There are a lot of larger than life populist cultural commentators nowadays. On the left you have your Waleed Alys and your Clem Fords, who many of us find insufferable, and who many on the left find embarrassing but are afraid to rock the boat. On the right you have your Ann Coulters, and your Milo’s, who the left regard as literally Hitler, and those on the right regard as glorious s**tlords.
Memo to the left BTW. Your ideological others are more self aware than you give them credit for. They actually see nuance and shades of grey, something that an ideology that coined ‘micro-aggressions’ as a thing will never be able to do. They totally get that Trump can be kind of a spectacle and surreal at times, but take that as one part of a whole that’s actually pretty great thus far. Same goes for Coulter and Milo. The Alt. Right don’t demand the eugenics of clean cut and infallible on their side, and some of them being Jesus freaks love ’em a good redemption story.
And redemption stories don’t get much better than being ridiculed for one’s political insight before being unveiled as one of the few WITH political insight, or seemingly going through the death rattle of character assassination by the establishment before bouncing back with a #1 bestseller on Amazon. A self published bestseller I might add, probably the first time this has happened since the Bible or the works of Shakespeare.
Actually, redemption stories do get even more interesting in the case of unexpected fellow travellers on the road to enlightenment. If you were to tell me 20 years ago that I’d be reading interviews with feminist pioneers like Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia and finding common ground, I’d have thought you were out of your mind. If you’d told me I’d be agreeing with a self identified gay liberal from California, a musician with a traditional following among lefty hipsters, a guy who often sounds like he should be selling crystals in Byron Bay, a stoner podcaster or a tenured Professor from Toronto of all places, I would have been rolling on the floor with laughter.
But these things have all happened to me, and I’m sure to many of you over the past 18 to 24 months. All of the cultural commentators I find most fascinating are former or begrudging leftists, who in almost all cases have had the courage in their convictions to defend the same things they felt were worthy of defending twenty years ago, and have been left behind at the station by a movement that has become an out of control crazy train.
In the case of Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia, a reasonable world view came in the form of:
A) Realising that their activism was successful, that they’d attained everything that was important to them, and showing humility in victory.
B) Refusing to surrender what they’d fought so hard to achieve to curry favour with genuinely patriarchal men undergoing adventures in surgery so that they could culturally appropriate womanhood, and even more patriarchal Islamists and their apologists.
Let’s be honest. Greer and Paglia’s interpretation of feminism is about a million times more palatable than that of a thirty something third waver who read The Femsle Eunich a decade ago and loved it, then burned it a few short years later when someone was silly enough to ask Germaine what she thought of Bruce Jenner sweeping the women’s awards circuit. So it really isn’t that odd that someone like me is interested in hearing what Germaine or Camille have to say.
Dave Rubin is one of the few West Coast liberals (you can count them on one hand, and a few feature in this article) who understands the concept of tolerance in its purest form. Tolerance is a live and let live attitude that doesn’t necessitate going all in on someone’s belief system, or awarding free passes on bad behaviour in the spirit of ‘tolerance’ over common sense. Rubin is tolerant and engaging with those who have different views, and gets that the fundamental aspect of tolerance isn’t the ignorant all or nothing approach of his peers on the left. The left’s definition of tolerance is one of the most regimented things you’ll see.
Rubin is a married gay man. He gets the fact that a Christian can be tolerant of him as a person and have a civil conversation with him while finding the overt social engineering aspect of the Gay lobby creepy and intrusive, particularly in regard to primary and secondary schools. Likewise, he understands that he can be tolerant of a Christian and have a civil conversation with them without having to go all in on support of their ideology, or refraining from critiques. And he isn’t afraid to offer the same courtesy to a Muslim while bringing up the elephant in the room of long walks off short rooftops.
Then we have people like Morrisey, Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, and Jordan Peterson. None can be described as conservative by any stretch, let alone right wing, yet find themselves resonating with many of the same people. What are we supposed to make of this? Are these figures dinosaurs on the wrong side of history as the radical left would have you believe? Are they once acceptable individuals who changed their political stripes because they were always stupid? I find either scenario difficult to swallow.
I’ve known right-wingers who turned left before, and these people were dumb as dogs**t and opportunistic when they were Howard’s battlers, and are even dumber and more opportunistic now that they’re leftists. Dumb and opportunistic people are always dumb and opportunistic. Malcolm Fraser’s late life dementia turned him Liberal, and opportunism seemingly turned comedian Dennis Miller conservative.
I don’t think that you can make the stupid or opportunistic accusation of any of the aforementioned strange bedfellows of the Alt-Right. All of them to a man and a woman are, or at least were, held in very high regard as intellectuals by left ideologists. None of their views can be explained away as stupidity or ignorance. None are of a vintage where dementia can be levelled as a charge either.
None of them have even radically changed their views, so does that make them foolish or misinformed, or those that respected their views until only recently and now regard them as blasphemous, foolish and misinformed? Moreover, can ‘deplorables’ who agree with views that were accepted as fairly mainstream progressive doctrine until only a few years ago really be accused of ‘being on the wrong side of history’ when this history of which they speak isn’t 40 years old, but a mere 3 or 4 years old? Really? Is that the narrative you expect us to believe?
Hillary Clinton was against same sex marriage until at least 2000. She and Bill used black slave labour at the governor’s mansion in Arkansas up until 1992. Does this make Hillary less on the wrong side of history than somebody who committed a micro aggression by misgendering someone on a college campus in 2017?
So taking nonsensical timelines dictating who is or isn’t on ‘the wrong side of history’ out of the equation, and the fact that most of these fellow travellers seem as puzzled as anybody else is by who their allies and enemies are in 2017, we can only assume that their conclusions have been arrived at by pure, unadulterated reason. Something that the radical left are averse to, and perhaps why they are so venomous in their vitriol toward these so called pariahs.
It’s a fascinating phenomenon. Everything that isn’t radical socialism is becoming a broad church, a loose collective of compatible ideas and concerns. These unexpected supporters and conservatives of all stripes do make strange bedfellows, but as Jordan Peterson might say, at least they’re making the bed and cleaning their room.
It’s your XYZ.