the real far right in France

The French presidential election next year is starting to look very interesting indeed. The victory of François Fillon in the Republican primaries means that there is now a genuine far-right candidate in the race. Fillon is not just copying the FN’s rhetoric on immigration and Islam. On economic issues he appears to be a kind of globalist Thatcherite. 
What this means is that Marine Le Pen is now the moderate centre-left candidate! Of course it remains to be seen whether she will be able to persuade the French voters that Fillon is a dangerous extremist who intends to destroy the French nation completely in order to serve his globalist agenda.
How will the media in France react to Fillon’s candidacy? Will they demonise him? It would certainly be easy to do. His economic policies will bring ruin and social chaos. He is an unabashed social conservative. He promises to crack down on immigration and Islam. He is pro-Putin. He is a long long way to the right of Le Pen. On the other hand he is a reliable supporter of globalism and the EU.
Will Fillon’s toxic economic policies lead to a revival of the fortunes of the Socialists? Le Pen’s best chance (and it’s a very slim chance) would be to face a Socialist candidate in the second round. At the moment the Socialists are so unpopular that they’re virtually an irrelevance but could Fillon’s Thatcherite policies galvanise disillusioned Socialist voters?
And if Le Pen faces Fillon in the second round of the election will Socialist voters throw their support behind a hard right candidate like Fillon?
Would the French actually be foolish to elect a man like Fillon? They were dumb enough to elect Hollande so anything is possible.
Gallia Watch has some interesting (and scary) stuff about Fillon.

long term and short term goals and strategies

If our society is to survive there is obviously a great deal to be done. That in itself is a bit of a problem – where exactly do we start?
I think that the first thing we need to do is to distinguish between what is achievable and what is not achievable. There are many things that would be highly desirable but if they fall into that second category there’s not too much point in worrying about them.
We also need to distinguish between short term goals and long term goals. At certain points in history certain things are possible. At a later date it may be that other things will be possible. Or it may be that they will not be possible. We should not lose sight of long term goals but it is more useful to put as much energy as we can into those things that can be achieved now.
Take immigration. Closing the borders would be an achievable goal. It would take an immense amount of effort to push through such a measure but it could be done. Deporting illegal immigrants who have engaged in serious crime would be an achievable goal. On the other hand mass deportations are not going to happen. Not in the US, not in Australia and not in any European country. Whether mass deportations would be a good thing or a bad thing, whether it’s a moral thing to do or not, these questions are irrelevant. It’s not going to happen. Pushing for such a goal is not merely futile but counter-productive. Setting a realistic goal and then pushing for it with absolute determination is the only sensible strategy.
Or take higher education. Ideally we should close down at least half of our universities. Society has no need of the immense numbers of graduates that are currently being churned out, a very large number of whom would be better off not wasting the time, energy and money involved in pursuing the seductive but dangerous dream of university education. Closing down universities is however very unlikely to happen, at least in the short term. On the other hand cutting off funding for worthless Mickey Mouse degrees in Gender Studies or similar nonsense should be an achievable objective. Such studies are merely breeding grounds for professional “activists” – a species that is both useless and exceedingly harmful.
Conservatives suffered defeat after defeat in the Culture Wars by a policy of never-ending retreats and surrenders. That is always a losing strategy. That does not however mean that we can win by launching large-scale frontal attacks on the enemy’s strongest positions. You win a war by pursuing a positive offensive strategy but you need to choose your battles carefully, you need to recognise those positions that are too strong to attack in present circumstances and you need to concentrate on areas where gains can be made. The important thing is to make gains somewhere while defending the territory you already hold. You don’t defeat an enemy all at once. You wear your enemy down by taking every opportunity to win even small battles. It is necessary to keep the initiative but it is foolish to expose yourself to defeat through recklessness and poor judgment.
In other words we need to avoid the defeatism of mainstream conservatism and also to avoid the rashness and over-confidence of some sections of the alt-right.
It is even more important to know what your actual objectives are. Anyone who fights a war without clear objectives will inevitably lose. What kind of society do we actually want? Do we want the utopian dreams of socialists and libertarians? Do we want the war of the jungle of the unfettered free market? Is economic prosperity the secret to human happiness? Is freedom a necessary condition for happiness and is it compatible with democracy? Is it more important to have government that is efficient or government that is honest? If we need a much more socially conservative society (and I certainly think that we do) what part should government play in this? Can we legislate our way towards social conservatism? And what of the catastrophically low birth rates in western countries – can government action do anything to reverse these trends?
These are clearly big topics that cannot be addressed in one blog post. I will make an attempt to formulate my own answers to these questions in future posts.

