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Can you hear us now?
Those of us who've been warning this would happen wonder why suddenly everyone agrees with us. I think I know why.
So Donald Trump wins, the Neo-Nazi alt-right start coming out of the walls, and suddenly everyone gets it. Or it seems that way.
Over the years I've tried to speak to a number of people about the coming age. It never went well. People walked away from me, or shouted me down, or branded me racist or misogynistic. When first I saw requires_hate, the social-justice troll that made me realize where things were going, I took her for a right-wing false flag and said it could be anyone behind that twitter account. The reaction I got was that I was clearly racist because I thought it impossible a Thai person could command such good English. This demonstration of the freakish closed-mindedness of people on the political left, their tendency to think of everything in terms of racism and misogyny, is a microcosm for the politics of the second decade of the twenty-first century. The political left has shut down any discussion it dislikes and any critique of its pronouncements, and the likely consequence of that will be the end of the left as we know it.
Much of the problem has come from the gentrification of the left. Leftists now tend to be middle-class people, living in a middle-class bubble. At Fantasycon some years back I was dining with a tableful of wannabe sci-fi writers and said "The danger we have is that most people are now getting their news through social media". The whole table turned on me, claiming that "people still read newspapers". I pointed out that in many industries I encountered most of the workers only read the sports pages of The Sun, but they all had social media accounts. At that point someone asked the immortal question "But how many of those people are doctors and lawyers and journalists?" The implication was clear: doctors lawyers and journalists were 'normal' people, were the majority. Indeed, I was next told that most people in Britain had a degree (obviously this is false). These people were living in a echo-chamber so perfect that discussion with them was pointless.
And it wasn't just the futility of banging your head against a brick wall. As a man from the working-class background the sci-fi community was my entry-point into the 'liberal elite'. It was my only contact with educated middle-class people; in my day-to-day life I'm the only person I know with a degree, excluding my siblings. I see people on twitter claiming that the 'liberal elite' don't exist, that it's a right-wing slur for 'compassionate politics'. There could be no better illustration of the surreal fantasy that the modern left intelligentsia lives in: they think they themselves don't exist. However, it's the second half of this quote that really stands out to me, the claim of 'compassionate politics', because if there's one thing that stands out about the 'liberal elite', it's their hatefulness. Saying the wrong things had a cost, so it was both futile and damaging.
One should back up here and make a number of qualifications. Firstly the term 'liberal' is contested space. Leftists claim the term for themselves, and redefine others who make a claim as 'libertarians'. The others would rather call the leftists 'leftists', 'neo-marxists' or 'social-justice-warriors' (I am largely in agreement with them, because you can't wear the badge 'liberal' and be authoritarian). Even among the leftists there is a sharp division between 'Old Left', who are socialist and view things mostly in terms of class, and 'New Left' who are feminist and view things exclusively in terms of race and gender. The political right is happy to lump both these groups together under the term 'liberal' because then they can represent all opposition in terms of the worst extremes of the social-justice left. From here on in I'm going to use 'leftist' instead of 'liberal' because, though 'liberal' has been widely used, I think 'leftist' is more accurate. And when I use that term I'll be speaking of the 'New Left' who have become dominant today. The new leftists are only liberal on a very restricted number of issues, and in most other things they are authoritarian.
Secondly I've met very many new-left, middle-class people who are perfectly nice. Furthermore, one must be careful not to lionize the working class: they have their own fountains of unpleasantness. However, when people collect into groups the worst elements of their attitudes/behaviors seem to add up and amplify. Thus 'leftist elite' spaces, in my experience, are nasty places.
One might object I've only really experienced the sci-fi community and twitter, and that perhaps these spaces are particularly troubled. Many people in more 'establishment' left circles (who I've met at, of all places, hacker-cons) sniff at the social-justice crowd as 'crazies' and 'overaged children'. Then they talk with eyes aglow about the battles being fought in Washington. And shall I tell them that Washington is irrelevant and politics is happening on the internet now? They will not listen to that, they are in their own bubble. But I think the sudden outcry of dissident voices after the Trump win gives the lie to the claim that the chilling effect of new-left orthodoxy is limited to certain spaces. It's not that people suddenly 'get it', it's that people who could see the way things were headed are finally speaking up after having kept their own counsel for years.
