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User ID: 2417



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User ID: 2417

I imagine only atheists see the appeal of comparing woke (progressive, successor) ideology to a religion of sorts

Huh. Well, more traditionalist Christianity is not shy, at all, about recognizing other religions as existing. It just often considers them all to be evil / bad at worst or distorted and having a glimmer of partial truths at best while still preventing the worshipper from coming to to true salvation in Christ.

The biggest divide within humanity, from the earliest days of Christianity, was between Christianity and paganism, which was clearly recognized as false (but very real in the sense of existing) religion. And even there, traditional Christians have often thought pagan religions are worshiping real, existing spiritual forces - demons or whatever. As a matter of fact, the people I grew up around saw New Age woo in exactly this light.

In that sense, "woke-ism is religion" actually fits very, very cleanly into traditional Christianity's existing world view.

I think, ironically, it's an atheist conceit that "theists" believe that "religion" is generically good.

On the one hand, this is true in the sense that traditionalist Christians do think "freedom of religion" is good, if the alternative is the state overtly oppressing their religious practice. And it is true that there's no shortage of more militant atheists or even just progressives who, when push comes to shove, really are more concerned with "freedom from religion". And they really are comfortable with the state and/or society's sense making apparatuses constantly redefining religion downwards until it's nothing more than subjective thoughts in a persons head that they should keep to themselves and not have impact the public square, with anything else being hate speech. See also the actual existing history of the Bolsheviks and their process of erasing religion in the Soviet Union for a history traditional Christians sometimes are more aware of. Anyway, that's "freedom of religion", not "religion", as a public good, according to traditional Christians.

But on the other hand, that doesn't exactly mean that such Christians would necessarily see other actual particular religions themselves as good things in the world. They take the differences between faiths very, very seriously. If you ever poke around in conservative spaces where, say, conservative Catholics and Evangelicals and Mormons and Orthodox Jews and conservative Muslims (and other traditions) share space in dialog with the general goal to find solidarity in promoting conservative politics, it's not that rare for topics concerning their differences to crop up, and in such cases, the topic either needs to be smoothed over and tabled almost immediately, or it can immediately flare up into intense acrimony. The differences are not small, and people take them very seriously. And again, this is a mental framework that absolutely can make sense of woke-ism as an alternative, much more hostile religion.

The detractors of those religions have a habit of deciding that the differences between different religions traditions are actually pretty trivial, and that the ire between faiths is a function of the narcissism of small differences and power jockeying. But, at least in this detractor view, the different traditions are materially and functionally really about the same (and believers of such often occupy roughly the same class position), the sects maintain the same role in propping up old, traditional power hierarchies, and so on. From that perspective, "religion" turns into a gray blob that all "religious people" value. But that says a lot more about the people who believe that critique than about "religious believers".

I suspect there's some other balancing act going on here.

Hanania doesn't need liberal approval or sympathy, nor could he possibly get it before all this anyway.

He does need to stay relatively acceptable to rich and powerful old boomer conservatives who control the media megaphones and purse strings and set the tone for where things are headed going forward within the shifting conservative movement, especially regarding public political priorities about legal matters (both in the Federal government and concerning cases conservative activists drag in front of the Supreme Court).

And old boomer conservatives are, I think, the only people left who overwhelmingly still cling to the rotting corpse of the old Reagan public settlement about race (namely, we all agree that racism is a truly awful thing, we legitimately believe in a goal of milquetoast equal opportunity, but we will also define racism such that it only applies to truly egregious acts by individual extremists that have nothing to do with almost anybody normal, and we'll likewise view it through a colorblind lens that also holds black Americans to the same standard as everyone else).

Fundamentally, on the ground (at least online), this settlement is over. If you're a younger male or traditional Christian or are white, you have been steeped in progressive activists salting the earth on this and related identity topics since, like, 2013, and so you've already acclimatized to the new reality, or for you this might be the only reality you've ever even known. "Racism" now means whatever it is that progressive activist networks say it means on any given day, and in turn it's just one more term of abuse hurled by self-aggrandizing partisans heavily steeped in conflict theory who want good zero sum things for their allies and bad zero sum things for you. And so it's no surprise to see conversation norms heavily shifting for younger conservatives, or the sorts of people who at the least are drawn to anti-woke discourse. Younger people who likely would've accepted the public moral legitimacy of the old Reagan settlement stop accepting the moral legitimacy of what has replaced it, and so all the guard rails come down.

