Friday, February 26, 2021

"The Narrative Void"

"The Narrative Void"
by The Zman

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality” is a line from a T.S. Eliot poem that has always been popular on the Right. While the Left does not have a monopoly on utopian thinking, it has never embraced realism. The Right, on the other hand, has always had an element that accepts the reality of the human condition. Not everyone on the Right or even a majority. One reality of the human condition is that most people, even the sober minded, prefer the escapism of fantasy to reality.

The fantasy view of politics is most obvious on the Left, of course. Much of what constitutes our current politics would best be described as a paranoid delusion or maybe even a psychotic break. Six weeks on and official Washington is still playing the game of make-believe over the January protests. For five years they were convinced that invisible Russians using mind control rigged the 2016 election. Left-wing politics, which means mainstream politics, is just a long conspiracy theory.

Another thing that is made obvious with left-wing reality avoidance is that it is deliberate, something of a cottage industry. There are people who invest all of their time patching up the fantasies and inventing new ones. Here’s an example from the conspiracy site Vox, about how Progressives are trying to “catch-up” to right-wing media. The absurdity of the post is not rare. These fantasies are churned out like shark’s teeth in order to have a steady supply of new fantasies for the Left.

This is something most on this side of the great divide get about the Left. They need a devil to oppose in order to have a rallying point. The absurdity of claiming Trump was a secret Nazi was never noticed, because they needed him to be their devil. Since their devils are always imaginary to begin with, they need to be churning out new ones, because eventually the imaginary ones are no longer useful. Progressives have been plotting the final showdown with the Devil since the Mayflower.

The American Left is really just escapism. It always has been, but in a post scarcity world where even the poorest people are materially safe, the escapism has had to conjure increasingly bizarre rationales. Whether it is invisible Russians, invisible Nazis, invisible Klansman and now invisible insurrectionists, the fantasy requires a villain, so they will conjure one when one does not exist. The Left is Dungeon’s and Dragons for mentally unstable, upper-middle-class white people.

Escapism is not just the domain of the Left. Libertarianism is the most obvious form of it outside the Left. In fact, the escapism is so strong it is possible to place libertarians on the Left, next to the orcs and wizards of Progressivism. The political spectrum would then be realism at one pole and escapism at the other. The libertarians generally accept the reality of math, so they would be somewhere between the midpoint and the end point where we find the modern American Left.

In case it is not obvious, the escapism of libertarianism lies in the fact that you can never have a libertarian society. Hans-Hermann Hoppe has explained at length how it is impossible to go from a modern society to a libertarian one. Even if you sort that puzzle, there is no way to maintain the libertarian society within libertarian theory. Put another way, the libertarian society is like any other fantasy world. Its appeal is in its impossibility, not in its plausibility. It is escapism.

For at least half a century, the Republican Party has been built on the escapism of what we now call civic nationalism. Evangelicals, for example, unhappy with left-wing social changes, organized to get their people elected. They finally got one of their guys in the White House and he did nothing for them. The reaction to this burst of reality was the Tea Party movement, which was really just a civic nationalist reaction to the failures of the Bush administration. It too crashed on the rocks of reality.

Donald Trump was the ultimate civic nationalist and he got nothing done. Part of the anger at Trump and his voters is that they accidentally proved that civic nationalism was always a big lie. The fake anger of the Left was always about their escapism, not anything Trump actually did in office. The real venom comes from the GOP, who sense he ruined the game for them. The Trump phenomenon ruined the fantasy of civic nationalism, removing that form of escapism from the system.

This is a truth that the core of the dissident right has always grasped, but never found a way to exploit. Most people, especially people in politics or cultural movements, are not interested in reality. They want a story, a narrative, that makes them the good guy fighting the selfless fight against the bad guy. Politics in general is not about reasoning from fact to some new facts or truths. It is not about making broad generalizations based on observable truths. Politics is about storytelling.

This is the great lesson of the interwar years. The people on the winning side knew the war was a horrible blunder committed by their rulers. Because they were on the winning side, they had an easy story to explain it. The bad guys were to blame, even if their own rulers were reckless and stupid. Ultimately, the fault lay with the losers and they would be made to pay for their crimes. The losers, in contrast, had no story to explain why their rulers lied to them and “stabbed them in the back.”

Into the void raced liberalism, communism, and fascism. Liberalism could blame the old rulers, but it suffered from being a story told by the winners. Communism told a story that failed to include the facts of the war. Communism was always a story about the future, not the past. Fascism, in contrast, offered a story that included the past, the present and a future. To the modern ear, Hitler sounds like a raving lunatic, but in his time, he was a master storyteller. He made fascism a pleasant fantasy.

This is why our present is full of bizarre conspiracies and fantasies. The Left has total control of the institutions, but they keep churning out new fantasies, because they cannot square the circle of who they are. How can the underdog also possess the high ground of society? How can they have control of the institutions, yet the system still suffers from institutional unfairness? The Left is spiraling into madness because its plot has an unreconcilable contradiction at the heart of it.

We are living in an interregnum of narrative collapse. The various right-wing fantasies, like libertarianism, conservatism and civic nationalism have collapsed. Those stories no longer make any sense. Only old people cling to them. The Progressive story is in the process of narrative collapse. The explosion of conspiracy theories and subcultures is due to the hole at the middle of a politics. The future will belong to those who create a new story that adequately explains the past, present and the future."

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