winning with emotional arguments

I’ve been watching the culture wars with great interest for many years now. I’ve watched as social conservatives have lost every single battle. It’s been clearly obvious that the social conservative arguments are more sensible and more coherent but it hasn’t done them any good at all.
The mistake social conservatives have made is to think that if their arguments are true, and prudent, and properly thought-out, and logical that they will automatically prevail. It doesn’t work that way. The argument that will prevail is not the one based on truth and experience and common sense. The argument that will prevail is the one that is most emotionally satisfying.
This gets back to my post of a couple of days ago about emotional intelligence versus rational intelligence. If you want to get your message across to women you have to rely on emotion. But then that’s also true in the case of a very large proportion of men.
This is especially true in the case of political disputes, which tend to be complex. Arguments about social engineering and “social justice” are particularly complex because it’s necessary to weigh up not only the costs and benefits for the individual but also those for society as a whole, and to consider long-term as well as short-term effects, and to consider indirect as well as direct effects. This is all very complicated and confusing so most people will go for the argument that has been most skillfully presented and that feels true emotionally.
Social conservatives (and economic conservatives also) have had difficulty making their arguments emotionally attractive. The arguments of social radicals and SJWs sound wonderful on an emotional levels – they’re all about love, and caring and sharing, and equality and fairness. Their arguments are also progressive (we know their arguments are progressive because they keep telling that they are) and who doesn’t want to be seen as progressive?
There are two further factors that explain the dismal outcome of the culture wars to date. These are factors that can effectively cripple any political or social campaign. The first is to be made to look mean and nasty. The media has had extraordinary success in making conservatives appear to be a bunch of bad old meanies. In fact of course many economic conservatives really are mean and nasty and social conservatives have never realised that it would be wise to distance themselves a little from the economic conservatives. Portraying social conservatives as nasty hate-filled bigots has been an effective weapon used against us in the culture wars.
The second weakness of social conservatives has been just as deadly. Our enemies have consistently managed to make us look ridiculous. Mockery is one of the most potent of all political weapons.
So what can we do about all this? In truth, not much. It would have been nice if social conservatives had learnt to fight effectively 40 years ago but they didn’t. Now the SJWs have complete control of the megaphone. Even so, if we’re hoping to continue the fight we have to learn to fight to win. We need to find ways to make our arguments effective on an emotional level, and to avoid reliance on rational arguments which tend to make us look cold and heartless. 
It’s a losing strategy to oppose immigration on rational grounds. You’ll simply be portrayed as an evil racist, Literally Hitler in fact. You have to find ways to make immigration sound unfriendly and threatening and to make opposing immigration sound humane and enlightened. You can’t fight social issues on rational grounds because that makes you an evil misogynist. You have to find ways to make traditional values, like marriage and motherhood, sound emotionally appealing and to make the feminist obsession with careerism sound depressing and empty. You have to find ways to make heterosexuality (otherwise known as normal sexuality) seem exciting and appealing.
One thing the alt-right has realised is the importance of mockery. It’s been their biggest single contribution and it’s by no means negligible. The alt-right has also had some success in making the idea of being right-wing seem cool and glamorous. Social conservatives need to take note.
I have no idea whether the ideas I’ve suggested would work. But one thing I’m sure of. They couldn’t possibly fail more completely than the strategies used to date.

no enemies to the right?