the alt-right, pro and con

The alt-right is certainly getting plenty of attention lately. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.
The first thing that should be pointed out is that the alt-right’s sudden enormous influence exists mostly in the minds of the more excitable alt-righters. In reality it is still a very minor fringe movement. Whether it ever gains real influence remains to be seen.
I have considerable sympathy for some of the points made by the alt-right. I am vehemently opposed to immigration and I am deeply suspicious of free trade. I am also heartily sick of political correctness and the constant demonisation of white people. So far so good.
On the other hand I regard concepts such as white nationalism as being wholly unworkable. It’s absurdly vague and it ignores culture. There is no such thing as black nationalism and the very idea of asian nationalism is ridiculous – try persuading the Chinese and the Japanese that they should embrace pan-asian nationalism.
Culture is what unites people and it is also what divides them. Both the unifying and the dividing functions of culture are useful and healthy. Any community that has nothing to unite it will sink into chaos. Any nation without a sense of national unity is doomed. Different groups of people have their own beliefs and cultures and histories and will prefer to live with others who share their beliefs and cultures and histories. No-one, apart from globalists and SJWs, wants to live in a single gigantic community where everyone thinks the same and has the same culture.
Culture is what matters and every culture has a right to exist and to thrive and that can only happen if people have their own communities and their own countries.
One of my problems with the alt-right is their tendency to ignore culture. I do not want to be part of a nation defined by whiteness. I want to be part of a nation defined by a shared culture and a shared history. 
It also concerns me that many on the alt-right have no understanding of the fact that a nation cannot survive without a moral core. If you have no moral compass you end up with  a society motivated by greed and hedonism. You are on the road to civilisational collapse. When people like Milo Yiannopoulos are celebrated as alt-right heroes I start to worry. He seems to me to represent the very things that have been responsible for the undermining of our civilisation – atheism and mindless hedonism. If MIlo is the face of the alt-right then you can count me out.
If white nationalism means abandoning morality for the sake of building a supposed white identity then it’s an identity I’m not interested in. A white identitarianism that is prepared to embrace abortion, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity and the destruction of the family would, it seems to me, be no better than the liberal nightmare we’re already living in.
Liberals are the enemy, and that includes white liberals. In fact it especially includes white liberals. I do not want liberals as allies. I do not trust any liberals. 
I am also dubious about the shock tactics beloved of some elements of the alt-right. I am a firm believer in the necessity of occupying the high moral ground. I’m all for freedom of speech but it worries me that some on the alt-right do not have enough sense to refrain from making foolish and extreme statements that end up discrediting the saner voices. There is no point in giving free gifts to your enemies.
I personally do not consider myself alt-right, or even any kind of right or any kind of conservative as such terms are generally used. I am in agreement with the alt-right on some issues and in strong disagreement with them on others. I certainly don’t regard them as enemies but I do think that as allies they can be both useful and sometimes dangerous.

