Monday, April 18, 2016

Coordination Chronicle

     I feel a certain admiration for those who openly speak of conspiracies against the commonweal. I don’t admire them out of agreement with their root idea – i.e., that the persons benefiting from the onrush of statist transnationalism and amoral secularism are consciously conspiring with one another – but because they do a superb job of unearthing the evidence of what Joseph Sobran called The Hive:

     Twenty years ago, I was struck by the way various sorts of political “progressives” — Communists, socialists, liberals, “civil libertarians,” “moderates,” “pragmatists” — all spontaneously cooperated with each other. It wasn’t a conspiracy; there was obviously no central direction. But the pattern was too clear to be denied.

     The word “left” was a dead metaphor; it said nothing interesting about the people it referred to. So I used the metaphor of an insect hive, which captured the way such people moved in harmony and communicated with each other.

     In a beehive, the worker bees have many specialties. The hive is organized around the queen bee, but she doesn’t have to give the workers their instructions. The bee that finds pollen returns to the hive and flies in figure eights; this tells the others the direction and distance of the pollen, and they go get it. And of course the bees need no orders to attack an enemy.

     Tom Bethell assisted Sobran in expanding on this conception:

     The Hive image, first proposed by the writer Joseph Sobran, illustrated the key point that liberals and Communists, seemingly distinct, belong to the same Hive. They share the same goals, even if they perform different tasks. The metaphor allows us to speak of their activities as coordinated without having to invoke a conspiracy. The queen bee was the Kremlin, and the worker bees toiled in coordinated fashion to serve the queen without ever taking orders. Real bees work in that fashion. They communicate. They signal openly. They serve the queen. What goes on in their “minds” we do not know and do not need to know. But a careful study of their signaling patterns allowed researchers to decode them.

     In the same way, liberals and socialists and communists communicate openly. Their claims and arguments fall into a consistent pattern. There was a period (up to and including the 1930s) when Communists did indeed have to conspire, that is, communicate secretly. Alger Hiss began his career in that period. But by the 1950s open communication had become possible. H.G. Wells foresaw something like this in his 1928 book The Open Conspiracy. Then, less than a decade ago, unexpectedly and swiftly, the Kremlin-centered Hive expired. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, this happens with real hives, too. The workers kill the queen. They surround her and pack themselves in close until she suffocates. In analogous fashion, that may be what happened with the progressive Hive.

     In my not particularly humble opinion, this is one of the most important, nay critical conceptions in contemporary sociopolitical thought. It deserves millions of words of exploration. However, as it’s a special day for me and mine, and I try to be kind to my Gentle Readers even on not-so-special days, I’ll limit myself to the usual thousand or two.

     Recently, Stefan Molyneux produced a quick-hit video that delineates an essential problem of government-run education:

     Molyneux actually stops a pace short of the most inclusive, most terrifying conclusion:

The mind, like Nature, abhors a vacuum.

     If it is not filled by consciously planned material, a young mind will unconsciously suck in whatever’s around it that will fill it. Combine young minds emptied of values by government schooling with a journalism / media / entertainment complex – the expressive media – whose products and personalities uniformly parrot a seemingly benevolent notion of “progress,” and the result is moronically easy to predict. Yet there needn’t be an actual conspiracy – no, not even among politicians of a single party – to bring it about or further it.

     The patterns – what the late Murray Rothbard called “red threads” – that run through our society and its sociopolitical devolution are several:

  • Relativization of truth.
  • Ridicule heaped upon Christianity.
  • Demonization of the Caucasian race and its values.
  • Open hostility toward child-bearing and child-rearing.
  • Weakening of intergenerational duties and responsibilities.
  • Denigration of work as a good and vital aspect of human life.
  • Relief from responsibility for members of any “protected group.”
  • Promotion of present-moment satisfactions and scorn for deferred gratification.
  • In keeping with the above, constant opposition to the concept of absolutes in morality and ethics.

     Large numbers of persons promote those currents. It’s possible that far larger numbers find them noxious...but their virtual exclusion from the educational institutions and the expressive media that transmit and reinforce particular ideas and patterns of conduct, has rendered that group far weaker of voice than its “progressive” opponents.

     The above makes the coordination aspect of which Sobran and Bethell wrote irrefutable...yet no actual conspiracy, in the sense of persons conscious of one another and consciously collaborating with one another, is necessary. The subliminal and subconscious signals that pass among them are more than sufficient. “Progressives” are tuned in to those signals in ways of which even they are unaware.

     “Conservatives,” broadly defined, have cooperated with these developments to a terrifying extent: by refraining from any hint of an objection for fear of being called “prudish,” “uncaring,” “bigoted,” or “greedy.” And we are paying the price:

     "He had been wrong to reject Provin, dead wrong. He had collaborated with the enemy. Now he must pay the price of his silence, which is more silence: silence when one wishes to speak: the gag." – Ursula Leguin, from “The Road East,” in her Orsinian Tales

     Many in the Right would argue that the conquest of the educational establishments and the expressive media mentioned above are clear indications of a conspiracy. Yet there is an alternative explanation that doesn’t require conscious coordination. It inheres in the attitudes prevalent among Left and Right pertaining to accountability for results.

     The products of the expressive media are curiously insubstantial: reportage; ideas; opinions. Evaluating them can be difficult even for the seasoned observer. Moreover, the rise of national broadcast networks and specific sites of concentration for the entertainment industry gave those institutions disproportionate bargaining power: over who would be admitted to their ranks, and which commercial organizations would be permitted to advertise through them.