One of the key choices you have to make if you’re going to aim to achieve anything by political means is whether you’re going to be inclusive or tightly focused. Are you going to adopt a variation on the slogan No Enemies To The Right? In other words a Big Tent approach. Or are you going to aim for some sort of ideological purity? Although personally I’d prefer to think of it as ideological focus rather than ideological purity.
The Left has historically had an easier time adopting a strategy of no enemies to the left. All leftists after all hoped to achieve some form of socialism even if some wanted to push ahead much faster and much more aggressively. And there was pretty general agreement that in order to achieve socialism the existing economic and political structure would have to be overturned. It wasn’t terribly difficult for leftists to adopt a fairly united front.
This was a major strategic advantage for the Left. 
There are those who feel that the Right should adopt the same strategy. I can see the advantages in strictly political terms but I really don’t see it working. The issues that divide the Right are not divisions that can be easily papered over. They’re kind of fundamental.
First of all it’s not at all clear what it even means to be on the Right. It could be argued that Left and Right no longer even exist but as far as most people are concerned if you’re opposed to globalism and the Social Justice agenda then you’re on the Right so for the sake of convenience we might as well accept that label.
So what are these fundamental divisions? 
First of all there’s religion. There are rightists who believe that our culture can only be saved by Christianity, albeit a much more traditional kind of Christianity to that practised by  the mainstream churches of today. There are other rightists who are militant atheists and despise Christianity. And then there are the rightists who consider Christianity to be a non-European import and who want to revive European paganism. The problem is that all three of these groups tend to hold their respective positions very very strongly indeed. And they do not get along well, to say the least.
Then there’s democracy. There are rightists who have an almost religious reverence for democracy. And there are rightists who think that it was democracy that got us into the mess we’re in now and who think that in the long-term some kind of authoritarianism is going to be necessary. These two groups do not play well together either.
There’s also the questions of race and nationalism, with substantial differences of opinion between adherents of the white nationalist position and those who believe that culture and not race is what matters. Most sane rightists agree that mass Third World immigration is a dumb idea but most mainstream conservatives are true believers in the open borders cult.
There’s also the question of capitalism. Many rightists are very enthusiastic about capitalism and free markets but others are much more sceptical. You can be a rightist and dislike capitalism just as much as you dislike socialism.
Then there’s the social conservative problem. There are those on the right who think that nothing matters except the immigration issue and that therefore we should embrace abortion, drugs, sexual degeneracy and feminism in order to appeal to moderates.
Yet another complication is provided by libertarians. Some libertarians claim to be on the Right, but they tend to hold views that most people on the Right would find to be rather disturbing.
My problem is that most of these divisive issues are issues that really matter to me. I can’t go along with acceptance of abortion, drugs, sexual degeneracy and feminism for the sake of short-term political advantage. You can’t fight evil by embracing evil. I can’t really compromise on religion – I just don’t think atheism is compatible with civilisation. I’m also very reluctant to embrace the free market fetish. Maybe I’m just not the kind of person who is good at compromising. Whether being uncompromising is a viable political strategy or not is a question I can’t answer. But compromising just doesn’t appeal to me.

how intolerance wins

An interesting article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb on on why intolerant minorities always win – The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority. They win because they’re intransigent on a particular issue and because the majority are not prepared to go to the barricades over issues that don’t seem to be of great or immediate importance to them.
He’s not talking just about politics and religion. His example of peanut allergies is very instructive. For the small minority of parents whose children supposedly have peanut allergies it’s an issue on which no compromise can be accepted. For the convenience of their children every child in the school has to be denied access to peanuts. For the vast majority of parents whose children do not have peanut allergies it’s not an issue worth making a huge fuss over. It’s not worth fighting for and so the majority chooses the line of least resistance and accepts the banning of all peanut products in schools.
While it applies to all sorts of issues the fact that an intransigent minority will almost always get its way has obvious and vast implications in the social and political sphere. It is not necessary for these intolerant minorities to convert the majority to their point of view. They can remain a small minority and still win every political battle.
Perhaps the majority needs to learn this lesson and to put it into practice. If a large enough proportion of the majority actually is prepared to put up a fight then the intolerant minority could be defeated.
There’s also a lesson for social conservatives. They have lost every battle in the culture wars because although the social radicals always were a tiny minority they were focused, intolerant and completely bloody-minded. Social conservatives assumed they were dealing with people who were essentially reasonable and open to compromise. A fatal mistake.
Another issue that Taleb dopesn’t touch on directly (although it’s implied in his article) is that successful intolerant minorities tend to be extremely well disciplined.
The article does perhaps offer some hope. It is always possible to learn from your enemies. Even if the number of social conservatives and anti-globalists prepared to put up a fight is relatively small they could succeed by adopting the same tactics – by being just as intransigent and bloody-minded as the SJWs and globalists.
The lesson is that if you try to be moderate and reasonable you will lose every time.  Maybe it’s time we gave intransigence and bloody-mindedness a chance.

