GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

November 19, 2015


Filed under: GA — adam @ 3:01 pm

If politics is no longer “declarative” but, rather, increasingly ostensive (the initial move of the SJW is “point and shriek”[Vox Day]), our inherited political vocabulary of “principles,” “convictions,” “beliefs,” “opinions” and so on needs to be retired, or at the very least sharply restricted. All of these terms presuppose that we conduct civil discourse in answerable sentences, that is sentences whose relation to reality and whose own inner relations can be assessed. But if, as Zaweena Grewal, summing up victimary conventional wisdom, put it in a Washington Post Op-Ed a few days ago, “the unquestioned freedom to mock the powerful is qualitatively different than the freedom to, effectively, bully the most vulnerable members of our community,” then we no longer operate under those assumptions. Grewal’s assertion—a declarative to put declaratives out of business—applies well beyond the question of “mocking.” Jelani Cobb in the New Yorker puts the principle in more general terms (or, at least as general as they can get, since all speech for the SJW must be violence or resistance): “The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered.” In both cases, the statement only makes sense if it is the same speech act that is designated “mock” and “offend” in one case and “bully” in another. It follows that any statement, whether it be the sheer recitation of facts and statistics, detailed descriptions of events, attempts to adjudicate conflicts, moral criticism—must be qualitatively different when addressing the powerful, on the one hand, and the most vulnerable, on the other. This obviously sets up two classes of citizens: those who can uninhibitedly vilify and insult the privileged, and those can speak only in the most circumscribed way about the powerless. Indeed, even arguments over who is powerful and who is vulnerable must be qualitatively different, and therefore impossible—such determinations are embedded in the victimary movement itself, insofar as that movement emerged against an unfolding hierarchical litany of illegitimate centers (Western, white, male, straight, etc.) that are frozen in the victimary imaginary. One has victimary immunity so long as one affirms the binaries implicit in that imaginary (as a white, one confesses to white privilege; as a person of color, one accuses whites of privilege, etc.). If you start to question whether a wealthy black student attending an elite school her grades and test scores would not have qualified her for is “powerful,” and an impoverished young white man “vulnerable,” or even whether a white gay man beaten up by a group of black teenagers deserves victimary-style commemoration, you are simply be speaking a different language (and it won’t matter so much what color you are). In fact, not the least of the indignities imposed upon us by the victimary is that it tempts us to indulge in such comparisons, thereby drawing us into its orbit. Naively, many conservatives think arguments uncovering various forms of victimary equivalences provide them with “gotcha” moments. (Less naively, some seem to be realizing how much material for satire there is here.)

I’ll draw upon Peter Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life to suggest that it would be better to think in terms of immunology rather than “principles.” We don’t need better arguments against the victimary—we need the political and cultural equivalent of vaccinations. Once sufficient immunity has been developed, the possibilities of fighting to eradicate the victimary plague will suggest themselves. Our immune deficiency comes in two forms. First, as civilized beings we are unequipped to deal with overtly and ostentatiously uncivil behavior (especially when such behavior is calculated to test the limits of civilized norms). I remember reading somewhere (and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in some previous post) that Hitler learned from attending upper class affairs that the instinctive reaction on the part of highly civilized people when confronted with the uncivil is to appease it, either by acceding to demands or waving it off as a joke. Most civilized people simply don’t know how to deal with the uncivil, having cordoned it off as something to be dealt with by bands of armed men for so long. Tit for tats with the uncivil are uncontrollable and unpredictable, and there’s no way of knowing whether one will have the physical and moral capacity to see it through—better to do anything to avoid that necessity. Even more, all of your civilized companions will exert great pressure on your to take this course, as they will inevitably be drawn into any prolonged confrontation. Not only do you risk getting your ass kicked, but everyone will blame you for it. Second, as citizens of a democratic society predicated upon assumptions about human equality, we cringe at any accusation that we are excluding someone from the circle of equals—indeed, doing so is now the thing most likely to get oneself excluded from that circle. Our first impulse is to deny the accusation, and to defend ourselves, but this merely traps one in a double bind: any attempt to prove you are not racist (“I have lots of black friends…”) will merely prove that you see anti-racism as a matter of tokenism rather than uprooting the beliefs we don’t even experience as racist. You can go the systemic route, and recite the contemporary anti-racist screed, but that just proves that, in your complacency, you didn’t notice some unchecked privilege. It’s like being investigated by a special prosecutor—if they don’t get you on the “underlying crime,” they will get you for lying to investigators or impeding the investigation. The only way to avoid being cornered is to join in accusing another, but by the time you have been accused, it is too late.

