Arguing against racism

A while back, I made the case that the political crisis evident in most developed countries could be explained in terms of a “three-party system” in which the political forces were divided between tribalism, neoliberalism and a somewhat inchoate left. This replaced a neoliberal consensus in which power alternated between hard/right neoliberals (in the US context, the Republican party), relying on the political support of tribalists, and soft neoliberals (in the US context, centrist Democrats) relying on the left to support them as a lesser evil. The first stage of this breakdown has been the capitulation of hard neoliberals to the tribalist right. The most obvious instance is Donald Trump, but the same thing is happening in Australia with Pauline Hanson, in England with UKIP/Brexit and in many European countries as well.

That this is happening is now obvious. What should the left do about it? It’s obviously insufficient to make the point that Trump, or Hanson, or Farage is a racist (or uses racism for political benefit) and expect that to settle the question. That doesn’t mean that we should maintain the long-standing taboo on using the word “racist” to describe such people. Rather, we should start developing a proper analysis of political racism and strategies to oppose racism and tribalism.

The problem we face today is new in important respects. The civil rights and anti-apartheid movements were was a struggle against overtly racist racist state structures. The success of those movements did not end racism, but drove it underground, allowing neoliberals to exploit racist and tribalist political support while pursuing the interests of wealth and capital, at the expense of the (disproportionately non-white) poor.

That coalition has now been replaced by one in which the tribalists and racists are dominant. For the moment at least, ahrdneoliberals continue to support the parties they formerly controlled, with the result that the balance of political forces between the right and the opposing coalition of soft neoliberals and the left has not changed significantly. However, unlike the Civil Rights era, where racists had a clear agenda of defending the status quo, the new politics of the right is driven more by a general expression of resentment (or, if you want to be fancy, ressentiment) than by coherent policy objectives.

I have some ideas about what kinds of strategies and arguments are needed here, but I thought I’d post this first, and wait to see what others have to say.

92 thoughts on “Arguing against racism

  1. @Collin Street
    Your #74

    I genuinely did not realise

    Yes, there is a very great deal you do not realise, Collin.

    But when you can answer my question: what is a mathematical theorem ? you may yet show that you may be worth my time. Until then, dream away and my sympathetic condolences be with you.

  2. I have no intention of answering your question, Grue. So far I’ve written two fairly detailed posts, the contents of which you’ve completely ignored except where there’s a single line you can slice out to make some trite smart-alec “point”.

    Why would I do this a third time?

    Plus, I can’t even if I wanted to, even if I wanted to: a “mathematical theorem” is — or can be described as — many things, each description as accurate for its own purpose as the next is for its own. I actually need to know what you want to do with the answer before I can frame it.

  3. Zed said,

    “I’m not sure why some leftists and the younger generations believe they can be unbiased. It’s obviously a false idea. We are all biased all the time. The key is to be aware of it and make sure you are not being unreasonable.”

    We believe this because it happens that there are unbiased children and adults. It is not obliviously a false idea and I’d like to know if you can gather some coherent argument together to explain how that is the case. You need to keep up with your understanding about child development research. Surely you are not saying that a baby will not want to play with a baby of a different colour.

    When do you think they would do this? Is it there from birth or at some stage does the colour/race/other bias kick in? Biases about things are part of the cognitive abilites of humans to help us discriminate good things from bad but they are not inborn.

    And what is ‘reasonable’ bias, seriously? Original sin is not a real thing either. Did you know that Zed?

    Seriously, there is such ignorance of child development research and the latest knowledge about human behaviour. How can anyone expect to understand what humans are capable of if you do not consider how we are socialised to be racists.

    Tim Macknay who can know if it is a good thing or a bad thing – nothing is very wholly good or bad – but it is happening. One can be like GrueBleen and Rage against the Future but it’s not good for us. Better to keep up and use the new terms in a new way to talk to people who want to understand what is going on. Well I talk to Hanson voters anyway and it works for me to confuse them with words so they really think about what it is that they are so angry about.

  4. @Julie Thomas You make a pretty good case for being biased against religious people.

    Did you know that I don’t even go to church? You were just trying to push my buttons, but not knowing anything about me really, other than what I have written here, and pushed the wrong button. THAT reflects bias. I suppose some previous comments must have led you to believe that I was a religious wing nut. Probably it was the previous comments about Jesus. Oops, I don’t even go to church! I have to say I saw it coming and have been expecting something like this for a couple of weeks, and planning my response. Q.E.D.

    You are my example.

    As for your childhood development nonsense, I consider psychology to be a pseudoscience. As my 4th year Developmental Neurobiology professor said, there is a clear pattern of classical psychology being replaced by advancements in neurobiology since about the 1960s. Molecular biology techniques and biochemistry, combined with advanced imaging technology are slowly rendering psychology obsolete. Even the psychology graduate students in the class nodded their heads. That was in 1997.

    If you can show me an MRI illustrating an unbiased brain then I will accept your assertion, after I have read and analyzed the paper. Babies do not have fully developed brains. That’s what makes them babies.

    No, you can’t be unbiased. You are just introducing a whole new set of biases to the children, like for instance, to be critical of religion.

    There is a mathematical definition of bias, but that is not what we are talking about here. I have a supposition that it could be rolled in with predicate logic (i.e. a programming language) and more Nobel Prizes await.

  5. @Zed Hogan

    I am not biased against religion. I am quite certain from all the evidence that the one-god religions have been a very bad thing for people.

