An Attempt to Understand
I’m honestly asking. I’ve heard the term being used so many times in the context of articles and youtube videos that I think I’m beginning to puzzle together what it might be. This essay is a compilation of what I’ve gathered so far, but I’d love any assistance or new information others might have to offer. Now to call something a war you usually need two or more sides, and I’m sure there are more than just two sides to this “war,” so the first task to understanding it will be to understand the different sides.
Drawing Lines in the Sand
If one were to look at the surface of the conflict, one might assume that it’s arguments between different words that end in ‘ists’: Feminists vs anti-feminists, Islamists vs anti-islamists, Fascist anti-fascist, etc. Each of these can generally be summed up pretty simply: A belief system is popularized, a group of “skeptics” see an underlying authoritarian tendency with the system and push for liberal values via criticisms of its ideas. Figureheads of each of these sides emerge, communities form and tribalism begins.
Note: I am not claiming which of these sides hold these authoritarian streaks, as it’s possible for both sides to have them.
Once tribalism sets in, most rational argument seems to come to an end. However, there are always themes of cultural relativism in the arguments, which the ad hominem and non sequitur arguments act as red herrings for. For instance, identity politics (racism, sexism, identity-phobias) are essentially a smoke screen to avoid the key question: Are some cultures superior to others? If you think the answer is yes, two lines in the sand can easily be drawn, between the cultures themselves, as well as between the pro and anti-relativists.
Note: If you are a cultural relativist, just try to separate the culture/ideas/memes from the people that live/represent/believe them.
Culture Civil War?
If cultures are made up of ideas or memes, it’s pretty easy to judge what ideas and memes are successful by their resulting cultures. Do people in those cultures flourish? Do they suffer? What do they produce? Do people immigrate to or away from them? From the answers to these questions, we can determine superiority or inferiority in certain aspects, whether the ideas were adopted into a culture or if they were founded by them. And where some relativists deny this, others simply refuse to acknowledge it for the sake of “Othering.”
Note: This is also known as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Once some start claiming these differences, others, usually accepting of the benefits a superior culture creates, will not only refuse to acknowledge the ideas that allowed for these benefits, but will defend and in-turn assist the cultures trying to resist and/or destroy them. This is the distinction between the terms “progressive left” and “regressive left,” which has become it’s own smaller civil war within the larger conflict. To put it simply, one side is trying to encourage beneficial memes in inferior cultures, the other side is trying encourage the detrimental memes of these cultures in their own (e.g. promoting burkas).
Note: Birds ignorantly accept Cuckoo eggs to the detriment of their own. Replace eggs with cultural ideas and you might be able you understand why some people call the regressive left “cucks.”
I think this confusion in priorities is why so many arguments about culture degenerate into: “You’re a racist/sexist!” or “You’re trying to censor me!” It’s because both sides are speaking past one another. One side is so blinded by the identity politics smoke screen to see the importance of the ideas from the other side and the other side are so fervently trying to defend the ideas of their culture that they are at a loss to the ad hominems and non sequiturs used to attack them. Once this reaches the stage of irony and satire, both only seem to be proving the others points while also missing them entirely.
Note: “When someone murders another for what they said, you lose the argument as soon as you use what was being said to justify the murder” or “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall
What encourages this confusion further is the tendency for both sides to redefine their terms. Liberal has become negative due to the regressive connotations, with Classical Liberal being the rebound term used in an attempt to keep its original values. Racism has been redefined by some with a caveat of institutional power, making it so that a minority ethnic group of a country could never be considered racist no matter how bigoted they act. Even impartial words like egalitarian has gained negative connotations on one side simply because it takes attention away from the term feminism.
Note: George Orwell showed the totalitarian aspects of either removing or changing language for the means of control in many of his books.
Hypocrisy and Irony
When a feminist celebrates Islamic values toward women, that is hypocrisy. However, when an anti-feminist points this out for the sake of the values of feminism, that is irony. When a liberal celebrates the silencing of an enemy, that is hypocrisy. Yet when someone whose being called a fascist is preaching free speech and is then attacked by a liberal hoping to shut him up, that is irony. From recent events it’s not hard to see we are living in a time of perpetual hypocrisy and irony, with one feeding the other in a loop that many in this “culture war” don’t seem to be aware of.
With a basic lacking of what each of these terms mean thanks to a basic flaw in public education that doesn’t deal with philosophy on any level, all one can do is embrace schadenfreude and be entertained by it all. However, another option is to stop pointing fingers and ask other people what is going on, so with what I said in the first paragraph in mind, feel free to try and educate me the best you can on what you think the culture war is all about.