Culture Wars and the Police State: A Reply to Kevin Carson
This is my response to Kevin Carson’s recently republished review of Sean Gabb’s book “Cultural Revolution, Culture War”
I doubt it’s possible to develop a thorough or effective critique of statism as it exists in contemporary Western industrialized democracies without a comprehensive critique of the PC ideology. The evidence is overwhelming that PC is simply a new form of political authoritarianism, and something that the ruling class is incorporating into its own ideological superstructure. I’m a Nietzschean-Stirnerite, not any kind of conservative, but I find it disappointing that so many of my fellow libertarians and anarchists are unable to see PC for what it is.
The bottom line is that PC is a manifestation of one of the primary insights of conflict theory: Former outgroups who become politically powerful will normally become just as abusive and exploitative as the former in-groups they replace. The historical evidence for this is overwhelming to the point where it can be considered a general historical law. Louis XVI goes out, the Jacobins come in. Czar Nicholas goes out, the Bolsheviks come in. Chang goes out, Mao comes in. The Western puppets in Southeast Asian go out, the Viet Mihn and Pol Pot come in.The Shah goes out, the Ayatollah comes in. Ian Smith goes out, Robert Mugabe comes in. The apartheid regime of South Africa goes out, the ANC comes in and homicide rates explode.
Many people still do not realize how pervasive the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s has been. In the 1960s, left-wing radicals formed the Free Speech Movement against things like loyalty oaths and academic censorship. By the 1980s, they were taking over academia and imposing speech codes. In the 1960s, homosexuals were considered felonious criminals in many Western nations. Today, expressing religious objections to homosexuality can land you in jail in some countries. A few decades ago, smoking was considered a routine if unhealthy pastime. Now, some U.S. localities have all but made smoking illegal. Stephen Baskerville has provided extensive documentation of the abuses that have occurred from feminist domination of family courts in some jurisdictions. Racism and sexism were universal and normal a half century ago. Now, even renowned scientists and presidents of major universities are forbidden from questioning liberal orthodoxy concerning race and gender. Forty years ago, leftists protested against imperialist war. Now, they are just as likely to justify imperialism in the name of “humanitarian intervention.” Leftists and liberals used to champion the drug culture, free speech, and free love. Now, they are just as likely to champion drug prohibition on therapeutic statist grounds, and support prohibition of pornography and prostitution on feminist grounds. It used to be that liberals would defend free speech even for neo-Nazi groups that wished to march in Jewish neighborhoods. Now, even some supposed civil libertarians will support hate speech laws.
These are just a few examples. Volumes could be written on these issues. Carson mentions the police state outrages that now occur on a daily basis in the U.S. I absolutely concur. There is hardly a day that goes by where someone does not send me a news report of some new police state atrocity. However, there is also hardly a day that goes by where I do not receive a report of some outrage or absurdity perpetrated in the name of PC. The growth of the PC and the expansion of the police state have occurred simultaneously and are mutually supportive of one another. PC represents the state’s use of the carrot: i.e. buying the loyalty of the rising upper middle class with its cosmopolitan values and the elite and affluent members of traditional outgroups with political favors. The police state represents the use of the stick: i.e. strengthening the state’s apparatus of repression when efforts at ideological co-optation and inculcation fail.
The carrot of political correctness has at least four purposes: 1) buying the loyalty and co-opting the cosmopolitan, liberal wing of the middle class and the elites among minorities, 2) obscuring the real problems associated with institutional racism and class oppression, 3) exacerbating social conflict between demographic groups by encouraging traditionally dominant or majority groups to view minorities rather than the power elite as the enemy, 4) using PC to strength the ideological superstructure of the ruling class and the self-legitimating ideology of the state.
It should go without saying that the police state, prison-industrial complex, war on drugs, socioeconomic segregation, class oppression, and institutional racism are all manifestations of the stick.
Regarding the examples Carson refers to concerning the British Museum and the racist policeman, I’d say it’s not a question of either/or in either situation.
My feelings about cops aren’t far removed from those of the Black Panthers or the sovereign citizens. But should the use of bad language be grounds for termination from any job, police offer or otherwise? I don’t think so. What matters is context. Was this policeman speaking in such a manner to members of the general public he is supposed to be “serving and protecting”? If so, then by all means fire him in the same way a store clerk who spoke to a patron in such a manner would be fired. Is he acting on these beliefs in the context of his official role by unfairly targeting minorities or engaging in excessive force? If so, then get him the hell out of there. Should he be fired merely for his private opinions? I don’t think so.
My view of traditional Western imperialism is not far removed from those of Mao-tse-tung. That said, I want to know about history as it actually occurred and in all its different dimensions. I want to know about the crimes of the British empire in its colonies (like the genocide of the Tasmanian people or the indifference to the famine in India, for instance). I want to know about the history of the British Navy and the achievements of British civilization as well (to which we Yanks owe a great debt). I live in the American South, and for decades there’s been an ongoing controversy over things like the display of the Confederate flag, the preservation of historic slave burial grounds, and other issues related to Southern history, including its history of racial conflict.
I want to see Confederate monuments preserved, and I want traditional white Southerners to be able to recognize and appreciate their history and heritage. I have no problem with public displays of Confederate memorabilia. I also want to recognize the history and heritage of African-Americans in the South, including a genuine recognition of the real crimes and atrocities associated with racial oppression in the South. I want to see historic sites reflecting black history preserved, and I want to recognize the cultural history of African-Americans in the South, and their many contributions to Southern culture and American society.