For years then, people have been trying to warn that the political left is steering a course to its own ultimate destruction, but they've been suppressed. They've learned that speaking their mind causes them to be abused online, lose friends and to have strange things happen in their lives. Attacks may not come with your name attached, but when you say something and see blogposts bloom saying that people expressing that opinion are 'racist motherfuckers', you tend to get the message. I myself wrote a story called 'Eris' that spoke to the issues of ideological manipulation in the internet age, but I never published it. Where would I publish it? You cannot honestly discuss such things without some criticism of 'social justice' and 3rd-wave feminism, both of which are golden calves of the sci-fi community and thus above critique. To quote a lady-friend of mine "I would've suggested sending 'Eris' to 'Strange Horizons', but I'd be trolling". We both know there are few outlets for dissident voices in the sci-fi community. There's Castilia House, which publishes alt-right doyen Vox Day, but this would be siding with a bunch of authoritarian fascists against another bunch of authoritarian fascists, so I'll pass. After the Trump win I finally stuck the story up on my website here.
And it seems many people have done the same. Things have now reached such an extreme that those silenced voices are all speaking up at once. Articles that have languished on people's hard-drives are being taken out, polished up, and published. Hence the sudden outburst of opinion pieces that I agree with.
But it's almost certainly too late. The entire political left is now a ship holed below that waterline and sinking fast. I expect that much of it will vanish forever in the 21st century. This isn't just Brexit and Trump, this is an ongoing rout that's not over yet. Feminism in particular seems likely to be in deep water, as it's been the wellspring of so much of the left's broken ideology. Many people who previously supported gender-equality will have experienced unrelenting attack from hardline feminists, and there is now bad blood between them and the movement. In retrospect, launching and all-out 'culture war' against gamers and other groups during the election cycle that would produce America's first female presidential candidate was just another instance of suicidal lefty madness. Having denounced and insulted potential allies, the movement will find them missing when it goes looking for their support in future.
In the past five years the political left has made more enemies than it knows. It is in precipitous decline everywhere, driven out of power in government after government. But many of it's members and supporters still cling to the deranged worldview that made this possible. They insist that the world was always this way, they insist that America is hopelessly racist. Faced with evidence that many who voted Trump had previously voted Obama, they advance lame excuses, refusing to consider that history could have been different. Thus the new-left takes on the aspect of a doomsday cult: Ragnarok was inevitable, the wicked are everywhere and too strong, we did nothing wrong, the world itself is evil. One has to wonder whether we'll see any new-left Waco standoffs in the future.
But things could have been different, if the new-left had not worked so tirelessly to suppress all critique of its theories. If it had been flexible and taken critique on board, it would have been able to build a truly progressive ideology built on common ground between working-class whites and other disadvantaged groups. Instead it chose division and conflict and a plunge into weird form of fascism. Now the consequences of this madness are slouching towards Washington, and the Left will enter a period of occultation, decline, and irrelevancy. New political ideas and movements will appear in the vacuum created by leftist collapse, and in some two-party systems we will see the traditional opposition become the third party. If the UK's UKIP weren't such a shambles and so full of actual racists, then this would already have happened to the UK's Labour party.
Any political movement that silences dissent is living on borrowed time. Any political movement that suppresses critique inevitably becomes corrupt. Successful politics requires compromise and constant self-evaluation. Successful politics requires free speech and free debate. This can only be built upon a degree of respect for those who disagree with you. Once the left surrendered to the lure of denouncements and witch-hunts, it was doomed.
Hopefully something will appear to challenge alt-right extremism, but it will not come from the third-wave feminist left. They continue to be the best weapon the alt-right has, and beating the alt-right will require marginalizing 'social justice' voices. As the tide of history turns again, those voices that could have prevented the collapse of the political left are now able to speak up, but all they can say is "I told you so."