Churchill: The End of Glory

There have been many attempts to demolish the Churchill Myth. John Charmley’s Churchill: The End of Glory is one of the most thorough, and most devastating. Of course, as Charmley admits, once a myth establishes itself no amount of rational argument has any effect.
Charmley describes his book as a political biography and that is what it is. Churchill’s private life is only touched on insofar as it is relevant to his political career. Churchill’s personality on the other hand is very relevant indeed and Charmley has much to say on that subject.
Throughout his career Churchill was dogged by suspicions of disloyalty and treachery. He did after all change parties twice and he was never trusted by his parliamentary colleagues. Charmley however makes it clear that such accusations are unjust. Winston Churchill was a man whose views on most subjects were formed very early in his life and he was remarkably consistent in adhering to his views. When the Conservative Party abandoned free trade (something in which Churchill believed passionately) Churchill abandoned the Party rather than change his views. His abandonment of the Liberals in 1924 can hardly be seen as treachery – the Liberal Party had simply ceased to exist as a viable force in British politics. It was not really a matter of deserting a sinking ship – the ship had already sunk. 
Churchill in fact was never truly either a Conservative or a Liberal. He had a distaste for party politics and he never even pretended to be a loyal party man. He was happiest when serving in coalition governments. He was, if such a thing could exist, a liberal conservative. His belief in social reform was perfectly sincere. In this he was motivated partly by a conviction that the only way of saving the traditional Britain in which he grew up was by giving those at the bottom of the heap a much better deal. He was also, to do him justice, genuinely shocked by the condition of the poor in late Victorian Britain. It might in fact be more accurate to describe Churchill as a liberal reactionary.
Churchill also believed just as strongly that Britain could and should continue to play the part of a Great Power and that the Empire could and should be preserved. 
The difficulty, as Charmley makes clear, was that by the twentieth century Britain simply could not afford to remain a Great Power and maintain the Empire and embark on ambitious social reform. It was doubtful if the country could afford to do even two of these things; doing all three was out of the question. This was something that Churchill was never able to understand or accept.
Churchill’s greatest flaw was unquestionably his belief in his own military genius. Having been a humble Second Lieutenant in the 4th Hussars and having participated in a minor colonial campaign on the Northwest Frontier in 1895 had convinced him that he knew more about military strategy than any general. Having been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty he assumed that this was enough to transform him into an expert on naval strategy as well.
His unshakeable belief in his genius led him, and the nation, into one disaster after another. Lord Nelson had famously expressed the very firm view that ships cannot fight forts but after all what did Lord Nelson know about naval tactics? Winston Churchill knew better and the catastrophic attempt to force the Dardanelles in 1915 was the result. This ill-judged operation was typical of all of Churchill’s forays into the realm of strategy. He would come up with a hare-brained scheme and then convince himself that success was certain and that enormous advantages would be gained. Wiser heads would point out the folly of the operation and Churchill would ignore them and then use his considerable powers of persuasion to get the plan approved. And, invariably, the plan would end in utter disaster. Norway in 1940 was another superb example although ironically it was not Churchill’s career that was ended as a result but Neville Chamberlain’s. The British intervention in the Greek campaign in 1941 was yet another prime example.
Churchill’s ineptitude as a strategist was bad enough but even worse was his inability to foresee inevitable consequences at the level of grand strategy. Charmley makes it clear that Churchill’s reputation as the man of the hour in 1940 was deserved but sees his conduct of the war thereafter as disastrous as he had no actual war aims. Wars are fought to achieve political objectives. Without clear and achievable political objectives war is merely a futile waste of lives. Churchill thought that defeating Hitler was a sufficient objective and had no clear idea whatsoever of what should happen next. Unfortunately both Stalin and Roosevelt had very clear and very definite ideas about what should happen next and neither had the slightest concern if their aims happened to be very disadvantageous indeed for Britain. Britain ended up fighting a war that served the interests of other nations without in any way serving Britain’s interests.
By February 1945 Churchill had realised his mistake and had recognised the danger posed by the soviet Union. Unfortunately after three-and-a-half years of appeasing Stalin this sudden volte-face was too little too late.
Churchill was a monstrous egotist with immense ambition but he was by no means a bad or malicious man. He was in his own way an idealist and no-one has ever desired more ardently to serve his country. Sadly the verdict that so many of his contemporaries had delivered upon him, that he was a man of vast talent and extraordinarily poor judgment, proved to be all too accurate.
Charmley does not set out to execute a mere hatchet job. He finds much to admire in Churchill. Churchill’s strengths and his weaknesses were both on an epic scale. The tragedy is that the weaknesses led to his ultimate failure and led to precisely the consequences that he was so anxious to avoid – the loss of the Empire, the reduction of Britain to the status of a third-rate power, the growth of class bitterness and resentment and the loss of the nation’s belief in itself.
Whether you agree or disagree with Charmley’s conclusions Churchill: The End of Glory is essential reading. Highly recommended.

