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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 23, 2023

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Are The Global Elites Coordinating to Push LGBT Acceptance And Gender Theory?


Last week @2rafa posted her comment about WEF conspiracy theories, concluding that the WEF is a mundane organization, pushing mostly boring neoliberal status quo stuff, to the extent they push anything at all. This post isn't necessarily a direct response to that thesis, but might be an interesting contrast to it.

I am a proud Deranged Conspiracy Theorist. It's a relatively new state of affairs for me, but some time ago I've tried the tinfoil hat on, and it seems to fit. This means when the WEF is in session, I browse their livestreams and videos, and if something catches my eye, I watch the whole thing. So when I saw the video titled Beyond the Rainbow: Advancing LGBTQI+ Rights, I knew I had to watch it.

It's a discussion panel featuring a diverse cast of LGBT (well, L and G as far as I can tell) speakers from around the world. We have

Ben Fajzullin, an Australian journalist currently working for the German Deutsche Welle

• Fahd Jamaleddine, a “global shaper” from Lebanon

Sarah Kate Ellis from GLAAD

Tirana Hassan from Human Rights Watch

Sharon Marcil from the Boston Consulting Group

This is in no particular order, to the extent there are themes in this discussion, they're rotated through the conversation, so going over it chronologically doesn't make a lot of sense.

The goal of the panel is to discuss success stories of the LGBT(QI+) community, and best practices on how to implement “this type of thinking”. They start off by bringing up how last year there were still 80 countries with sodomy laws on the books, and now we're down to 70. A reasonable point to start, if there's a steelman case for the global elites coordinating to push LGBT acceptance and gender theory, that would be it.

Would I have no objection if this was where the whole thing ended? I'm not sure, maybe @DaseIndustriesLtd made singletons sound too scary for me, maybe I watched too much Star Trek as a kid, and the idea of the Prime Directive ended up influencing me a bit too much, or maybe I just have an irrational fear of my elites betraying me for membership in a global club? Hard to say. During the Q&A someone in the audience brings up an example and example from the other side:

we can trace directly the sources the resourcing for homophobia in Ghana straight line to the U.S churches

I don't want to be Americanized by Evangelicals any more than I want to be Americanized by Progressives, so I find it just as wrong as Davos-aligned orgs going around the world and spreading their ideas. The only way I could hold my nose, and tolerate it, is if one side was clearly winning, and this was the only way of preserving some viewpoint diversity.

Either way, while the goal ending sodomy laws is something I agree with, Davos panels on how to accomplish that make me uncomfortable.

Singapore is one of the most recent examples that [has] decriminalized [being gay]. It's taking the legislation off the books but at the same time Singapore fortified the rules around same-sex marriage and so you know it's not always a win; and they did that because they were playing to the more conservative base which was agreeing to decriminalization.

This is still on the mundane side, because I also agree with gay marriage, but it raises red flags when you compare it to the western culture war. Many people already had their suspicions, but the pretty explicit “we'll get you next time” that the Singaporeans get to hear if they're paying attention, raises some interesting questions about the seamless transition from gay marriage to trans issues in the west, and about taking any future assurances about social reforms in good faith. Other then that, coming back to the point about singletons, even though I'm personally for gay marriage, different definitions of marriage are one of the central examples of what I think different cultures should be allowed to experiment with.

Later they make a point that this isn't something limited to the non-developed countries:

Marriage equality laws, all of these issues, are actually becoming signs of modernity. They are becoming signs of democracies and countries which respect rights for everyone, but we're seeing also that this has become a new battleground, and in particular this isn't something that happens in certain parts of the world and not others. Even in Europe we see Hungary and Poland who have really been using LGBT rights as a battleground, essentially to try and harness the support of the conservative elements of society, and the government using it to put themselves up as some sort of hero of protector of family values.

Originally they name drop Poland and Hungary, so it might sound like they are focusing on marriage laws, but “using LGBT rights as a battleground to try and harness the support of the conservative elements of society” is a fully generalized argument. Later on they describe the US in similar terms:

May I just say one thing on that, because that is a Battleground that we're facing in the United States right now. It's really tough, I'll be honest with you, they're putting it under parental rights. I'm a parent I'm married to a woman and I have two kids, so they're talking about some parental rights, and they're excluding us, and they're targeting us, and they're banning books at a rate that we've never seen before. They're conflating these conversations about bodily autonomy and trans youth, and it's a really tough moment right now in education in the United States. I'm absolutely sure it's being exported globally this kind of framework that they've come up with, that's been really effective over the past year. They're legislating against it as well.

This is Sarah Kate Ellis describing the state of the controversy in the US. Everything you've heard about trans women in sports, placement in prison based on self-ID, concerns about the standards for diagnosing dysphoria in kids, the reversibility of puberty blockers, and their side effects, minimal ages for surgeries, eunuch fetishists promoting their fetish via WPATH, schools hiding children transitioning from their parents, Drag Queen Story Hour, and putting Queer Theory in school material have been reduced to the above paragraph, and it's made clear these stances are being deliberately pushed back on.