the social revolution within the Left

The most extraordinary (and arguably most disastrous) change in the political landscape in the past century has been the social revolution that has occurred within the political parties of the Left.
In 1945 Ben Chifley became Labor Prime Minister of Australia. Chifley was the son of a blacksmith and he became an engine driver in the New South Wales Railways. He was the solidly working-class leader of a solidly working-class party.
Chifley was defeated at the 1949 election. It would be 23 years before Australia had another Labor Prime Minister. In 1972 Gough Whitlam achieved that distinction. Whitlam was a lawyer from a privileged background. He was the solidly elitist leader of a party already well on the way to becoming an elitist political party. In 1972 Labor still retained vestiges of its past as a working-class democratic socialist party. Today the last traces of that past have long since disappeared.
The same process has occurred in the British Labour Party and in the Democratic Party in the US. The leaderships are entirely elitist in outlook. They not only have no interest in the working class, they actively (and increasingly openly) feel contempt for the working class. They advance the interests of people like themselves – fellow members of the elite. There is only one group whom they despise even more than the working class – the few remaining remnants of the old school Left within their own parties. Not that there are many left – if you are an old school leftist your chances of a political career within these supposedly left-wing parties are just about zero.
The treatment meted out to Bernie Sanders is a good indication of the chances of an actual leftist in a modern leftist party. While it’s true that the current leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, does hold some old school leftist beliefs he was elected by the rank and file much against the wishes of the Labour Party establishment (who will do everything within their power to destroy him).
What all this means is that in practice there is no longer any political opposition. The mainstream parties all support globalism and crony capitalism. They all despise anybody who is not a member of the elites. They all work to further the interests of the same class, the class to which they all belong. On economic policy there are simply no genuine differences between the parties. There is no debate on real economic issues. 
This is an extremely unhealthy situation to say the least.
When economic policy is no longer a subject for debate failed economic policies go unchallenged. Even those who disagree strongly with the old school socialists should be concerned by this.
There are no real differences between the major parties on social issues either. They all welcome identity politics because it provides a convenient smokescreen for their disastrous economic policies. They pretend to differ slightly on social issues but this is quite simply a fraud. The “leftist” parties (which have abandoned leftism) want a complete social revolution right now. The “conservative” parties think we should move more slowly. They want a complete social revolution as well but think it should be delayed at least until next week.
It is quite likely that most people under the age of 50 have no idea that the Australian Labor Party, the British Labour Party and the US Democrats used to have actual socialist policies and, more startlingly, used to be solidly socially conservative. 
This political revolution has simply passed unnoticed.

selling the nationalist brand

If we’re going to defeat globalism we need to take a look at the things that have made certain ideologies popular and successful. The popularity of an ideology has never had anything to do with the ideology itself. It’s the way the ideology is sold. It’s the marketing.
Look at marxism. Marxism became extremely popular among the young and fashionable in the 1930s. Why did this happen? It happened because if you were a marxist you could pose as a fashionable rebel. You were one of the cool kids. And you could portray yourself as being virtuous. You could claim the moral high ground.
Remarkably enough, even after the horrors unleashed by Stalin and Mao, Marxism was remarkably successful at maintaining the moral high ground. After all marxism sounds virtuous. It’s all about justice and fairness and equality isn’t it? What could be more virtuous than that?
Marxism is now all but dead but in the 90s another ideology took its place – the twinned ideology of globalism and social justice. Like marxism it sounds very virtuous in theory. It’s all about justice and fairness and equality isn’t it? What could be more virtuous than that? 
It was always difficult fighting against marxism, especially among the young, because the alternatives seemed a lot less cool and a lot less virtuous. And that’s the problem we have in fighting globalism/social justice. The alternatives won’t get you accepted by the cool kids. And you won’t get the same opportunities to virtue-signal (something that is incredibly important for women and young people). Being a nationalist will get you labelled as being Literally Hitler. Being a social conservative will get you labelled as a hateful bigot.
In an age of social media this becomes even more crucial. Everyone wants to be invited to join the cool kids and no-one wants to be Hitler or a hateful bigot.
Somehow we need to turn this around. We need to make nationalism cool and we need to capture the moral high ground.
One way of making nationalism more attractive would be to portray globalists as being on wrong side of history. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history.
Capturing the moral high ground should be easy. We have the advantage that globalism/social justice really is evil and unworkable. However that’s not enough. We need to be a lot  better at marketing. We need to emphasise that nationalism is a good thing for everyone. We need to make it clear that fighting for the well-being of one’s own race, one’s own ethnicity, one’s own nation, is good for everyone. White people should be proud of being white. Black people should be proud of being black. The French should be proud of their French cultural heritage. The Poles should be proud of their Polish cultural heritage. The Vietnamese should be proud of their Vietnamese cultural heritage. Bolivians should be proud of their Bolivian cultural heritage. Globalism is a threat to everybody’s culture.
Immigration should be opposed not because it’s bad for white people but because it’s bad for everyone. You can’t solve the problems of Somalia by resettling the entire Somalian population in Minnesota or Sweden. Syrians are better off in Syria and Syria is not going to be helped by having the best and the brightest Syrians moved to Germany. Refugee problems would be best solved if western nations stopped destroying other people’s countries. And it’s the globalists who promote the wars that cause the refugee problems.
We also need to point out that social conservatism is good for everybody. Feminism should be opposed because feminism is anti-woman. Sexual promiscuity is bad for women. We do homosexuals no favours by encouraging their unhealthy self-destructive lifestyles. We do confused unhappy people no favours by pretending that they can magically change their sex or choose from 57 different genders. Abortion is not only morally wrong it is psychologically damaging to the woman.
Sadly up to now the anti-globalists have made few efforts to take back the moral high ground. The alt-right has in some ways made things worse by indulging in childish shock tactics and by not distancing itself from its lunatic fringe. Every political movement has its lunatic fringe. The alt-right’s lunatic fringe is in truth more harmless than most (it’s a handful of nutters who live in their parents’ basements) but the trouble is they don’t sound harmless and they provide a very convenient stick with which SJWs can beat everybody who opposes their agenda.
Marxists enjoyed so much success because they were focused, they were disciplined and they were good at selling their ideology. We need to be prepared to learn from their success.

