Leftism: Intellectual Aviators?

A True Leftist?

A True Leftist?


I came across a really interesting post a while back in the neoreactionary blogosphere that I thought was well worth sharing.

It’s called “Right Is The New Left,” and it’s by Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex.

The basic thesis of the post? That being leftist today makes you the intellectual equivalent of a guy who’s clothes are five years out of style.

That might not sound like an especially ambitious or interesting point, but the way author frames it makes it a thesis worth examining.

Scott starts with a preliminary description of how trends take shape:

“Consider a group of people separated by some ranked attribute. Let’s call it “class”. There are four classes: the upper class, the middle class, the lower class, and, uh, the underclass.

Everyone wants to look like they are a member of a higher class than they actually are. But everyone also wants to avoid getting mistaken for a member of a poorer class. So for example, the middle-class wants to look upper-class, but also wants to make sure no one accidentally mistakes them for lower-class… In other words, new trends carry social risk, and only people sufficiently clued-in and trendy can be sure the benefits outweigh the risks. But as the trend catches on, it becomes less risky, until eventually you see your Aunt Gladys wearing it because she saw something about it in a supermarket tabloid, and then all the hip people have to find a new trend.”

Again, not something many people would object to… Seems logical enough.

But, says Scott, a similar phenomenon can be observed with what people believe. While Scott stops short of suggesting that peoples’ beliefs are as trivial as their style of clothing, he suggests that there are some similarities:

– Beliefs tend to be used to distinguish groups from one another.

– Some beliefs are associated with those most “in touch,” the “opinion elite” if you will.

– Those less “in touch” will try to ape the opinions of opinion leaders the same way that the middle class try to emulate the fashions of the rich.

And so on and so forth. A classic example of this phenomenon would be the countercultural movements of the 1960s. As if out of nowhere, kids started growing their hair long and listening to music about dropping acid… This just 10 years after the notoriously straight laced 50s, where gyrating your hips was thought of as risque. The kids’ parents tried beating them over the head with the idea that this behavior was immoral or wrong, but to no avail: dudes like Timothy Leary are cooler than your parents.

Paul Graham touched on a similar point in his article “What You Can’t Say,” which in its own way is a piece very worth reading if you’re interested in the topic of political correctness and how it shapes our lives today.

But anyway, Scott’s point is that PC leftism these days has become what straight-laced suspender wearing conservatism was in the ’50s: something now so incedibly popular with the grandmas and Wal Mart shoppers of the world, the hipster classes are starting to shy away from it:

“And I think the best explanation is that all my hip friends who I want to be like are starting to be conservative or weird-libertarian or some variety of non-leftist, and Mrs. Grundy is starting to become very obviously leftist and getting grundier by the day, and so the fashion-conscious part of my brain, the much-abused and rarely-heeded part that tells me “No, you can’t go to work in sweatpants, even though it would be much more comfortable”, is telling me “QUICK, DISENGAGE FROM UNCOOL PEOPLE AND START ACTING LIKE COOL PEOPLE RIGHT NOW.”

Alexander’s thesis seems to have some empirical support. Gavin McInnes, for instance, the famed “Godfather of Hipsterdom,” is now writing articles for Taki Magazine advocating traditional gender roles. And, a cursory glance at virtually any left-leaning magazine will show you that the topic of “political correctness” (in its distinctively recent, left wing variety) has become a concern even for those well entrenched in the leftist movement. It’s food for thought, if nothing else.


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