Saturday, December 3, 2016

The alt-center, censorship, and the weaponizing of poverty: a scattershot note

I love this quote. I have seen too many examples of people online trying to silence their opponents with financial threats instead of simply refuting them.

Perhaps the best thing I can point to about Trump's election is fewer people who claim to be on the left are mocking "freeze peach". It's a little sad that the ACLU's support is divided between people who believe in free speech and people who would like to censor their opponents but are afraid they're in danger of losing that fight, but I suspect that's always been the case. During McCarthyism, the left strongly supported free speech. During the rise of left-identitarianism, the right did. What we'll have under Trump's gonzo conservatism, I can't guess, but I know we'll need the ACLU at least as much as we always have.


I don't know who coined "alt-center", but I love it for at least two reasons:

1. The people who fall under labels like "social justice warrior" and my previous alternative, "censorial left-identitarian" are not leftist in any meaningful way. They tend to support Clinton's right-of-center neoliberalism. They are extremely conformist and they love trying to get people banned or fired for expressing ideas they disagree with. Their solution to the problems of racism and sexism is not to redistribute the wealth to end economic inequality but to advocate the ancient solution of education, which for all its virtues only helps the poor people who're lucky enough to have the resources that will let them graduate with honors. The US's two-party system makes these angry identitarians think they are leftists because they're to the left of the far right, but the fact that their champion in the current election, Hillary Clinton, won many wealthy neighborhoods that had traditionally voted for Republicans should show that their politics are consistent with those of moderate Republicans.

2. What distinguishes the alt-center from the center is what distinguishes the alt-right from the right: they're loud and obsessed with social identity. "Alt" is shorthand for smug, furious, and superficial—both the alt-right and the alt-center are content with a skin-deep analysis of injustice that ignores capitalism.

Yes, there are self-proclaimed socialists like Sady Doyle whose identitarianism made them support Clinton's neoliberalism. Their existence does not mean we need a category for them like alt-left or one I had liked, ctrl-left. The internet has countless videos of animals who seem to think they're a different animal—but just as a prancing cat is not a horse, someone who supports a neoliberal is not a socialist.

Now, I'm not saying alt-center is the perfect name for the loud group of people who've taken the religious concept of social justice and turned it into something that would embarrass social justice workers like Dorothy Day and Dom Hélder Câmara, but it's the best I've found. If ever the alt-center adopts a name, I'll happily use it—I believe you should call people what they like to be called so long as that name does not create confusion. Until they adopt a name, I'll just follow along with what works best at the time. Right now, that's "alt-center".

Monday, November 28, 2016

Liavek 7! Now available! Longest collection yet, only $3.99!

Contains five stories:
"Portrait of Vengeance" by Kara Dalkey
"The Skin and Knife Game" by Lee Barwood and Charles de Lint
"Strings Attached" by Nathan A. Bucklin
"The Tale of the Stuffed Levar" by Jane Yolen
"An Act of Love" by Steven Brust, Gregory Frost, and Megan Lindholm

And a poem:
"Spells of Binding" by Pamela Dean
 Originally published in 1987 in Spells of Binding. For more information, see A Liavek publication FAQ.

Available now at: Liavek 7: Spells of Binding 
Barnes & Noble: Liavek 7: Spells of Binding 
Smashwords: Liavek 7: Spells of Binding

"A colorful, likable setting: a crowded port city so well-drawn that readers soon feel they could walk through it..." —Publisher's Weekly

"Fresh and compelling tales." —Science Fiction Review

" entertainment as well as an exercise in shared-world fiction." —Fantasy Review

"Beautifully written, with detailed characterizations, the short stories are amazingly well integrated...a collection of quality fiction...Liavek is a place worth visiting. Get there before another volume comes out." —Voya

"For a world conceived in the 1980s, Liavek was notably forward-looking... As a counter to the default whiteness of fantasy at the time, Liavekans are dark-skinned, as are the indigenous S'Rian people on whose older town the city was built. A same-sex relationship is central to some of Dean's stories, and the city has multiple religions, but also atheists — no easy feat when the various gods regularly take an interest in human affairs." —Elizabeth Graham, NPR