The only way out is to say, first, “I don’t care,” and, second, “you’re lying” (not about calling me racist, or whatever, because the first move is to render that point moot—but in some material claim supporting the charge—about which the SJW will undoubtedly be lying). If you’re not ready to do that immediately and unflinchingly, for as long as it takes, it’s better to go cower in a corner from the beginning and save everyone a lot of time and energy. That means you have to be able to act without even thinking about it—the first moments might be decisive. Hence the need for immunization. At this point, though, we can target the immunizations very precisely. What we need to be immunized against is being infected by the victimary world of lies. The SJWs now depend not just upon the strategic lie, but a completely fabricated world reminiscent of totalitarianism. The statements quoted above makes this clear: since truth must be “qualitatively different” for the perpetrator and the victim, whatever helps the powerful is to be denied; whatever helps the vulnerable is to be affirmed; whatever the powerful have accomplished has been at the expense of the powerless; whatever the powerless is to be applauded as an accomplishment in the face of virulent hostility by the powerful. Al Sharpton perpetrated a massive and very damaging hoax in the Tawana Brawley case back in the 80s, but once the fraud was exposed, people stopped talking about Brawley—it didn’t spawn a “movement.” Today, the exposure of frauds, like the one in Ferguson regarding the shooting of Michael Brown, makes no difference. Resisting the world of lies becomes, on the one hand, harder: it is extremely difficult, especially in the academy or media, to avoid lending support to the lies simply by accepting, for example, “the consequences of Ferguson” as a legitimate topic of discussion. Once you accept that what’s important is not what really happened, but what it meant to the “vulnerable,” then you are in and will find it very difficult to dig your way out. The abomination must be rejected in toto. (You have to be ready to say, “oh, you mean the Ferguson hoax?”)

The lies penetrate because they are advanced by the uncivil (to whom we reflexively and romantically grant a greater authenticity) on civilized terrain (the very difference between civil and uncivil seems to imply, vaguely, some inequality), and because claims that one’s equality has been violated are as a matter of course given deference. This is where the immunological deficiency of modern citizens lies. Building up immunity to uncivil demands for unilaterally defined equality requires (as does any immunity) exposure to the infection. The difference presented as proof of injustice must be immediately, automatically and instinctively treated as proof of qualitative difference. The demand itself must be treated as evidence of incontinence and indiscipline. So far, I have been describing more of a practice than an inoculation that makes it the default practice. The inoculation lies in repeated exposure to the differences signifying victimary status and habituating oneself to insisting on the immunological implications of those differences. If members of group A are more likely to commit violence (and, perhaps, specific forms of violence) than other groups, immunological considerations dictate protecting oneself and things and people one cares about from members of group A—this does not necessarily mean a blanket exclusion of A (although in some cases it might), just different vetting criteria, targeted towards a more or less formal probability assessment. With regard to groups that excel disproportionately, immunological considerations are more passive, requiring nothing more than a defense and refinement of criteria for admission and promotion—here, inoculation must focus on insidious attempts to subvert those criteria. Such attempts at subversion usually take the form of insisting on their circularity—they reproduce existing hierarchies because members of dominant groups more readily see virtues in each other than in “others.” Such a claim is as unprovable as it is unrefutable, and therefore should be ignored: demonstrable improvements to the criteria should be demanded as a condition of taking any critique seriously. Of course, this also means you should know why you have the criteria you do—they shouldn’t simply be inherited.