     In a sense, educational institutions have a product: the formed minds they release upon graduation. Yet it’s a product whose quality assurance is left in the hands of those institutions themselves. (Note also that attempts to change this, legislatively, have always drawn furious opposition from “educators’ unions.”) The result has been the promotion of appearances over reality: the possession of diplomas rather than the possession of knowledge and critical thinking skills. Behind such appearances, all manner of evils can hide.

     Educational institutions and expressive media, therefore, became optimal habitats for persons who decline to have their products judged by others in the fashion of the marketplace. They were a powerful lure to persons of a Leftist bent even before Antonio Gramsci’s pronouncements on the Left’s need to undertake “a long march through the institutions.”

     Inversely, persons in the Right largely eschewed the educational and expressive realms. In part they were confident of their ability to flourish in the productive trades, and enjoyed the wealth and esteem they earned from those who bought their products. As matters progressed, they disdained to rub shoulders with those who were already “colonizing” education and the expressive media and turning them to political ends. That left those fields open to Leftist dominance.

     And no express conspiracies were required.

     Today matters are near to climax. The Left-dominated educational and expressive institutions have become aware that they’re critical to the Left’s overall project. Having felt the threat to its bastions from homeschooling, charter schools, infant voucher programs, and the “new media,” the Left has undertaken to rub them out. Note the hostility to such things among left-liberal politicians and the spokesmen of Left-dominated institutions. Note also how the Left has used “lawfare” to suppress even completely private corporations that depart from its agenda on subjects of special interest to the Left, such as gun control and “global warming.”

     Now that the political elite and the “permanent government” have been suitably Left-aligned by the use of power and “job security” incentives, electoral processes are similarly under attack: from vote fraud, voter intimidation, voting by non-citizens, and the swelling tide of illegal immigration. Thus the electorate cannot be permitted to vote itself any new rascals. The Left has installed persons suitable to its tastes, and they will guard their frontiers religiously.

     All it took was the operation of the natural incentives that guide men to the things they value most.

     The emergence of the assumption of differential rectitude among left-liberals was part and parcel of their creation of the bastions delineated above. When nearly everyone around Smith is a left-liberal, the pressure on him to fall into line with them is immense. They are Smith’s environment, and can make it unpleasant enough to expel him if he should persist in his deviance. Presently Smith will either have conformed to that environment, or he will have exited it. This dynamic allows those in it to preen themselves on how right they are...and how stupid, if not evil, are those who disagree. And of course, one doesn’t willingly hire those one deems stupid or evil.

     Herein lies the power behind the Left’s armor-plated coordination: the purification of those environments it dominates by conversion or expulsion of dissident elements, and the erection of barriers to entry for those not already aligned with the Left.

     And no conspiracy was required.


Malatrope said...

Francis, have you ever in your professional life studied complex systems and emergent metabehavior? The left's synchronization, arising from a few simple rules of their ideology, happens in all suchlike interactions.

An example is the whistle that can form out of turbulent flow of air across a complex surface. In a similar way, the dog-whistles of the Left form from the naive interaction of just a few simple ideological rules.

In many cases, the metabehavior can be directly modeled with a few differential equations. It's really very primitive and low-level, and indicates little or no control by actual critical reasoning.

Unknown said...

Your entire message today is so ‘right’ on. I loved Joe Sobran… such a craftsman with words. He left us way too soon. Bethell I don’t know much, but a person can’t read everything. I liked his embellishing the concept of “The Hive.” It is so much the better branding than conspiracy theories. Wasn’t there another sci-fi novel back in the ‘60s that touched on it? Have to check my notes. Meanwhile, about conservatives not engaging the enemy… couple of generations ago, those folks made a poor assumption: “I know I’m right so those idiots can’t possibly get away with that. God will see to it.” The real enemy was well disguised, sublime and hard to accuse. (That’s not conspiracy.) Not so today. Pretty soon the goons will come to Smith’s front door, and then there is no side-stepping the issue. And the goons likely won’t really know why they are doing it; they just know Smith is such a vile, detestable creature.

oughtsix said...

"Wasn’t there another sci-fi novel back in the ‘60s that touched on it?"

"Hellstrom's Hive?"

A truly frightening portrayal of just this very metempsychosis.

Unknown said...

Thanks, oughtsix. Yes, and thanks for the word that properly defines the transformation we discuss. HH was '70s so I was off almost a decade. But, wait... '60s had Dune... his greatest. Do you know, I had a first edition paperback and sold it at a garage sale for 50 cents. But I drank a lot back then, too. I think it was a nosy, meddling Christian that saved me outta that.

Liberty4Ever said...

I agree that leftists naturally congregate in education and government, even without any deliberate conspiracy to do so, and there are serious implications for our society when this happens. However, I believe the market ultimately wins. We're seeing this today on college campuses. Young people are not getting much value for their student loan debt that makes them indentured servants to the federal government. Many are graduating (or dropping out) with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, with a degree in Feminist Studies that is a red flag waved in the face of perspective employers informing them in no uncertain terms that this job applicant is a whiny self centered entitlement monkey who will add nothing of value in the workplace for a couple of months before eventually suing the company for some imagined micro aggression. Similarly, voters are finally waking up to the fact that the large cities are all ruled by Democrats, and there is a very strong correlation between leftist rule and abject poverty, urban decay, and misery.

The Left is the snake that eats its own tail. That's guaranteed to be a losing proposition.