Someone seeing the WEF as boring and benign should also meditate on how despite gathering people from all over the world, they somehow seem confident no one in the audience is going to give them any push-back. They're not worried an American might say “you've misrepresented everything that's been happening in our country”, let alone that someone from a more conservative part of the world might proudly assert their values.

And of course, the part where she says ***they*** are exporting their framework globally, as she's sitting at Davos, talking to an international audience of some of the most powerful people in the world, is just... *Chef's Kiss* (there will be more of those).



So what are they coordinating, and how? Nothing particularly surprising regardless of which side of the issue you're on. Even with the conspiracy interpretation, you might find yourself agreeing with some of these:

  • Using courts to create legal challenges against discrimination

  • Finding loopholes in the law, and getting judges to use them in order to help LGBT people (in countries like Lebanon)

  • Getting big corporations to support LGBT causes, and step up as institutions in cases where there is “public resistance”

  • Getting corporations to use quiet diplomacy to put pressure on the government, when said public resistance might be so strong, it could cause backlash.

  • Making LGBT people more visible in the media (be it through “working with” media companies or “infiltrating” them, the latter was said shortly after mentioning countries where homosexuality is punishable by death, I'll leave it to you if that means this strategy should be limited to them, and whether that makes it ok).

  • Get teachers to support trans children in schools

The point about quiet diplomacy is particularly interesting in regard to all the discussions about the Culture War we've been having all these years:

Now, as you mentioned we've been so politicized as LGBTQ people, that it's in the ether, it's in the culture. So where corporates used to speak out and speak up they're... I'm just speaking from what I'm hearing here during this conference which is - they're nervous about speaking out, so what I've been talking to them about is how can we use quiet diplomacy. There are so many things that you can do behind the scenes to advance safety for the LGBTQ community, that can be done without being out in the media, that is a really important part too. I don't want to diminish that and it's critical, especially because as it gets polarized, that's a way to fight back is to be public.

I do think that corporates behind the scenes have been using that in the United States a lot of times. Like you were saying, I think we're 18 days into the new year and we've seen over 100 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed already in the United States. Last year there was more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills, most of them are targeting trans youth, which is a tactic. They have the smallest amount of share of voice, so we have to be speaking up, and out for them. We've worked with a lot of corporates behind the scenes to call in those states to say I'm going to pull business [if you pass those laws / make the place unsafe for my LGBTQ employees].

In a lot of the conversations we've been having, the question of why do corporations push so much progressive ideology came up. The mundane non-conspiracy explanation was always that they're corporations, they're just trying to chase profit. According to Sarah Kate Ellis, that's not the case. The corporations want to tap-out, because of the public's reaction, but they're being pressured into doing at least some behind-the-scenes activism. Now, this isn't my first rodeo, I know mundane explanations are easy to come up with, none of this conclusively proves there's a conspiracy or even coordination, although it does take the sting out of these mundane alternative explanation when the first question in the Q&A is:

I run a large Media company and I would just like for you to unpack [...] what media specifically can do

I suppose even that isn't “coordination” if you're using a strict definition, it's not like he's asking for orders from his officer. But my point is what you see during this panel meets all the necessary conditions for a conspiracy, in my opinion. You don't need anything more. A bunch of people meet, confirm they're on the same page ideologically, bounce around ideas on how best to help.

Appendix A: Is the WEF a boring neoliberal organization standing up only for status quo?

Ok, so maybe I am going to address @2rafa's thesis directly. Here's some quotes I would like you to consider:

I think the queer struggle, at least in the country that I come from, and the region that I come from, is also connected to the Palestinian struggle it's also connected to a lot of struggles the migrant workers, the women... so it's very important to take it as a whole and not only focus on just one.

(In the Q&A:) I'm based in San Francisco, as a black American CIS LGBTQ male, I could only imagine what my ancestors, and the people who came before me, my grandparents my great-grandparents, when they were going through the Civil Rights era, [had to go through].

To live through another period of needing, or wanting, or deserving civil rights just makes you want to just stamp your feet and yell and scream. I love how we've advanced, but why can't we just do it, you know? Why do we have to have this conversation and negotiate who we are, and what rights are, and what we'll take, and what will tolerate versus let's just stand up and do it?

And we're seeing that that extremism on both sides, right? They want it for different reasons, one wants to keep it for power, and one wants to dismantle it so that they can gain more access and power.

This, to me, does not look like boring neoliberalism, it looks like full Critical Theory.

I suppose to resolve the question you have to say what you mean by “neoliberal”, and “status quo”. Is wokeness neoliberal? /r/neoliberal proudly flies “Woke Capitalism” in it's banner, so an argument could be said that it is. It definitely seems to be the status quo at this point. So the statement could still be technically correct.

Appendix B: Class Issues

Unrelated to the main thesis, and hardly surprising given what the WEF is, I still couldn't leave some of these things without commenting on them.