An automatized defense of the human inclination to notice differences and infer further differences from them; of the natural disposition of any individual or institution to organize reality in accord with the most thorough and finely calibrated apprehension of observable human differences possible; and of the habit of refining and making both more inbred and more deliberate these dispositions and inclinations—this is the vaccine. Not to be pedantic, but it is as if we must invent and then repeat mantras like “differences are our maps to reality, not veils concealing an ultimate gnosis” over and over again. Once inoculated, we are free to discuss at our leisure various possible causes of these differences—such inquiries can be very interesting and productive, once the environment has been freed of victimary pathologies. And, of course, the array of human differences changes, albeit within limits (limits we can never be sure of in advance)—indeed, an enhancement of the immunological resistance of our institutions would itself be sure to induce significant changes. We could then acknowledge counter-tendencies, such as, perhaps, particular forms of gentleness one can find among individual members of disproportionately violent groups. Above all, though, we would be training ourselves to identify the difference of the victimary itself, the signs of the SJW, and devise means of excluding them from, where possible, and marginalizing them within, when necessary, our institutions. In fact, we could read off all the differences we need from the agenda and language of the SJWs—everything that they deny can fairly reliably be affirmed, everything they are against can fairly reliably be supported, everything they are for opposed. It’s as if they provide an inverted map of reality. They openly declare their commitments to incompetence, subversion, falsification and wrecking, presenting themselves as the very infection to which we need to develop antibodies. So, for example, we can confidently respond to Grewal and Cobb that indeed there should be differences in how we address the more and less powerful—those accountable to some public must be expected to set an example for everyone else; while those who are in some sense apprentices within civilized institutions should be admonished to work harder to counter the reasonable assumption that a large number of them will fail, or only barely succeed, without much distinction. How to “mock” or “offend” (or advise, encourage, criticize, report on, etc.) will follow from such considerations.

November 11, 2015

The Dialectics of Nationalism

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:59 pm

One thing that all the American nationalists I have come across recently have in common is their insistence on non-intervention abroad. The nationalists can often sound like leftists in their denunciations of American “imperialism” and “nation building,” with the crusading neo-conservative coming in for special scorn. It is, of course, logical and Kantian that, if your fundamental political commitment is to national sovereignty, coherence and defense, you would respect with regard to others what you demand for yourself. Since nationalism is intrinsically rivalrous, though, anti-interventionism is also an illusion, one that can be indulged in by the politically marginalized, but will be abandoned quickly if the nationalists ever wield significant political power. This illusion is similar to the fantasy of an ethnically homogeneous nation, and both illusions share the same roots. To say that a political imaginary has illusions is not to discredit it—it is almost the same thing as calling it a “political imaginary,” which any political order must have. The more paradoxical and generative the illusions, the more interesting and “informative” the political order—the durability of that order, though, does depend upon managing, limiting and channeling those illusions.

To be a nationalist is to define your nation in comparison to and competition with other nations. It is to assume that there are more and less successful nations. It follows that the less successful nations will emulate and resent the more successful. This introduces divisions into the less successful nations between those who would like to transform the indigenous culture so as to approximate more closely the successful nation, and those who define national identity in terms of some resentful distinction from the more successful nation (success and failure are redefined). It also introduces a division in the more successful nation between those who would like to cultivate patronage relations and alliances with the less successful nation and those who see the less successful nation’s resentments as harbingers of future hostility, and counsel distance and preparedness. This dialectic inevitably takes on geographic and demographic forms. The emulative members of the LSN will often take up residence in the MSN, and the welcoming members of the MSN will promote such a development; patronizing members of the MSN will move to the LSN, taking advantage of whatever advantages have made them more successful. And even the more resentful members of the LSN will feel compelled to move to the MSN to have access to economic, educational and other opportunities which members of the MSN who no longer wish to carry out less desirable functions will consent to yield to the LSN immigrants.