I read an interview between Hanania and Chris Rufo the other day (IIRC), and Rufo was basically making something like this point - lots of old boomer conservatives are still very sensitive to how race is talked about, largely because they're insulated from all these changes out in the wild, and so he has to be quite delicate rhetorically about how he talks about race when trying to reach out to them. They can agree about policy goals, but the rhetorical frame that's required to convince them is quite different than what younger online anti-woke types would be receptive to.

I think you significantly underrate the extent to which the ideals of social equality and universal brotherhood are based on Christianity. Most of the stuff conservative Christians like, property, patriarchy, patriotism, tradition, family, virtue, sexual continence, aren't actually Christian.

I've seen the argument made (though I don't recall where) that one of the central tensions when thinking about Christianity is that much of the writings about Jesus in the Gospels, and the immediate social movement around Jesus, were expecting an immediate end of the world and Apocalypse, and thus insist on a kind of intense radicalism that is wholly unsustainable in any kind of longer lived community. And then, even by the time of Paul, the fact that the imminent Apocalypse hasn't shown up yet starts being more and more disruptive to making a church with any kind of continuity, and so much of the work of Paul was to reformulate Christianity into a faith that could grow and maintain its own communities through time and space, which required dampening a lot of the especially radical Christian tendencies and shifting them from a material interpretation towards a more spiritual one.

At least by this kind of argument, this is why, when Christian sects show up insisting on returning to the roots of Christianity and ditching everything other than the actual words and actions of Christ, they generally end up burning out in a decade or two at best, or else they age past their radical phase and revert to more sustainable, less radical social forms.

But if you're sympathetic to this kind of radicalism, you end up having to say, for example, that the writings of Paul (which is to say, a large chunk of the New Testament) aren't really Christian. Which some people kind of implicitly do! But certainly for a lot of people, a definition of Christianity probably ought to include the writings of Paul and all the early church traditions.

And then someone else might very well argue that the tension between the unwavering apocalyptic, unsustainable idealism of Christ, and the "how do we live in the world and keep this ship afloat through time and space" concerns of Paul and the early church is itself, in fact, at the very core of Christianity. The pulls of both idealism and pragmatism / sustainability both serve extremely important functions in the world, with different people needing to steer towards one or the other at different times and places.

in actually cold areas

Here's Finland compared to Wisconsin (where I lived): https://www.crownscience.org/places/finland/wisconsin-us

And Finland compared to Minnesota: https://www.crownscience.org/places/finland/minnesota-us

And Finland compared to North Dakota: https://www.crownscience.org/places/finland/north-dakota-us

In general, the Upper Midwest is physically far from any large bodies of water (i.e. oceans) that would moderate its temperature, and the plains up north through Canada don't have any significant mountains to dampen artic winds. It's a legitimately cold part of the world, at least for how populated it is (Minneapolis metro area is something like 3.7 million people).

There's a reason that historically Wisconsin and Minnesota had a disproportionate amount of early immigration from Sweden and Norway.

And Brits aren’t “too poor” to afford air conditioning, it just hasn’t been hot enough for more than 10-15 years in the summer to warrant it.

It's worth pointing out that this isn't just a non-American thing, either. I grew up in the South, where air conditioning is a precondition of living a tolerable life, and you would have to be desperately poor not to have central air. When I later moved to a college town in the Upper Midwest, it took me a while to figure out that window mounted air conditioning units wasn't a sign of dire poverty where I had moved to; rather, the summers were mild enough that people often would only want air conditioning for a few weeks every year, and if they lived in older, well-built houses, the pain and cost of upgrading to central air wasn't mostly worth the trouble for them, and a few window mounted units were fine. This was all counterbalanced by the much more drastic (and expensive in time and attention) measures they would have to take to mitigate absolutely brutal winters, of course.

It really is a great case study in prejudice in action.

When I was in my early 20's two decades ago and moved to the upper Midwest from Atlanta, I got no shortage of comments about how racist, specifically, the South was, and (because of the way socialization works) I actually accepted those claims at face value. Everyone high status in my new world knew the South was super racist, and so I just kind of accepted the sense of what they were saying. It took me a surprisingly long time to figure out that, in fact, Atlanta is in most ways of course a million times better for black people than where I had moved to, race relations (though complicated of course) in the New South were productively evolving in ways that absolutely were not happening in the calcified old Midwest, black southerners and white southerners have way more shared culture and values than the weird balkanization you find up north, and all the smart high status people I was around had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, were extremely invested in some pretty deranged stories about race relations in America, and (worst of all) had most of their own sense of how public morality worked and their own moral worth tangled up in it all. The South certainly has its own problems, of course, but the role of black people in the moral imagination of lots of well-credentialed and wealthy northerners is just... creepy, harmful, and weirdly fanciful.

