baiting, gay-bashing politics, because that’s what got his base revved up.)
Years later, when I started listening to Amy Goodman’s “DemocracyNow!” program, and first heard of the 1953 CIA coup in Iran, I was dubious: “Can this be true?” I asked myself. Indeed it was. My eyes only continued opening from that point forward, as I fell ever deeper into the rabbit hole of modern history and politics.
For several years, I religiously read most of the leading mainstream political magazines (including Newsweek, Time, The Economist, The Nation, and the New York Times Magazine). I chose mainstream sources, because I wanted to be able to cite the most credible news organizations when making my case to conservative friends and family. For over a decade, I read the news sections of the New York Times and Washington Post, front to back, printing out important stories and annotating them heavily, as if I were an aspiring lawyer desperate to pass the bar exam… of politics.
And while working as a security guard, apartment manager, and freelance graphic designer, I constantly had radio and TV news (from DemocracyNow! to CNN to Fox to PBS to NPR, etc.) playing in the background — recording the juiciest bits on my VCR, thousands of hours, all told. Before long, I’d filled hundreds of six- and eight-hour cassettes (nearly 50 devoted to the 2000 election cycle alone). Before long, I was taping over my movie collection, as I kept running out of tapes and had a limited budget. (I was saving money for grad school, then supporting my first wife as she worked toward her four-year veterinary degree program, and later saving money for our move to British Columbia.)
END PART II
NEXT: Continuing my response to “Doc,” expounding further on the corruption of the liberal class and MSM!