Moreover, since nations never coincide with ethnic distinctions (which are themselves inherently vague and characterized by minute gradations across territories), national boundaries are always imperfect, with people who identify more with one nation being “trapped” within the boundaries of another nation. A nation is a union of tribes, almost invariably created through an alliance against some imperial or monarchical order—the tribes within the union will be connected to tribes that fall out of it through familial, linguistic and other ties, and these connections will be maintained across borders. (This leaves aside ethnically similar demographics that nevertheless identify with transnational faiths or institutions, such as English or German Catholics, or Jews, who pose similar problems—and it’s very common for the religious divisions to overlap geographic and ethnic ones.) Both MSN and LSN nations will have an interest in leveraging such fuzzy loyalties, which will entangle conflicts within and between the nations. MSN will usually, but not always, prevail in such conflicts, which will redraw boundaries (national honor cannot allow a victory to go without spoils) and lay the groundwork for future conflicts. Nor is this dynamic restricted to neighboring nations. If a MSN with, say, a developed market and a network of merchants and bankers, is allowed or invited (or even if a few enterprising individuals insinuate themselves through force and fraud) into a more distant LSN for the sake of exploiting or elevating the condition of its people (or even the elite portion of that people), those colonists are potential hostages who must be protected in the name of national reputation. The MSN must be willing to use force, which may very well involve long-term occupation of the LSN, or some part of it, or the establishment of “puppet” governments dependent on the MSN. And, finally, more than one MSN might have such interests in LSNs, generating new conflicts between the MSNs (some of whom must be at least marginally more successful than the others, bringing that entire dynamic into play). For the MSNs to behave otherwise would be to allow the LSMs to chip away at their own borders and counter their own advantages through alliances and subversions of their own.

This last point alludes to the obvious question of what makes a nation more successful—and the equally obvious answer, as libertarian theorist Hans Hermann-Hoppe argues, is the nation that allows for more of a free market within the territory it controls, which generally means the more civilized nation. To add yet another paradox into the mix, as Hermann-Hoppe also argues, this means that the nations with the freest economies will also be the most aggressive conquering nations, not only because their wealth translates into military and political power but also because they will be the nations that cultivate the most wide reaching and entrenched interests in foreign countries, as they will be best able to exploit such interests to enrich and empower itself. As the conquering liberal nation comes to bring more and more nations within its direct and indirect sway, it also produces the most cosmopolitan tendencies, becomes the most open to external influences and movement of peoples, and that much less of a nation: generating a new kind of resentment, that of those who once ruled the world but are now being subsumed in and overwhelmed by it.

All this has been essentially an abstract account of modern European history p until the 20th century, the only history of nations (tribes transcended by their unity and new differentiation into classes) in interaction with each other in the history of the world. It’s easy to see how this dialectic led to the catastrophic “thirty years war” of the 20th century West, and any defense of nationalism today would be advised to offer a credible explanation of why this need not be the inevitable outcome of a world of nations. (Or, more pessimistically, why even this possibility is preferable to the anti-nationalist alternatives.)

Despite the contempt heaped upon the more liberal notion of America as a “proposition nation” by American nationalists, sooner or later any nationalism will settle into some kind of propositional form: the nation has to be “about” something. That something need not be some principle abstracted from (and therefore imposed upon) the people, and that is where critics of American “propositionality” are right. The notion of America as a proposition nation derives from Lincoln, in particular his Gettysburg Address, and it is both justified and historically accurate to trace the proposition, “all men are created equal,” to which Lincoln declared the American founding to be “dedicated,” to an older understanding of “British liberties,” embedded in the traditions of people of British stock—and, therefore, to question whether peoples of other stocks can easily conform to those principles. This debate takes us to the heart of the American Civil War—the Southern partisans claimed that by “all men,” the founders really meant “white men,” and there may be something to that, but they did write “all men” rather than “white men” for reasons that are not too hard to imagine. The meaning of propositions cannot be controlled by the contingent intentions of those who assert them—they always transcend the conditions of their utterance because the effectivity of their utterance depends upon them opening up a horizon beyond the immediately local. To refer to my previous post, it is still incumbent upon the guardians of the national proposition to operationalize the sincerity conditions of iterations of that proposition: the national proposition must set conditions for that convergence of rivalries within the nation with rivalries between nations that I have proposed as the definition of nationalism. The exemplars of “British liberties” are not required to universalize those liberties so that they map onto the already existing dispositions of new entrants onto the national stage; rather, those new entrants are obliged to adopt and adapt to those British liberties so as to prove that they are not exclusively “British.” (Nearly explicit in Lincoln’s formulation is that the proposition is a hypothesis that might be falsified.)