My hunch is that the reason for the prejudice is actually the consequence of something like privilege: when you're on top and overwhelmingly dominant for a while, you reach a point where you write off other places or groups and then don't bother updating your priors because, at least for a time, you don't need to. I would compare it to something like the old reputation that existed in America in the 50's and 60's that "Made in Japan" means cheap, flimsy, low quality junk. That stereotype was probably based in reality for a few decades, and if you were American, you could adopt that stance and then treat it as though it were true for quite a while without playing close attention... and that would be fine until Japan's capacity for quality and innovation grew better much faster than you might've expected, and eventually your musty old views would become a serious liability if you were an American working in business and your old prejudice against Japan's products eventually made you less competitive. The actual reality is that, especially after the Civil War, the South really was very poor and excluded from industrialization and urbanization for a very, very long time (IIRC, there were 22 major Northern metros in 1950 with populations > 1 million, and only 1 in the South at that time), and most of the rest of the country could ignore it and treat it as an unimportant backwater until really rather recently.

The topic of casual, vitriolic, comically uninformed bigotry about southerners in other parts of the country is actually a really fascinating topic in its own right, and something I might wade into here some day when I'm less strapped for time, because it actually touches on some really interesting and fascinating challenges America will face soon, as the South continues to grow in economic and population strength relative to the North East and the West Coast.

Well, let me try to run with your question, because I think my speculation is a bit orthogonal to it.

Sure, as a great power, the Soviet Union didn't suffer meaningful consequences for operating gulags. Rather, the fact that it was a super power and operated gulags meant that all other nations in its sphere of influence certainly could use similar tools with impunity, AND the U.S. was often forced to turn a blind eye, in the case of various unaligned or less aligned nations, to similar local policies that were offensive to U.S. sensibilities when the U.S. was competing for influence against the Soviet Union. The fact of the Soviet Union having and enacting different policies and norms changed the political environment that all other nations were operating in, especially in places like Sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia that were decolonizing and not in the firm orbit of either superpower. Great powers shape norms in their sphere of influence, and those norms can be an attractive draw for possible members of their orbits. They can be a crucial form of soft power.

So my speculation isn't that China (a rising great power) demonstrates that it can do things that are offensive-to-U.S.-norms, and thus random nation x (a small, non-great power) can also now do things offensive-to-U.S.-norms without consequence. My speculation is that China (trying to end U.S. hegemony and shift to a new world order of multipolarity, with China being one of the poles) could, among many other initiatives, be offering up support of the use of demographic management approaches the U.S. current forbids as one of many carrots for smaller nations to pull out of the U.S. orbit and consider transitioning into a multipolar future where they see their interests draw them closer to China's orbit.

As I say, this is all just idle speculation, of course.

I've wondered the last few years ago, regarding China's treatment of the Uighurs, if there was a geopolitical rhetorical function to that treatment.

Basically, or so the argument would go, the number of states that would consider using concentration camps or muscular ethnic reshaping or even cleansing policies on their undesirable internal demographics is almost certainly much, MUCH higher than the number of states that are willing to publicly acknowledge it or actually overtly enact it as long as American unipolar hegemony is the order of the day. And so letting their own internal demographics shift in undesirable ways while forswearing certain ugly policy choices that they would prefer to use is a specific cost of accepting American hegemony.

In such a world, China blatantly engaging in, say, the use of concentration camps, and then suffering no meaningful consequences for it, could be an intentional, provocative signal of weakening American power, as well as an invitation to other countries to pull away from the current American led order and shift towards a multipolar international order where states can more aggressively manage their own internal ethnic demographics exactly as China does, all with China benevolently claiming "China promotes a world where state sovereignty is respected and the internal affairs of states are their own business".

I'm not saying I believe this, exactly, but I can see a certain logic to it.