Here's Fahd Jamaleddine commenting on the situation on the ground in Lebanon:

I mean speaking from Lebanon the challenging thing is really the culture. I think this is the first thing that we need to think of rather than policy, because we've seen a lot within Lebanon. We have, I think, one of the highest inflation rates across the world, in 2022 [an] economic crisis, the Beirut blast - 200 people died, we have no justice until now... So when you talk about this to the people, they would say “What are you talking about? There [are] more [important] areas”, and I think this is this is a huge challenge, how to shift this narrative.

Now, on one hand I understand that if you're gay in a country with sodomy laws, it might seem like a more pressing issue, but similarly maybe someone who's being flown to Davos to mingle with the world's richest, should think twice about the optics complaining that people put a higher priority on an annual inflation rate of 121% (it's an improvement compared to past years!), or an economic crisis?

Here's Sarah Kate Ellis, again:

We're working within a system that was built to exclude us, right? It was created to empower and build wealth for certain people, and leave everybody else to do that at no cost actually.

Miss! You're in Davos! If the system was built to exclude you, what am I supposed to say? And I'm not even doing that poorly!

Then as a cherry on top, if you pay close attention, you will find precisely _one_ person in the entire room, who is still wearing a mask. It is, of course:

The person bringing microphones to the audience during the Q&A.

My boring model of all this is just that there is such thing as "elites" and they have their own "elite culture". It sounds vague, but so are the effects we're trying to explain. There is no central authority at the top coordinating anything. The WEF is the non-profit think-tank version of any large progressive company. Internal signaling games are responsible for most of the sillier policy proposals (e.g. extreme covid measures, boycotting Dr. Seuss). The WEF may be more explicit in its intentions of changing policies, but it's not at all obvious that their influence is all that central in influencing elite culture. I'd be surprised if most elites had even heard of the WEF.

It isn't an "elite culture" - it is an international business culture. It is what Scott Alexander calls "universal culture" and what the alt-right calls "globohomo". It isn't just an elite (although it skews whiter and wealthier than the indigenous cultures who host it) - it stretches all the way down the SES hierarchy to the masked microphone girl and the baristas at your local indie coffee house. Its capital is distributed between the business class cabins of the airliners flying between New York and London, and the people who fly in them call the North Atlantic the "Pond" and treat it as narrower than the Hudson or the M25 median barrier. When my work situation improves, I am planning an effortpost on this point.

Elite culture and universal culture have a lot of overlap, perhaps they're even the same thing, but it's certainly more concentrated and adopted within elite circles. In a typical company, employees express this culture proportionally to their rank. The elite culture gives you status, and you have to signal you're part of the in-group.

My model of Scott's universal culture is a natural common-denominator. Elite culture is more forced and over-the-top, due to the status it gives its members. Perhaps elite culture is downstream from universal culture.

Baristas and mic-girls might express the same attitudes on some social issues like gender and the environment, but different views on economic issues.

My boring model of all this is just that there is such thing as "elites" and they have their own "elite culture".

I'll buy that, though I personally I go beyond that, and some of the more Deranged things I believe cannot be explained just with elite culture, I think. But for the most part, it'll do as a theory, the issue you'll run into is that we seem to be living in times of elite-denialism, and talking about "the elites" automatically gets you pigeon holed as a conspiracy theorist anyway, so in for a penny, in for a pound, I say!

I'd be surprised if most elites had even heard of the WEF.

I think that's a swing and a miss. You'll be hard pressed to find a high-profile person that wasn't in some way involved with the WEF. It might be a fun drinking game, try it!

I think of corporate activism as a principal - agent problem. Let’s say a corporation is generating a robust market return. There isn’t going to be a lot of pressure by shareholders to change management.

Management within that framework can spend some of the shareholders money on causes management cares about with basically zero fear of shareholder revolt. They will cite BJR if there were any law suits.

To make matters even worse, you have places like fidelity and BlackRock that hold and vote many of these shares as intermediaries.

Then as a cherry on top, if you pay close attention, you will find precisely one person in the entire room, who is still wearing a mask.

I just happened yesterday to see a zero-covidist blog claiming that the Davos Covid security is top-notch with all the measures zero-covidists tend to support (masks, vaccine certification, air purification etc.) and using this to claim that WEF is indeed engaged in a conspiracy... a conspiracy to run down workable Coid measures to get us all killed with airborne HIV/AIDS, aka Covid (seriously, the rest of the substack pretty much literally claims Covid is the worst disease ever, comparable to airborne HIV/AIDS), just so that the WEF capitalists can get people to consuming and flying and making money. Can't confirm the claims about WEF Covid security, though.

I believe conspiracy theories work best with the Yes, and... principle known from comedy. Yes, the WEF security measures against COVID are top-notch, which is why they don't need the masks - everybody's vaccinated, and air purification handles the rest. And the lone worker forced to still wear a mask? Pure Class Warfare for the amusement of the elites. Ze cruelty is ze point!