In a world of nationalisms, there are no guarantees. There are no guarantees in any world, but at least in a world of nationalisms, defined by its constantly shifting rivalries, this would be explicit. Even the horror of nuclear war between the world’s leading nations and, by now, even some of its second-rank nations, provides no assurance that national rivalries won’t lead us to a brink that some miscalculation or arrogant short-sightedness could tip us over. It may be the best that we can hope for is, first, the shrinking gap between first, second, and third rank powers will prevent the kind of concentration of power into stable imperialist blocs that could focus all attention on each other; and second, a renewed recognition of the fragility of civilization, now threatened by a world wide jihad against paralyzed rich nations, will make common interests among the civilized nations outweigh their rivalries—or, better yet, that their rivalries will get channeled into competitions over the defense of civilization, internally and externally. The countries that can best leverage, while making national membership condition of this possibility, their ethnic, religious and cultural minorities and the international interventions (and consequent alliances) they are drawn into will succeed and the set the model for others.

The post-nationalist political imaginary models a nationalist world unrestrained by international institutions on the originary scene: as all-encompassing imminently violent rivalry just waiting for someone to pull the first trigger. Certainly the configuration of individual nations in competition over resources, power and prestige fits the model. Ultimately the Nazi genocide of the Jews exemplifies this model, as a world war of competing nationalisms ends up targeting the minority (the paradoxical nation, dispersed and extra-territorial) that never managed to fit, unproblematically, into any of them. That’s why even the most normal nationalism—say, the Hungarians’ refusal to allow more than a very small number of “Syrian” refugees—triggers a quasi-allergic response from the transnational progressives. But it may be that precisely the more prickly nationalism, which responds in kind to every insult or injury, that will keep the peace, rather than attempts to defer these conflicts to international mediation that will be satisfactory to the extent that it was unnecessary in the first place. The Mexican government provides aid and advice to its citizens trying to stay in the US illegally—that’s no causus belli, but there are plenty of ways of retaliating far short of war. Such tit for tat exchanges may seem childish, and in a sense they are—but they are also the most important way in which we continue to learn from social interactions throughout our lives. It may be that the cause of WWI and hence the profound crisis of European civilization in which we still find ourselves was less unchecked nationalism and more the pervasive fantasy of endless enlightenment and progress so ascendant in Europe at the turn of the century—if you imagine that universal comity is transcending all rivalries, you would not find any reason to engage those rivalries, to test the relative strengths and weakness, real and imagined, of the respective parties. And then you will be shocked and disillusioned to discover that mimeticism has not yet disappeared from the planet.

I would recommend watching, if you haven’t already, the video referenced and linked to in this report from Breitbart News: The Breitbart writer’s unease with the antisemitism that emerges at a couple of crucial points in this very powerful video marks a split between the philo-semitic and antisemitic factions within the global right that is sure to intensify in coming years. While among the villains of the piece are European elites making the demographic argument for increased immigration that Mark Steyn has been harping on for more than a decade, it’s not clear that the nationalists have an answer to that inescapable question. If your nation stops having babies, the suicide is not exactly “enforced”—even if it can be dramatically accelerated through force and fraud. The real test of a reinvigorated nationalism is whether it generates a new baby boom. Faith provides a compelling reason for procreation, but we don’t know if the kind of immortality offered by the nation still does so. Only a very profound, multilayered revolution will enable one to answer that question confidently in the affirmative. At least the requirements of that revolution converge with those of the anti-victimocratic revolution that is its precondition, insofar as having more than the replacement level number of offspring is a way of engaging in inter-familial, inter-regional, and international rivalry—so, it can all be rolled up into one ball.

November 6, 2015

Theory of Language as Theory of War

Filed under: GA — adam @ 8:50 pm

As I survey the field of thinkers and doers determined not just to complain about “political correctness” but to undertake to destroy it (most exemplarily, Vox Day of SJWs Always Lie) I notice one weakness in their analysis that some of us familiar with academic developments over the past half-century are well equipped to remedy. SJWs lie, they double down, they project; any apology they manage to extract will be pocketed as a confession and used to pursue further prosecutorial actions; they exploit vague “codes of conduct” and appeal to “amenable authorities” to find weak links in the organization; and they have absolutely no concern for the genuine goals of whatever project they infiltrate—indeed, as Vox Day could say, but I don’t think he does, people with genuine “projects” are the favored targets of the SJW because the enemy of the SJW is someone concerned with achievement, success, participating in civilization, and who is therefore indifferent to margins of perceived inequality. All true! All this addresses the SJWs as an enemy in an ongoing civil war (a “cold” civil war, so far), and therefore focuses on weapons, tactics, strategies, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, etc. As befits a fighter.