social cohesion and political beliefs

Most people, if asked why they hold the beliefs they do, will tell you that it’s because their beliefs are self-evidently objectively correct. If you then point out to them that a particular belief of theirs is clearly and demonstratively objectively wrong it will not make the slightest difference. They will insist that their belief is still correct and they will almost certainly get angry about it. But they will not change their mind.
As Razib Khan points out in Winning Isn’t Everything, Winning Your Team Is that’s because what matters is group cohesion. “It isn’t about the score up on the board, but standing with your team.” What matters is group cohesion.
It doesn’t matter if a belief is true or false. What matters is belonging to a group and holding the beliefs that are acceptable within that group. If someone’s group is made up of Flat Earthers then that person is almost certainly going to be a Flat Earther and no amount of logical argument is going to sway him on that. From that person’s point of view objective reality is unimportant. What is important is that believing in a Flat Earth cements his place within the group and brings major social benefits (and often material benefits as well). Being a Flat Earth denier in such a group would involve serious social costs, possibly even being ostracised. Compared to that truth is a very minor consideration.
This explains why it is exceedingly difficult to change other people’s minds even when one has marshalled overwhelmingly convincing evidence. It is always going to be next to impossible to change the mind of an individual because human beings are not by nature individuals. We are social animals. Membership in the group is everything. 
This has obvious implications in the political sphere. It’s the reason politicians do not rely on logical aruments, they rely on emotion, and they rely on appealing to our desire to maintain our position within our group. They also rely on promises that are very close to outright bribery. A promise by a candidate to put extra money in our pockets by cutting our taxes or increasing our welfare payments does not challenge our beliefs and thus does not 
endager our standing within our group. Greed is something we can easily rationalise away. Emotional appeals by politicians also not do usually challenge our standing within our group because they’re invariably so vague as to be meaningless. 
So how can we actually change someone’s political beliefs? The answer is that mostly you can’t.
So how do the political beliefs of society as a whole change? There’s a wildly held theory that scientific paradigms don’t change when scientists adopt the new paradigm. They change when the adherents of the old paradigm die and are replaced by younger scientists who absorbed the new paradigm as students. It’s likely that this also applies to politics.
When I was younger I lived in inner-city Sydney in a vaguely bohemian vaguely arty social group. We were very left-wing and very socially liberal on many issues, but by today’s standards we were extraordinarily politically incorrect. If you went to that part of Sydney today you’d find that it’s still vaguely bohemian, vaguely arty and very left-wing. But you’d also find that it’s frighteningly politically correct. Many of the things we used to say would now get you run out of town on a rail, and probably reported to the police and arrested. What has changed is not that the people there have changed their opinions but that a new generation of much more intolerant vaguely bohemian, vaguely arty left-wingers has to a large extent displaced the previous group. Virtually all of the people I used to know there have died or moved away (I’m one of those who moved away). It’s not that trendy inner-city lefties have become more intolerant and more rigidly PC, it’s more that each new generation of trendy inner-city lefties is more intolerant and more rigidly PC. And the steadily declining cohorts of those previous generations who remain in those areas have learnt that if they don’t want to face severe social penalties they had better conform or else.
If you want to achieve real political change you can only do so by indoctrinating the young through the education system and the media. Once a person’s political beliefs have been formed you’ll find it exceptionally difficult to change them.
It’s a fairly depressing conclusion to come to but there it is.
And what about the election of Donald Trump? Doesn’t that prove that political views can be changed, that political paradigms can be shifted? In my view, no. It seems to me that Trump won by running an old-fashioned campaign based on bread-and-butter issues. For the Rust Belt voters who won him the election the issues were mostly economic – it was mostly about jobs. What has changed is that while these voters have not altered their political opinions they have changed their minds about which party represents their views and their interests. That in itself is extremely important.

