If you’d asked a campaigning Hillary Clinton about the state of the world, she’d tell you it’s never been better. If you ask Jordan Peterson today, he’ll tell you it’s never been worse. If you ask me, I’d say no one should be taking advice about anything from these two wretched nozzlers. I’d say that this tepid politician or that undistinguished scholar can offer us no useful guide to anything beyond their extreme self-interest.
Still, this is what potty publishers of the West feel that we have earned: a false opposition between liberal optimist and liberal pessimist. One can accept the popular view that (a) human history was hunky-dory before Trump intervened or (b) human nature turned sour when “neo-Marxists” started whining about their identity problems. There are no more intellectual positions at this time.
We are encouraged by pro-Clinton media workers to call one view a “resistance”. We are encouraged by the resistance-to-the-resistance to identify the other as the “Intellectual Dark Web”. I would encourage you never to believe the promise of any self-devised handle. “9_4_U” is a username to be trusted no more than these others.
Moreover, you just can’t trust people engaged in an argument in which you have minimal interest. Each group of smug plonkers preserves itself by claiming that the other group of smug plonkers is a dominant and unreasonable bully. What we have in the media of the present is not so much a diminution of thought, but something that stands in for thinking.
It is absurd to call support for Clinton and the obdurately neoliberal Democratic National Committee a “resistance”. It is absurd to hold a vaguely identified “Russia” responsible not only for an election result already compromised by shoddy voting machines and racist voter registration practice but for US racism itself. Clinton resists nothing but her own unprecedented loss. And, the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) is both as intellectual and as dark as an afternoon play-date with a plastic daffodil. Albeit, a bloom that blames a good deal of current trouble on the modern woman and her hobby of indiscriminate castration.
Look. Not to come over all hoity-toity, but this IDW palaver is not, as The New York Times recently had it, the challenging product of renegade minds. Like the “resistance”, it’s really the unfortunate side-effect of a commentariat led daily by the snout to the low troughs of profit. Old ideas are upcycled hastily to explain a world of inevitably increasing complexity and we have Breitbart alum Ben Shapiro of the IDW pooping out Milton Friedman like it’s 1975, or David Frum — yes, the guy who wrote the words “Axis of Evil” for George W. can be a “resistance” fighter too! — reminding us all of the Russian capacity for cyberwarfare.
The US capacity for cyberwarfare is not a matter for discussion. The US-led neoliberal project is not a matter for debate. Between the IDW’s Peterson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Sam Harris, and champions of the resistance like Stephen Colbert or Nicholas Kristof, the only true disagreement is about language and representation and behaving better, goddamnit.
A Peterson, for example, holds that the “neo-Marxist” — a creature with no actual Marxist genealogy — is oppressing all men with their nonsense blather about identity categories. A Roxane Gay, for example, will fret about bad things on the television. Accounts of political economy are based, as all else, on presumptions about human nature: some people are just naturally better than others. This is the argument used both by the IDW or the resistance — the only difference is that the IDW believes that those who already hold great power are entitled to it, whereas the resistance would like to see a more culturally and linguistically diverse group of wonderful elites.
This stuff is not actually opposed. It’s more obverse. On one side of the coin, we have the dark intellectual propositions of Christina Hoff Sommers. Sommers’ view is that women tell an awful lot of lies, which is paired with the resistance feminist view that women are pure creatures who are always to be believed. Always to be believed unless they are Christina Hoff Sommers or some other enemy of a wonderful woman like Hillary Clinton whose dearest wish was to liberate the USA, nay the world, by continuing a program of neoliberalism that has resulted in a 20-year stagnation of wages etc etc.
We are all rather busy and rarely have time for anything but old, dry toast. We savour the crumbs brought to us by these mutually constituting bits of bad thought. We’re all rushing toward the end of empire and even the end of the world. Perhaps apocalyptically simple accounts of this era will ease our end.