But Vox Day doesn’t seem particularly interested in the question of why all this works, and it does need to be explained—we don’t need an explanation for why saturation bombing and an invasion of hundreds of thousands of troops breaks the enemy’s will and leads to surrender; we do need an explanation for why everyone in a corporation cowers when a charge of “racism” or “sexism” is levied. (Of course, part of the explanation is simply that the government can exact a very heavy price for such transgressions, but not only does this just push the question back to another level [why do we comply with government rules that no one ever voted for?], it is far from always the case that complaints which are anxiously addressed rise to the threshold of legal action—the anxiety is more free floating than that.) We can pursue these questions through new theories of warfare (e.g., William Lind’s “4th Generation Warfare), which very much interests the SJW slayers, but it seems to me there’s not much there there. Why do guerilla warfare and terrorism work? We require the same kind of explanation for a kind of social and political paralysis in the face of very asymmetrical means for that as for the everyday pastimes of the domestic SJW. Of course, our own understanding of White Guilt and victimary thinking offer an explanation well beyond anything the anti-SJW camp has to offer, but it is ultimately a contemplative view of things, a description which, for reasons I hope to explain here, is not likely to interest those committed to the principle of SJWs delenda est, and for good reasons. Think tanks will not sink the SJWs. Anyway, even on the terms of a “declarative,” objective, social sciency account, references to feelings like guilt and fear tend to be like theories of soporific qualities causing sleep.

However we explain it, the source of the power of victimary politics is the assimilation, by now tacitly by most participants, of a post-structuralist understanding of language. Judith Butler tied together Derridean and Foucauldian threads from French theory with the speech act theory of Austin and Searles to provide an effective way of acting on the principle that all language is performative. All saying is a kind of doing. Whoever practices language according to this assumption will have incalculable advantages over people still adhering to what are ultimately metaphysical understandings of a detached, disinterested, objective analysis, to be presented, refined and disputed at leisure. You think you’re putting together an interesting, plausible theory that can withstand and benefit from the most rigorous scrutiny and reward the most sustained study—they see that you are building fences, prescribing behaviors, disciplining and organizing masses of people, and will act on that perception. And they can do so because they are not wrong, as adherents to the originary hypothesis should be the first to recognize: putting forth an “idea” is sustaining or undermining institutional arrangements, and establishing protocols for inclusion and exclusion regarding those arrangements.

The originary hypothesis shares with post-structuralism and speech act theory the same basic post-metaphysical premise: the purpose of language is not to communicate true statements, it is to make things happen. If we ask, to make what happen, we all depart from each other, as post-structuralism has an implicit answer (to subvert the violence of reducing language to true statements) and speech act theory, being more purely descriptive and classificatory, has none, while, of course, GA has a crystal clear one: to defer violence. The power of post-structuralist subversion lies in the antinomy it embraces: it assumes both the “declarative” or “constative” world in which claims about equality reside, and the potential of perpetually undermining that world both to redress its hypocrisies to be liberated from its responsibilities. Any time an order and therefore any mode of reciprocity is established, it is possible to expose that order as exclusionary—some practices or qualities will not fall with the sphere of prescribed reciprocities. You can thereby implicate everyone who has bought into that mode of reciprocity. There is a kind of shell game going on—you distract people’s attention away from the purpose of that reciprocity to the rules constituting it. But part of a civilized order is the capacity to reflect on rules, which is often necessary (especially once institutions evolve beyond face to face encounters), but which can only be done within the shared good faith (which also means shared purpose) of all involved (the attempt to establish meta-rules to settle disputes over how to apply the rules leads to infinite regress). There really is no statement that you can make that will be even minimally immune from such subversions. To put simply, saying that a putatively neutral and innocent claim is exclusionary is something even the most dull-witted can do at will—it’s like using a coloring book. And, stating that police acted reasonably in using force to break up a fight that could have devolved into a riot is, indeed, doing something—defending civilized norms against enemies. But the SJWs are closer to the truth when they say that statement is an act of violence than you are when you say it’s “just my opinion.” But openly defending civilized norms is a slippery slope—do it once, and you draw the enemies of civilization like flypaper, and will never be able to stop doing it.