Trump’s victory and white nationalism

In the past few days we’ve had tearful SJWs telling us that Trump’s victory was a victory for evil white supremacism. We’ve also had alt-righters telling us that it marked the beginnings of a white nationalist surge and the adoption by whites of identity politics.
I’m very sceptical about this. What seems to have happened is that Trump won much the same white vote that Romney did, but the black Democrat vote collapsed.
It’s likely that Trump lost some white voters and gained others. He obviously did well among white voters in the Rust Belt states but I doubt if these white voters were motivated by white identity politics. It seems much more likely that they finally figured out that the Democratic Party is the Billionaire Party and will never do anything to fix the serious economic problems facing these states. Trump at least offered some slight hope that he might address these problems. 
These white voters have started to assert their class identity. The one class that is doing very well is the elite class. The working class and the lower middle class are being screwed. They’re tired of it and they’re starting to think that changing their political allegiance might be a good idea.
In some ways this was a very old-fashioned election. The issues that counted were good old-fashioned economic issues – jobs, jobs and jobs. Things like free trade and immigration were only issues insomuch as they impact on jobs. What is interesting is that Trump fought the election the way an old school moderate leftist would have done.
The Democrat Party has done what so many formerly leftist parties have done – they’ve abandoned their base and that base has turned on them.
I’m sure that voter fatigue with political correctness played a role, but probably a fairly minor one. I’m very dubious as to whether the alt-right had any effect at all. The alt-righters who think this was a victory for Pepe the Frog are living in a dream world. It was a victory for a candidate with sound old-fashioned political instincts and a moderate centre-left program with a healthy dash of nationalism without jingoism. Most importantly it was a victory for a candidate with the ability to convince ordinary Americans that he actually likes them and cares about their lives. That’s a formula that will usually lead to electoral success.

polls, the media and controlling the narrative

The big story from the US election has been the catastrophic failures of opinion polls and political pundits. This has implications that go beyond the future of opinion polls.
The mainstream media has a lot less credibility than it had fifty years ago. What little credibility it still has is to some extent dependent on its ability to tell us stuff like who’s going to win the next election. They can tell us this stuff because they have Science on their side. Opinion polls are based on mathematics so that makes them Science doesn’t it?  And they have Experts. They know more than we do.
Except that it’s now obvious that their Experts know less than we do, and that their scientific opinion polls are little more than voodoo. People are likely to start thinking that if the media can be so wrong about election results then maybe they’re wrong about other things. Maybe they’re wrong about everything.
Even more shocking than the failure of the pre-election polls was the failure of the exit polls.
There is another very significant implication. If the pollsters were totally wrong about the election then perhaps their polls on various social issues are just as worthless. Maybe opinion polls have been dramatically underestimating the strength of opposition to quite a few aspects of the social justice agenda. We might be dealing not just with a Shy Tory or a Shy Trump Voter effect but possibly a Shy Social Conservative effect as well. Politicians who are anxious to advance causes like transgender bathroom rights and mass immigration might care to bear this in mind.
For politicians this is the beginning of a frightening new era. They have been accustomed to relying on opinion pollsters. Now they are going to be realising that they might as well consult an astrologer. 
For the media it could be the dawn of an even more frightening era – how can they keep control of the narrative if they have no way of knowing how the people are actually thinking?
It’s not as if it’s just Brexit and the US election that pollsters and pundits got wrong. Remember those opinion polls that told the Australian Labor Party that Kevin Rudd was unbelievably popular and could easily beat Tony Abbott at the next election? And the media got all excited about it and assured us that Abbott was absolutely unelectable. And so Labor replaced Julia Gillard with Rudd and Rudd went on to lead them to overwhelming defeat. The opinion pollsters are getting it wrong more and more often, in more and more countries.
It appears that Trump won because he put his faith in old-fashioned political instincts. He had a message that he knew he could sell and he knew how to sell it and he knew which demographics were likely to buy it. He knew that if he stuck to the plan he could win.
There are stories floating about that Bill Clinton had been telling the Clinton campaign for months that their strategy was going to fail and they were going to lose. Say what you like about Bill Clinton, he’s a clever politician and he understands politics on an instinctive level. Luckily no-one in the Clinton campaign listened to him – after all he’s just a stale pale male so what would he know?