the high price of authoritarianism
In 2003, an essay was published entitled, “Why the Web Will Win the Culture Wars for the Left.” Interesting and well-written, it makes the case that the architecture of the Web — not the content, but the structure itself, of hyperlinks and being able to recursively pursue information back to a source, and then another source — will win the Culture Wars for the left, because the Left are the ones who can tolerate multiple viewpoints and competing/deconstructed notions of truth. Two brief quotes:
HTML, hyperlinks, frames, and meta-tags are the essential building blocks of the web. They combine to create a highly associative, endlessly referential and contingent environment that provides an expanse of information at the same time that it subverts any claim to authority, since another view is just a click away.
It’s not that Johnny will Google “hardcore” or “T&A” rather than “family values;” rather, it’s that Johnny will come to think, consciously or not, of everything he reads as linked, associative and contingent. He will be disinclined to accept the authority of any text, whether religious, political or artistic, since he has learned that there is no such thing as the last word, or indeed even a series of words that do not link, in some way, to some other text or game. For those who grow up reading online, reading will come to seem a game, one that endlessly plays out in unlimited directions. The web, in providing link after associative link, commentary upon every picture and paragraph, allows, indeed requires, users to engage in a postmodernist inquiry.
I think the author, Peter Lurie, was probably correct when he wrote his piece in 2003. I think he’s wrong now, but for the same reasons he was right in 2003. The Web has demolished many central authorities and made people aware of the infinite variety of viewpoints, perspectives, and experiences available.
The Left should have taken this cultural shift and turned it into total, permanent victory. Instead, it has gone in the opposite direction.
Instead of embracing the possibility to widen its tent, the Left has settled upon certain dogmatic beliefs. Questioning these is “questioning the humanity of marginalized groups.” Debating these is “debating the humanity of marginalized people.” Questions themselves have become evidence of various “isms,” and there is no way for white people (relevant as it’s the largest group) to successfully navigate these waters. You must learn about racism and other marginalizations from the people who suffer them — but you can’t, because it’s not their job to educate you and your very desire to learn from them is a privilege-based entitlement to their emotional labor.
The Left has gone so far in the direction of losing, not winning, the culture wars that when a podcaster with a significantly larger audience than many mainstream media outlets said he would “probably” vote for a Democratic Socialist with an intensely Leftist agenda, the response from many on the Left was to collectively rise up and call that man and his army of over 7 million potential votes racists, misogynist transphobes.
The Left is too pure to appreciate VOTES from people guilty of its thought crimes. There is unlikely to be any coming back from this level of authoritarian madness.
The Left’s victories are probably safe (mostly). It seems doubtful that anyone’s going to successfully manage to annul hundreds of thousands of gay marriages, and the blue states will keep abortion legal if abortion were to return to the states. Women are more than 50% of the workforce now. A lot has changed and none of it will ever return to “before,” and even if small pockets in some areas change from present-day norms, to some degree, the Right won’t take these back entirely, or even mostly.
But with these bloody battles done? The Culture War itself is the Right’s to win now.
All they have to do is what they’re doing — doing imperfectly, yes, and with numerous counter-examples available, but still doing far better than the Left presently — be willing to talk, debate, permit questions, live and let live, and refrain from joining, embracing, or approving of mobs.
I am a woman about to enter the STEM workforce who is in favor of universal healthcare and progressive taxation, truly grateful for abortion’s legality, and presently embracing a minority religion. I do not expect the Left to pull its head out of its collective ass— if Trump’s victory wasn’t enough of a motivation to change, what could ever be? But I want it. Oh, how I want it.
To end, I’ve linked to a version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” that I appreciate: