I read internet comments far too much. Youtube videos, blogs, news articles – I read (or at least skim) through them all. Maybe I do it to expose myself to alternative perspectives. Perhaps the anthropologist in me can’t help it. Regardless of the twisted reasons why I subject myself to comment sections across the internet, in doing so, I’ve come across a range of increasingly frequent views that deeply worry me. This post is a collation of four upcoming political trends that seem to be cropping up both on and off the internet with increasing regularity. While they have been lurking about in shadowy corners of the internet for a while, in recent years they have started to pass the niche-mainstream barrier (which is not unlike the blood-brain barrier).
1. New Scientific Racism (NSR)
New scientific racism, or “race realists”/ believers in “human biodiversity”, draw on a mix of (bad) evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, biological anthropology and population genetics to call for a re-acceptance of “race” as a biologically valid category for dividing human populations. A recent example of this is former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade’s A Troubled Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. Wade’s book is part of a wider revival of scientific racism, whose supporters include Stephen Pinker, Cochran and Harpending, and of course, Napolean Chagnon. They stress the importance on genetics as a driver of both behavioural characteristics (intelligence in Ashkenazi Jews) and major historical change (the European Enlightenment). Just as human biology is emphasising human behavioural and physiological plasticity through epigenetics, life history theory, niche construction and culture, new scientific racism have gone in the other direction, arguing for fixed, genetically determined (or at least strongly influenced) behavioural and physical traits that neatly slice up humans into the ‘traditional’ racial groupings.
Likes: Coloured PCA diagrams. “Maverick” and “brave” scientists that speak out against the PC liberal status quo. Using the word “science”.
Dislikes: Anthropologists. Especially social anthropologists (unless you’re Napolean Chagnon). Behavioural plasticity. Cultural Marxist politically-correct pinkos. Jonathan Marks
2. Men’s Rights Activism (MRAs)
Men’s rights activists have become notorious for their penchant for bursting into discussions about gender, decrying the ‘one-sided’ take on an issue, and protesting that ‘not all men‘ are misogynists, sexual offenders etc. I want to distinguish MRAs from run-of-the-mill sexist trolls. MRAs believe they are not sexist – rather, they are frustrated by the lack of consideration of ‘men’s issues’ in discussions about gender. As I’ve written before, I think that blaming feminism, rather than elements of patriarchy, for mens’ ills is fundamentally misguided. Nevertheless, the rhetoric of MRAs holds strong appeal to those who see feminism and think “well, whose advocating for men then?” (hint: everyone).
Likes: Calling out misandry. Appealing to equality and equal treatment. Saying”not all men”. Mansplaining
Dislikes: Feminism (duh). Discussions about gender that don’t mention men. Women only spaces (the scandal!)
3. The Libertarian Right
Anyone with an eye on US politics over the past few years will have noticed the rapid ascent of right libertarianism. Decrying the state’s military interventions abroad as well as market meddling, right libertarians have been gaining a more significant voice in the Western political scene. I personally have a complicated relationship with libertarian rightists because they often draw on heterodox Austrian economic theory. I have some sympathy for the Austrian school (particularly their business cycle theory and critiques of central planning), and so my solidarity in diversifying the economic curriculum sometimes comes at odds with the batshit crazy stuff Austrains say about the freeness of the free market. Regardless, as Republican style conservationism dies, the Libertarian Right seems to be there to pick up the slack.
Likes: Ron Paul. Ayn Rand. The gold standard. Fighting Keynesians like it’s 1935. Complaining about upcoming hyper-inflation.
Dislikes: The State. Ben Bernanke. The Federal Reseve. Quantitative Easing.
4. The Threatened White “Minority” (TWM)
The TWM most obviously manifests in the rise of far-right parties across Europe. On my side of the world in Aoteroa New Zealand, this took the form of the “Pakeha Party“. While never coming to fruition, the party resonated with many (white) people, speaking to an undertow (overtow?) of racist sentiment in NZ. However it shows up, the TWM draws on a similar language of fear that white people, both demographically and culturally, are “under threat” by migrants and attempts to promote ‘multiculturalism’. While often associated with more rural and older demographics, the TWM increasingly is attracting younger, dissatisfied white youth that place the blame for economic and social ills at the feet of immigrants and a lack of appreciation for ‘white civilizations’ achievements’. In its more subtle form, the TWM comes in the form of race blindness and ‘equalism’, with supporters seeing Maori Language week and affirmative action as blatant subversions of ideas of equality.
Likes: White people. Race blindness. “White culture’s” cultural and technological achievements..
Dislikes: Muslims (seems to be the trendy thing these days). Immigration. Multiculturalism. Affirmative action.
These four ideas are currently having a similar “mainstreaming” trajectory as political trends I have more sympathy for, such as heterodox economics and anarchism, which both have been getting more coverage in recent years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the groups outlined above seem to have a marked demographic overlap – anecdotal evidence combined with a survey I could get my hands one suggests these groups consist primarily of college educated, white, heterosexual, single men. Further, all of these groups have rhetorical overlap – they draw on ideas of race and gender blind “freedom” and “equality”, a distaste of the “politically correct” and a degree of political isolationism.
Most worryingly, these ideas come together in some influential circles. “Dark Enlightenment” advocates, drawing on these ideas, also call for a abolition of the US state and the creation of a corporate dictatorship run by CEOs of Silicon Valley companies (no, I’m not making this up). Dissatisfied with parliamentary democracy (and not in a “not democratic enough” way), Dark Enlightenment advocates are fans of new scientific racism and have a fairly rose-tinted view of unfettered capitalism in advocating a kind of corporate neo-facism.
This would be hilarious if many supporters weren’t sitting in wealthy tech companies, drooling over the prospect of setting up a corporate dictatorship. Dark Enlightenment advocates are not lonely internet warriors. The recent idea of “Silicon Valley succession” was met by large amounts of support in the tech world.
If recent OECD projections are correct, we are in for a rough half century, with rising inequality and stagnant economic growth, all while climate change looms in the background. As people become dissatisfied with the insufficiencies of liberal democracy, these are the political trends I will be watching out for.