(You could imagine an alternate history version of "Russia blitzkriegs Ukraine in 2022, grabs a bunch of territory, and then winds the SMO down" serving a similar provocative international signaling function about the diminished role of American power and a new era of states militarily contesting old borders, but the history we're currently in a much messier and more ambiguous than that)

When I was reading Tony Judt's "Postwar", about Europe after World War 2, one of the points he made is that (though no one wants to admit it because it is so uncomfortable to admit) Hitler to some extent got at least some of what he wanted in Europe, at least for a time; in the Europe that came out of World War 2, there was generally much more ethnic coherence in nations than there had been before World War 2, largely because of mass population displacement and ethnic cleansing. The role of that shift in the general (all things considered) European peace that followed and the rise of solidarity-based welfare states is, again, a seriously uncomfortable topic. See also Robert Putnam and the costs of multi-culturalism on social trust.

I think there's something really puzzling and interesting going on with American (left-of-center dominated) institutions broadly right now, and I think the phenomenon is captured nicely by this example of the press, the public, and the unpopularity of affirmative action.

As someone who grew up religious and in the South, most of my life, the main feature that distinguished American high-status liberalism from my home cultures was that American liberalism was absolutely masterful in wielding soft power.

My home cultures were much more prone to highly unappealing sanctimony, and authoritarian preening, and scolding, and the telling of musty old just so stories, and dumb Rush Limbaugh-tier propaganda, and attempts to trot out "hello fellow kids" unappealing Christian "rock", and clearly out-of-touch and ignorant fearful conspiracy theories about everything, and simplistic moralizing, and deep discomfort with acknowledging or facing the darker and messier parts of life, and a wariness about asking hard or culturally threatening questions, and prissy Thomas Kincaid-tier "art", and... On and on it went. (And a lot of that remains true to varying degrees for those subcultures to do this day, of course)

And meanwhile, the combination and intersections of art from Hollywood and TV and the popular music industry and popular fiction, and seductive and unrelenting Madison Avenue advertising, and the draw of unfettered consumerism, and the clearly high standards and high status of America's university system, and the seeming rigor and high standards and skepticism and confident nuance of America's great news sources... It was (or seemed to be) a culture of sophistication, and of subtlety and nuance, and very high standards, and of worldliness, and of individual freedom and liberation (especially sexually, of course). It came across as a culture where people were trusted to follow their own bliss, and where the culture was confident enough that people could ask hard questions and follow those questions where ever those questions led them. These different institutions (or at least their portrayal) all came together to create an unrelenting, highly appealing outside cultural force that my home cultures ultimately proved defenseless in the face of and was ultimately entirely undermined by, especially given the weight of outside money and technology pushing it. When I look at the dynamic I experienced, the things that stick out the most are the profound confidence of that outside culture, and the incredible deftness with which it wielded its soft power. It was a culture that understood, in a deep way, that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. It had mastered the art of both leading you to the water without you seeing them do it, and also making you want desperately to drink.

That's how it all felt, anyway.

Subjectively, everything I just described above feels like it might as well have taken place on a different planet. Everything that made my home cultures unappealing and weak 40 years now feels like its seeped into Hollywood and Madison Avenue and American universities and ostensibly reputable left-of-center news. And instead of deftly steering masses of people without them even seeing that they're being led, we keep getting this ritual of well-bred, well-credentialed people, who've inherited these fantastic organs of soft power, pulling back the curtain, doing the equivalent of getting up on their rickety soapboxes in very public ways, and loudly berating and scolding the people they once would have masterfully exercised soft power over, undermining their own organs of soft-power in the process and generating all sorts of highly predictable attention and resistance.

It's all very fascinating and puzzling to experience.

Unless we get a Nixon or LBJ, I really don't see any huge changes in how this country is governed.

Some alternative arguments:

A lot of the politicians and voters of that era had military service as one of their primary formative experiences. That enculturated them to accept big projects, large hierarchies, central planning, and non-market power in a way that is frankly alien to most Americans today. It's not so much a question of competence as a question of faith in that way of organizing people. Similarly competent people would almost certainly be in business today instead - but post 2008 financial crisis, I suspect that that blithe faith in markets and business no longer a shared, default assumption by smart, competent younger people either (which portends unclear things about the future).