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

No, identity politics is not civil rights

I left this comment at Stop Calling It Identity Politics — Its Civil Rights:
It’s sad that you’ve appropriated King to argue that identitarianism is civil rights. Two things he said may illustrate the problem:

“In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.” — Martin Luther King

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.” — Martin Luther King

Left-identitarians prefer the King of 1963 to the later King who spoke more bluntly about justice. They fail to note that the 1963 Dream speech was given at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, not the March on Washington for Racial Respect. To democratic socialists like King and Bayard Rustin, fighting racism and sexism were just part of what socialists do. That’s no different for the most famous democratic socialist in the US today, Bernie Sanders.

King’s unfinished project, the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, was not the Black People’s Campaign. He wanted poor people of all hues to march together and call for Basic Income to end poverty for everyone.

But left identitarians only want to fight racism and sexism. If you doubt this, notice how many of them denigrate the white working class. 
And if you ask for specifics about how they can fight racism and sexism alone, their solutions are vague. They have to be vague because wealth in the US will always be disproportionately distributed without a solution like Basic Income. Which is why Malcolm X was right when he said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism”.

The history of left identitarianism in the US begins after King died. Privileged black academics in the Ivy League under the guidance of Derrick Bell developed Critical Race Theory as an alternative to King’s universalism. One of Bell’s students, Kimberle Crenshaw, coined “intersectionality”, but her intersection was only about race and gender — the black bourgeoisie is no more interested in the working class than the white bourgeoisie. Later thinkers have tried to add class to the identitarian intersection, but the problem is class is not a social identity. It’s an economic identity, and very few poor people want to preserve their identity as poor people.

On Facebook,David Hajicek said,
Will, I don't quite get the second paragraph. I can see that capitalism is good at creating poor people. And as you noted, poverty is not unique to blacks. So why, “You can’t have capitalism without racism”?
I answered,
Because generational poverty from our history of chattel slavery and wage slavery means the class system will look much like it does today without a huge change in the way we distribute wealth: disproportionately black, Hispanic, and American Indian at the bottom, with large groups of poor whites in places like Appalachia and the Dakotas, and disproportionately Jewish and Asian at the top, with large groups of rich whites in the places where the rich gather.

Interestingly (to me, at least), the distribution of white people in general is not as disproportionate as anti-racists think. A while back, Walter Benn Michaels noted, "White people, for example, make up about 70 per cent of the US population, and 62 per cent of those in the bottom quintile."
David said,
Or is it because racism is a useful too to get poor whites to accept their unfair circumstances?
I said,
It is, but I think most capitalists really would like to see an end to racism so they could feel that capitalism was fair. They just don't want to redistribute the wealth to do that, so we're stuck in this situation where capitalists talk endlessly about diversity and never offer anything that will actually help the people at the bottom of the pyramid.

Marcus H. Johnson, the author of the piece that inspired this post, responded to my comment with
There are plenty of socialist countries where Black people are at the bottom of society with the least money, the fewest resources, and the least power. Socialism =\\= antiracism. Not even close.
I replied,
I notice that you don’t name any examples of those countries, but I agree that many countries still have a problem with racism.

A few relevant facts:

During the height of Jim Crow, the Communist Party USA took up one of the most famous court cases of the day when they defended the Scottsboro Boys from charges of raping two white women. CPUSA also ran black candidates for office when segregation was the law of the land—James W. Ford was their candidate for Vice President three times.

W.E.B. Du Bois, who first wrote about white skin privilege, was a member of the Communist Party. He said in the foreword to the 50th anniversary edition of Souls of Black Folk, “I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.”

Famous black people who didn’t join a communist party but worked with communists and attended some of their meetings include Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, and Paul Robeson.

That said, I agree that socialism =/= anti-racism. Derrick Bell had no interest in socialism; he liked being at the top of the US’s class system. So he took a different path than King and Rustin and Malcolm X and Rosa Parks did when he began developing Critical Race Theory.