This is going to be one of those articles where I start by telling you how great a person is before tearing them to shreds. For those unaware, Michelle Catlin is a paleoconservative twitter user who I typically find to be both insightful and sometimes funny. To give you an idea of who she is, I’ll just show you her twitter description:
Recently, she wrote an article on Medium about the disagreement between David French and Sohrab Ahmari. Her reasons for taking the side of Ahmari were deeply flawed, and as such, I wish to critique them.
Why am I going after Catlin and not Ahmari? First off, because Ahmari’s article is filled with so many purple prose, which, if I may use another TV Tropes term, happens to be a large Berserk Button of mine. Here’s just one example:
Forced to reckon with the fact that autonomy unbound hasn’t yielded freedom but new and insidious forms of digital tyranny, French treats as a nonstarter conservative proposals to intervene (“I oppose government efforts to regulate social-media speech policies”). Instead, he urges essentially a cultural solution. Silicon Valley should voluntarily adopt First Amendment norms, per French, and I wish him good luck persuading our programmer-kings to go along.
That was a very wordy way to say “Freedom is slavery.”
Second off, I do believe Catlin, despite any disagreements we have ideology (she’s a nationalist conservative and I’m an anarchist and capitalist) she is at least intelligent enough to either admit she’s wrong or have a halfway decent reply to anything I say. Basically, at least she doesn’t come off as a brick wall with a broken record on top.
I figured it would be best to say something that may enrage those on both sides of this debate, the culture war is a scam. It is simply a scapegoat used by politicians to get people who normally support free-markets to betray there first principles and support things they would normally find unthinkable. Don’t believe me? Just look at what the culture warriors support. Higher taxes, large regulatory states, and government censorship are all done to win the “culture war” or for the “greater good.”
Now ask yourself, what was the last group to use the phrase “greater good,” as often as culture warriors? I’ve mad this comparison before, but culture warriors have far more in common than Marxists than they’d like to admit. When I point this out, they hit the fan. “How dare you insult me,” they scream. But I’m not insulting them, I’m describing similarities between two political world views. If you take this as an insult, then I recommend you change your world view.
The main reason I picked this article as a jumping off point to talk about the culture war is that Michelle does every generic paleocon talking point she can. Including, but not limited to, blaming neoliberalism:
What was once dominated by a general centre-right compassionate conservatism that would bargain with neoliberals and progressives on issues has been steadily getting replaced by a new tide of populism that says no to the transatlantic consensus of neoliberalism.
Drag Queen Story Time (which happened like once in California)
Ultimately I just do not get David French’s stance, I do not get his reasoning. He wants to allow Drag Queen Story Time hours as some kind of free association thing, because otherwise you’d be promoting evil Christian statism.
And, my personal favorite, we have to use the state to stop them or else they’ll use the state to stop us:
The left is not merely trying to create a destructive culture for themselves, they want everyone else to also accept it. You must make dick cakes for gay couples, you must let your child transition, you as a Catholic doctor must perform late term abortions, and you are going to like it. That is the mentality of the left, it is not even enough that you give them the autonomy to destroy themselves, you are not allowed to disagree with them, because that makes you bigoted and prejudiced and that is unacceptable. That is the logical conclusion of pure individual autonomy.
Of course, Catlin is unable to think of a society where the state simply does not have the power to force her to bake a cake with a dick on it (possibly because it doesn’t exist at all). The actual “logical conclusion of pure individual autonomy,” involves the people who want to bake cakes with dicks on them doing such and you not being forced to participate.
But this is still not good enough for culture warriors, as explained a few paragraphs above:
Ahmari [who Catlin sides with] argues that the problem with this is that individual autonomy is not merely some neutral state but rather a normative ideology and that the ultimate logic of pure individual autonomy means the destruction of Christian morality. Because if these moral virtues are merely a form of personal conviction, then they are merely seen as forms of prejudice that stand in the way of individual autonomy.
I think you forgot something here Catlin. That is, you haven’t proven that “the destruction of Christian morality,” is a bad thing. In fact, the fact that you have to use force to keep such a thing alive seems to prove the moral system is bad.
When Christianity started, they were the ones who were being oppressed. Christianity actually grew popular in Rome due to them reacting non-violently to oppression done by Romans. Famously, when Christians were put in lion’s dens to be eaten, they didn’t resist, in fact, they sang songs and simply allowed this to happen.
I’m sorry — maybe I’m just jaded because I don’t believe in the core of “Christian morality,” — but I simply don’t buy the idea that the ideology that survived its founder getting nailed to a cross and having his followers being eaten alive can be destroyed by a couple of weirdos who want to get HIV. In this regard, Christianity had to spend its early years being the liberators only to become the oppressors once they got into power. I’ve seen this trick before, not directly but through reading up on what the Roman empire did once it became Christian and the thousand years it spent keeping Europe poor and under feudalism.
Here is a different quotes from Michelle’s article, see if you notice the contradiction between them and the last quote I showed you:
I have argued before that conservatism is a default state of society, where all the moral virtues such as care, fairness, liberty, authority, sanctity and loyalty exists within an equilibrium. This is evident when you look at the studies done on moral foundations by Jonathan Haidt, you will find conservatives balancing all these foundations near perfectly.
So please tell me, if “conservatism is a default state of society,” why is it something that must be enforced at gunpoint? Why does the left even exist? Why do homosexuals, the promiscuous, and anything the culture warriors consider to be immoral even exist?
Before someone points it out, I am aware the next part of her article says the following:
However society is dynamic and things such as technology will disrupt these foundations, leading to new ideologies that rival conservatism. These new ideologies regarding what was seen a balanced equilibrium of virtues as authoritarian and oppressive.
The first sentence falls apart when you realize the Communist Manifesto was written 150 years before the internet became mainstream and the Russian Revolution happened in a poor society without electricity, let alone the internet. And I, if I may use some of that Dutch bluntness, have no fucking idea what the second sentence even means.
I end with the ultimate contradiction of the culture warrior. For this, I use one of the ending points of Catlin’s article:
What about say polyamory? Studies have constantly shown that polyamorous societies are far more violent, destructive and less equal than monogamous societies. If we know that encouraging polyamory is ultimately destructive then should we not be forced to encourage monogamy and discourage polyamory in any way we can? Be it through government incentives or not?
(Quick litter side note: Has any previous egalitarian society had mainstream polyamory? Usually, it’s already violent, destructive, and unequal societies that have it later. In fact, the only real mainstream group that practices polygamy (because there really is no difference between it and polyamory) are Muslims. They usually don’t have peaceful and equal societies in the first place.)
I now ask the culture warriors, what happens when the polyamorous get into power? According to social conservatives, it happened with the LGBT, so don’t act like this isn’t possible. You have set the president that the government has the right to use incentives to encourage monogamous marriages, do not expect any sympathy from me when the first polyamorous senator comes along and tries to get your law reversed and maybe pass some incentives of his own.