am I a conservative? part one

I’m fairly uncomfortable with the idea of describing myself as a conservative. My big problem with the label is that I keep asking myself – exactly who are these conservatives and what do they stand for? The more I look at conservatism the less conservative it looks.

I want to make it clear that I’m talking here of mainstream conservatism of the type that dominates our so-called conservative political parties. I’m not talking about the various dissident conservative groups such as paleo-conservatives or traditionalist conservatives.
What exactly are the beliefs of mainstream conservatives? They usually claim to be in favour of limited government, capitalism, free trade and personal responsibility and they usually tend to be opposed to the welfare state. These are not necessarily bad things but are they actually conservative?
There are good arguments in favour of limited government. In fact when you look at the increasingly bloated and intrusive nature of modern government there are very good arguments indeed for limited government. On the whole I’d like to see the role of government quite severely limited. I’d be quite happy to see most government departments and virtually all statutory authorities and quasi-government organisations shut down. I’d be happy to see the Public Service cut in half. So on that issue I agree with mainstream conservatives.
I have no great problem with capitalism. It can be highly efficient at producing prosperity and in many ways it has improved our lives, in a material sense at least. On the other hand I don’t see anything particularly conservative about capitalism. It has been one of the main engines driving social change and destroying traditional social structures. I’m not anti-capitalism but I do regard it with caution and scepticism. If left to its own devices it seems to lead inevitably to the destruction or at least the distortion of the very free markets it claims to promote. I’m OK with capitalism but I think it has to be controlled to a certain extent. On that issue I can regard myself as being to some degree at odds with mainstream conservatives.
I don’t see free trade as being in any way conservative. Quite the reverse. Free trade within nations is generally beneficial. Free trade between nations is another matter. It seems to me that that leads to results that are totally at odds with any kind of genuine conservatism – it has lead to the destruction of our manufacturing industry and the devastation of communities and it leads to instability. 
Personal responsibility is a fine idea and generally speaking I’m in favour of it, but I think there are limits to it. Complete personal responsibility is in its way a somewhat utopian ideal – it assumes that we all have total control over our own lives and that appears to me to be an unrealistic assumption.
The welfare state is a tricky one. There’s no question that the welfare state has been used, disastrously, as a tool for social engineering. It has contributed to the destruction of the family. On the other hand there are many institutions that can be used for evil purposes without being evil in themselves. The police can be used as a tool of oppression. That does not mean we should eliminate police forces. That would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Personally I think that the Industrial Revolution made the welfare state inevitable and unavoidable. When people lived in small close-knit mostly rural traditional communities it was quite possible for families and private charities to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. The Industrial Revolution destroyed the continuity of traditional life, it destroyed extended family structures, it lead to massive urbanisation and it uprooted established communities. In these changed circumstances I just don’t see any way a welfare state can be avoided.
I think the welfare state should be radically reformed. For one thing I think all welfare payments to single mothers should be abolished, except to widows and deserted wives (and that should not include de facto wives). On the other hand I’d like to see welfare payments to actual deserted wives with children increased so that they can raise their kids decently without having to work. I believe we need a much better and much more family-oriented welfare state, one without the social engineering agenda, but I do think a welfare state is on the whole essential.
I recent years mainstream conservatives suddenly decided that open borders was a core conservative belief. This seems to me to be about as anti-conservative a policy that could possibly be imagined.
So overall I find myself with not a great deal in common with the conservative mainstream. Certainly not enough to be comfortable applying the label conservative to myself. My big problem is that conservatism doesn’t seem very conservative in any way that makes sense to me. If conservatives aren’t interested in conserving the family, or established communities or even our sense of national identity then what exactly do they want to conserve?
I do consider myself to be very much a social conservative but that’s another issue probably best dealt with in a separate post.

