Much of the left’s and the whole social justice warriorship’s political project is not at all about achieving equality as an end but merely as a half-way point in a process of reversal of real and perceived power relationships. To quote the Good Book, which the left sometimes does, even if more in the spirit of trolling than faith, “So the last shall be first, and the first last“. Just as the old Marxism wasn’t really about equality but about bringing down the capitalist oppressors and elevating the proletarian oppressed, the new incarnations of the left that jettison economic class in favour of race, gender, sexuality and other divisions are deep down motivated by the feelings of revenge. It’s about getting even; it’s about flipping the world on its axis and turning it upside down. Those deemed to have had it so good for so long while lording over and oppressing others will be dragged down and the old power structures and institutions that perpetuated their position will be destroyed. Those who have been oppressed, suppressed and victimised will be raised up, and a new world will be made in their image. It’s about a reckoning, justice (as interpreted by these people; not just social but historical), paying for the past sins. And about preventing the past sinners from ever being able to sin again.
Consider a whole host of left-wing causes and obsessions – the privilege discourse, gender fluidity, catastrophic man-made climate change, white guilt, cultural relativism, moral equivalency, open borders immigration, etc etc etc – and look at it through the above prism, and it all makes perfect sense.
Having read so far, you might now say to me: “Chrenk, take off your tin-foil hat; you’re being hysterical, melodramatic, and conspiratorial. I consider myself a feminist and all I want is to be paid a dollar for dollar the same as men.” Or insert any other cause currently in vogue, from same sex marriage to the developing world debt forgiveness.
And you would be right. That’s because we need to distinguish between two levels of belief, commitment, and action – the supporters and the activists.
You are most likely just a supporter. Firstly, because there are many more supporters than there are activists, and secondly, because if you were an activist, you are unlikely to be reading The Daily Chrenk.
As I said above, the supporters are many – often, particularly in the beginning, a small group in society; eventually sometimes a majority, but not necessarily. By contrast, the activists are a comparatively small, but very hard-core, committed, and, well, active group. I would estimate them perhaps at most 1 per cent of the population.
Supporters are largely animated by simple concepts and emotions: love, equality, freedom, fair go, children, future. They are not highly ideological, and so they support changes and reforms not necessarily out of deep philosophical convictions but because they appeal to them as common sense remedies to perceived problems and injustices. The supporters’ agenda – to the extent they have an agenda – is limited and issue-based.
Activists, by contrast, are highly ideological. Their objective is not to address this or that problem or ameliorate this or that condition, but to radically remake the whole society. While for the supporters each individual struggle is an end in itself, for activists they are all merely means – small steps on the well-mapped road to a very different future. The activist vision is unbounded. That’s why you can make the supporters happy, but the activists never – if you are trying to, you are not only wasting your time and your good will, but you’re also deeply misunderstanding the nature of their long game. The activist’ true vision is rarely debated in public, lest its radicalism scares off not just the undecideds in society but also many of the supporters – at least in well-functioning democracies where the public opinion is a genuine force to be reckoned with and there is much to lose in appearing too extreme.
Thus, for example, the supporters of environmentalism want to save the world from the consequences of climate change; the activists, meanwhile, want to abolish capitalism and national sovereignty.
The supporters want their societies enriched by immigration and multiculturalism; the activists, believing the dominant culture to be a negative influence on the world (“whiteness is cancer”, “hey hey ho ho, the Western Civilisation has got to go”, and all that) want it first diluted and eventually completely subsumed and replaced.
The supporters fight for equality and equal treatment; the activists fight to achieve supremacy over the existing social institutions.
You might say, “well, what does it matter what a tiny minority of activists might dream of; the sensible majority of supporters won’t let it get that far”.
Except that’s not how it works. It’s a salami tactic, that works slice by slice. Because the goal posts keep being shifted inch by inch all the time, the debate about what is the reality, what is needed, and what is achievable, keeps shifting all the time too. I don’t like the term “slippery slope”, but the phenomenon is illustrates is real enough.
If it sounds conspiratorial, it’s because it sometimes is – but often isn’t. The Nazis, the Bolsheviks, the Islamists have all in the past operatedat least in part as conspiracies. But in many, if not most cases, there is no need for a hidden cabal of string-pullers – the Illuminati, the Elders of Zion, the Bilderbergers of the crazy conspiracy lore – all you need is a well-defined ideology, which drives a wide range of actors, informing both their methods and their objectives, without necessitating cooperation or coordination. Even at my estimate of 1 per cent of the population, we are still talking about millions of individuals, groups and organisations. But it’s a network at most, not a hierarchy. There are no orders from up high; there don’t need to be – it’s the broad beliefs that guide the activists towards their goals. It’s an example of a Hayekian spontaneous order, but directed against everything that Hayek stood for.
From historical experience we know that a group doesn’t have to be large – certainly not a majority – in order to eventually impose its vision on the rest of the society; it simply has to be better organised and more determined. The Nazis and the Bolsheviks, to use just those two prominent examples, used to be the activists of their day, starting as tiny minorities, who have nevertheless managed to make up with passion and hard work for what their lacked in numbers and to accumulate enough followers to get the power and then keep it.
These findings of history have been confirmed by computer models:
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.
“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame”…
The findings were published in the July 22, 2011, early online edition of the journal Physical Review E in an article titled “Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities.”
An important aspect of the finding is that the percent of committed opinion holders required to shift majority opinion does not change significantly regardless of the type of network in which the opinion holders are working. In other words, the percentage of committed opinion holders required to influence a society remains at approximately 10 percent, regardless of how or where that opinion starts and spreads in the society.
That’s how the activists operate, by helping to build the support and then take advantage of the supporters’ enthusiasm – as well as the relative apathy, disinterest, and don’t-care-that-much attitude of often the majority of the society – to push through their agenda one small step after another.
What helps to make it happen is the fact that activists are not just an entirely random selection of individuals scattered throughout the White Pages – they are people who gravitate towards professions and callings which will help them to advance their causes. This means not just politics and bureaucracy, but also education, media, entertainment, culture, arts, and other related fields. In that aspect, the radical activist elite of today are perhaps less Marxist than Gramscian. It was Antonio Gramsci, after all, filling his time in one of Mussolini’s jails, who posited that the capture of the means of cultural production is perhaps even more important – and certainly easier – than the capture of the means of economic production if you want to transform the society. And so, generations of activists have embarked on the “the long march through the institutions” (as one of Gramsci’s spiritual children, Rudi Dutschke, called it), all of which, whether they are meant to educate, inform or entertain, vastly magnify the voice and the influence of a small minority and help to manufacture cohorts of ever-ready supporters.
All I have written above is not to be taken as an argument for opposing any and all social and other change. Clearly, all societies evolve, and those that don’t, stagnate and eventually die out. Change is a part of life. But not all change is equal; some can be good, some not necessarily so (all depending on where you stand, of course). But we should be more cautious – because we should be more conscious of different agendas that motivate people.
The activists and the supporters – it is not a conspiracy. It’s all there in plain sight: the players, the methods, the objectives. We cannot hide behind ignorance. There is a battle for the future going on, and if we care about the shape of that future, we need to fight for the hearts and minds of the vast majority of people in the middle. The activists certainly do.