But also, more importantly, their "competence" was in many cases vastly outstripped by their confidence and even hubris, and the resulting disasters are specifically what led to the current lack of faith in government in the first place. If you read, say, "The Best and Brightest" (about technocratic failures and hubris leading to Vietnam) or "Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families" (about technocratic forced busing in Boston in the 70s), you get a really, really clear snapshot of why American faith in big, invasive, confident government collapsed, and why people turned back to markets instead (Gallup and Pew polls captured this collapse of faith in authorities and institutions quite nicely). All those competent politicians were able to get a bunch of bills passed, true, and roll out a bunch of programs, but that didn't mean they were actually competent in terms of being good governmental leaders and sustaining voter support in what they wanted to do, and several of their big programs were astonishing disasters with consequences that are still with us.

The online rights generally thinks it's futile to court black voters to the GOP, as evidenced by this piece.

I'm very curious if taking account of regional differences might be crucial on this topic, and this is something I've been wondering about more broadly.

Some half-remembered data that I've seen recently but mostly won't double check now:

Blacks in the South have the highest rates of black homeownership in the country - here's the claim

I don't have the chart handy, but I saw a graph recently that showed that blacks in the New South (Georgia especially) are more optimistic that blacks in other parts of the country.

Blacks in the South are also, I'm almost positive, the most religious (just like everyone else in the South).

56% of American blacks live in the South, and this means the South is much blacker than the rest of the country - Georgia is 33% black compared to California's 5%, for example.

By the numbers, though, the biggest concentrated mass of black voters are in Northern or Rust Belt Cities - per this, the top 5 locations for concentrations of blacks are New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia.

The worst educational outcome gaps between black and white in the country are in intensely liberal, well-credentialed white coastal and college towns.

The share of the black population with college degrees varies quite intensely by city , with the New South doing well and the rust belt often doing pretty poorly.

There are a lot of blacks in the South who are rural, which isn't the case almost anywhere else in the country - and rural black poverty looks very different than concentrated northern urban ghetto black poverty (I saw an observation recently that in the South, as you go more rural, white homicide rates rise and black homicides rates fall until they nearly equalize).

There has been a century long effort by radicals in northern urban cities to use blacks and black failure as a vanguard for political revolution, and that has entailed constant attempts at radicalizing the black underclass, which has almost certainly left a cultural mark on those communities; the South has historically been much more aggressively antagonistic to immigration (and thus the radical traditions and practices that certain immigrants brought with them), and labor unions, and industrial cities before the 1950s, and agitation more generally (and has been much more traditionally Christian), so this cultural and political influence has had much less of an effect on blacks in the South.

Another important group, white Yankees, trace the entirety of their moral worldview and moral history to the fact of blacks being the worlds biggest victims, white Southerners being the worlds biggest monsters, and white Yankees being the saviors of history, and they intensely need social relations to be slotted into that story, resulting in profoundly patronizing and non-functional behavior and excuse making when it comes to black people and black dysfunction, as well as fascinating dumbing down; white people in the South mostly don't do this, and (because there are vastly more black people there) are pretty clear eyed about the fact that plenty of black people can be expected to uphold reasonable standards as citizens and take care of their stuff, and also that black dysfunction is absolute civilizational poison and can not be tolerated (and also, there's no shortage of white trash dysfunction in the South that doesn't look all that different, and that can't be tolerated either).

I could go on with this, because I do find it fascinating, but I'll stop.

The South obviously isn't a utopia, and it has its problems, but (having grown up in the New South and then moved to liberal college towns and Rust Belt cities), the way race relations play out there look pretty different, and that has consequences.

And I don't think it's entirely crazy to imagine a future where Republicans could possibly retool themselves to be more attractive to socially conservative southern blacks, especially men and religious black people. I mean, it would still be an incredible slog, because the parties are still pretty racially coded in the South in a way that doesn't actually have much to do with values or policy, but I can imagine a pathway from here to there.

Now, whether or not Republicans see any point to doing this in Southern states, and whether or not they see it as more useful than getting to terrify all other demographics about black crime by engaging in the right wing version of race baiting, is a different issues. But as internal immigration brings in more northern liberals to the New South, it's possible the current political dividing lines might shift enough that ditching race to focus on uniting all social conservatives in Southern states becomes a reasonable approach. The gulf in values between southern conservative blacks and PMC yankee liberals is really significant, and much bigger than the gulf between southern white conservatives and southern black conservatives, who honestly have quite a lot in common in terms of history and culture and values.

In some ways, all of this reminds me of articles I've read about Hispanics warming up to the Republican party - from what've I've read, Hispanics in Blue states are not responding that well, but outreach to Hispanics in Red States is actually working pretty effectively.