social conservatism, political ideologies and human nature

There seems to be a widespread assumption that if only we can pick the correct political ideology to adopt then we will have found the magical answer that will ensure perpetual happiness. Unfortunately there is no evidence that this is so.

The trouble is that all political ideologies work remarkably well in theory. Communism works just dandy in theory. Everyone is equal, everything is fair and just. In practice it has always led to the creation of huge, inefficient, corrupt, self-serving and oppressive bureaucracies and brutal murderous totalitarianism. There is no reason to think this will ever change.
Libertarianism works equally well in theory. Everyone is motivated by enlightened rational  self-interest and everyone is self-reliant and everyone enjoys the bliss of complete freedom. In practice self-interest is rarely enlightened or rational, not everyone can achieve complete self-reliance, and freedom tends to lead to chaos and viciousness.
The free market works just great in theory. In practice markets never really seem to turn out to be so free after all and corporations behave cynically and selfishly and without any regard for the future.
The welfare state is a terrific idea in theory. No-one need ever have to fear poverty. Unfortunately in practice it leads to the creation of those huge, inefficient, corrupt, self-serving and oppressive bureaucracies mentioned earlier and it leads to dependence and demoralisation.
The trouble is that in practice every political ideology runs into the same problem – people steadfastly refuse to behave the way the theory assumes they will behave. People are irrational and motivated largely by emotion and often behave in a depressingly short-sighted manner. If only we could dispense with people we could create such a wonderful perfect society.
It appears to me that the problem is that political ideologies on their own will never provide an answer unless they are underpinned by a moral framework that will lessen the natural human tendency towards short-sightedness, selfishness and self-indulgence.
A moral framework requires religion. In the past century we have seen many attempts to provide a moral framework without religion, with either the state or nature or some abstract ideal (like “social justice”) taking the place of God. They have all failed. Without religion morality inevitably degenerates into whatever you can get away with.
I personally have no very strong commitment to any political ideology. I think capitalism is the most effective engine for creating prosperity and while prosperity on its own is no guarantee of happiness it certainly helps.
Looking at the Australian experience (because being an Australia that’s what I have the most experience of) it seems to me that two of our more successful prime ministers have been Sir Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke. Both were, in practice, pragmatists who were prepared to accept a degree of compromise. Menzies was a conservative but he was prepared to tolerate the existence of a limited welfare state. Hawke was a socialist but he accepted the reality that capitalism is very good at increasing prosperity so he encouraged a free market, within limits. Australia did quite well under both Menzies and Hawke. 
I identify as a conservative but my conservatism is mostly of the social conservative variety. I approve of capitalism but I’m suspicious of free markets in any absolutist terms. I think an almost entirely free market would work reasonably well without globalisation but within the context of globalisation I suspect that completely free markets will lead to economic chaos. Free marketeers are fond of talking about level playing fields but global markets (for either goods and services or labour) are playing fields that are about as far from being level as could possibly be imagined. My view is that given globalisation totally free markets are not going to work anywhere near as well as the theory says they will.
I have no problems with a welfare state as long as it’s kept within reasonable bounds. People were not created equal and therefore I feel that a limited welfare state is unavoidable.
For me social conservatism is the key. You have to have religion to provide a moral framework (and to satisfy the inescapable human need for religion). You have to have a respect for tradition, if only to discourage ill-considered attempts at social engineering. You need to place the family at the centre of society because the whole of human history tells us that family life is essential for human happiness. The family is also the best way to keep the welfare state within limits. Hedonism produces chaos and misery (the Weimar Republic being a fine example of that). Sexual perversion and sexual excess produces emptiness and loneliness.
If you have social conservatism, if you have religion, then it probably doesn’t matter too much which political ideology you opt for as long as you avoid unworkable nightmares like communism and as long as your political ideology is tempered with pragmatism.