You have to play on the same field as your enemies—if they transform the field, you either have to learn how to play on that field or to transform in some other way. The victimocracy creates a performative field, and I think they can ultimately be made much more conflicted about this than the SJW slayers. The power of the originary hypothesis to help us think this problem through has not been explored at all. To say that all language is performative, is to say that all language creates reality. Austin’s example of the wedding vow is still the simplest one to work with: when the couple says “I do [take this man/woman to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband]” they are not standing outside of their actions, describing them—they are transforming their condition. Of course, ritualistic settings are the most obvious examples of this use of language, but there’s nothing to prevent us from saying that even the most neutral, inoffensive, trivial claim about reality transforms those speaking with each other into participants upon a formalized scene, bound by a promise to continue speaking and acting in ways entailed by the observation in question. In our casual conversations we are also setting and re-setting an order and a mode of reciprocity—and we can therefore always point out that someone else is doing the same, and that the two orders may be incommensurable.

The vulnerability of the SJWs derives from their strength: their shell games depend upon others’ commitment to a declarative order to which they themselves remain uncommitted. But a crucial condition of a performative utterance is what Searle calls “sincerity conditions”—“I do” only effects the transformation it purports to if it is uttered sincerely, which is a very tricky concept but can be operationalized in all kinds of ways (we don’t need to read the groom’s mind to know that, if he already has a wife, he is not uttering the vow sincerely). The SJWs can always be targeted for their failure to meet sincerity conditions. They must fail to meet those conditions for the same reason they must always lie: they enter an organization for the purpose of subordinating its operations to the imperatives of “social justice,” but they can never admit this outright to those members of the organization who are sincerely devoted to its mission. Entering any organization is a performative gesture: you promise to adhere to its norms and support its purpose. So, yes, such a promise is an exclusionary gesture: it excludes everyone indifferent or hostile to its purposes. Every intervention by the SJWs can be targeted on these grounds: Black Lives Matter is transparently uninterested in making police work better; sexual harassment law is interested in generating conflicts at work, not amity; those fear-mongering about a “rape culture” on college campuses have no interest in making women safer or improving the relations between men and women on campuses (much less advancing the academic mission of the university). Just ask them! They won’t be able to give you a coherent account of what needs to be improved, much less how to improve it—to the extent that they have a coherent account, it will be a completely and obviously false one. They see their opportunities and they take ‘em. (And, indeed, they will be driven to undermine the kind of disciplinary space required for an assessment of truth claims—it is helpful to remember that truth claims are never just free floating statements that aim at garnering universal agreement and can be meaningfully confirmed or refuted in a vacuum by “reasonable” people, but resolve themselves into ostensive gestures that can only be assessed on a scene that is performatively constituted.)

A performative approach to the SJWs wars requires a transformation in those who, up until now, have mostly laid back and allowed themselves to be waylaid by the SJWs. Once they have a hook in, they can still be fought, but it’s much more difficult, and one must have certain advantages going in. Institutions and organizations must be immunized against them. Those who would protect their institutions from the SJWs must be performative themselves—they must make the promises and the sincerity conditions entailed in those promises constitutive of the institution explicit from the start, and they must embed them in daily routines and interactions. Even more, they must pounce on insincerities immediately, and use them to make the claims and acts they guarantee infelicitous. Of course, today this might put one in opposition to federal law in all kinds of ways—which means that an expanded mode of performativity, some combination of changing, weakening, blurring, evading, delaying, undermining and defying the laws must be part of such a strategy. There is no neutral ground—nothing simply is—the law is just one more means to be used in the struggle for civilization. In this way, one is ultimately restoring the law itself to its true purpose of facilitating voluntary agreements and exchanges. A call for the return of sincerity conditions, in some suitable translation, should be a winning slogan. The theory of language becomes a theory of war.

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