    I was deliberately raised to despise fake Christians and people who use religion as a front for their bastardy and to blame them for their stupidity. Very unique childhood. My father was definite that religion and capitalism were the two worst things that had ever happened to human beings.

    I’m not trying to push your buttons. I honestly think you are too stupid to understand where your ideas are wrong. I think you are too stupid not because you lack a high enough IQ but because you have been raised to be biased against the type of thinking that would provide you with the key to understanding human nature. I wasn’t raised with that bias.

    Actually, this is the truth Zed. Developing biases is natural, it is something that the human brain does as part of its repertoire to find patterns in the world and make meaning from them; the target and actuality of those biases are all in response to the environment and how that environment is interpreted by the other significant humans in the environment.

    I can’t imagine how you think that it would work that biases just begin to emerge spontaneously in children, is there an age at which you think this happens? and I suppose there are genes taht we haven’t found yet so that some children would develop a bias against asians and others would develop a bias against gypsys perhaps? It’s quite difficult to imagine how you think about bias. Can you explain a bit more?

    Psychology is becoming obsolete? Seriously you think that? I know several practitioners who are currently making a living as psychologists mostly for the worried well but hey it’s a job. How long would you give them Zed before they go out of business?

  6. @Julie Thomas I’m done, Julie. In lieu of stooping low I will once again ignore your responses for the rest of the thread.

    Apologies to psychologists. I think psychology is useful for describing the outward symptoms of diseases and for treatment better than nothing and in many cases will suffice until actual mechanisms can be discovered with true therapies – pharmacological, surgical – are available based upon the biology. Possibly classical psychology will always be useful for diagnosis, if not treatment.

  7. If, on this coming American Presidential elections on Tuesday 8 November, I had to choose, on the one hand between a candidate who is accused of racism and xenophobia, and another, who, amongst many other crimes, has, since 1990 helped to start wars which have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, the choice to me is quite straightforward.

    My response of October 31st, 2016 to GrueBleen and Colin Street on the now closed “Unecessary Wars” discussion was not approved of until the following evening. No-one responded, possibly because it did not appear in time for it to be linked to in the list of “Recent Comments.”

  8. @James

    In the matter of unnecessary wars and war crimes, Trump has not yet been tested. The entire US geostrategy, political economy and military-industrial complex is geared to fight continuous wars. I doubt that changing the figurehead leader and puppet of plutocratic-oligarchic interests will change anything in this regard. In other words, without changing the US political and economic system fundamentally, changing leaders will make no difference. How could the US political and economic system be changed fundamentally? Well, I won’t opine here. I am powerless in that matter, not being a US citizen. It is up to the citizens of the US to work towards something new when they are ready. They will be ready when the current system starts to fail the masses in bulk meaning the underclasses, the unemployed, the working poor and the newly poor middle class. 80% plus of US citizens are now getting a really bad deal out of the current system. They just have to realise it and realise their power.

  9. “In the matter of unnecessary wars and war crimes, Trump has not yet been tested.”


    But he has been tested and his lack of ability to respond sanely and rationally to events is apparent. Why would you give him the benefit of the doubt that he would be less of a warmonger than Hillary?

    “what would Trump do? We know that he has a highly aggressive personality. He often says he likes “fighting”, and not just metaphorically. We know he’s very vindictive, indeed he admits this. He expressed surprise that America has a (unofficial) policy against first use of nukes. He’s pro-torture, indeed much worse torture than waterboarding, and he wants to assassinate the family members of terrorists. He’s on record saying that Obama is weak and that he–Trump–would crush ISIS. He supported the Iraq War. He idolizes Putin, a militarily aggressive figure. Does this seem like a George McGovern dove? ”

    the quote is from themoneyillusion blog and a lot more could be added to this evidence that a Trump presidency would be unpredictable and that isn’t a good thing unless you are looking for a violent revolution.

    And James you are simplistically setting up what you like against what you don’t like. That is irrational. Your argument is simplistic and biased. Even Zed who is not dead would agree with that.

    There is much more that can be said about Trump’s personality that makes him unsuitable for president than that he is racist. He lacks any positive personality characteristics that would make him presidential material. Give me some examples of how he has responded with intelligence and good character to any thing that has ever happened in his life?

    And Hillary has done no more than be a hypocrite and a money grubber, social climber, greedy selfish and a neo-liberal incompetent and all the rest including her warmongering, but she will obey the laws of their civilization which Trump will not. Trump is above the law.

    And if she obeys the laws the system has a chance to evolve relatively peacefully onto a different state.

  10. @Julie Thomas

    Actually, I did not mean to give him the benefit of the doubt at all. I followed on to say the system would keep doing the same thing under him as it is doing now – endless war. My implication was that voting for Trump would not change a thing. I agree with you he is a very bellicose personality. There is no reason to think he is a less bellicose choice than H.C. He might even be more bellicose. But I think Presidents are puppets now. The oligarchs, plutocrats and corporatocrats run the show.

  11. Ikonoclast wrote:

    In the matter of unnecessary wars and war crimes, Trump has not yet been tested. …

    Surely the choice between a certainty and only a possibility is still clear.

    Ikonoclast continued:

    … The entire US geostrategy, political economy and military-industrial complex is geared to fight continuous wars. I doubt that changing the figurehead leader and puppet of plutocratic-oligarchic interests will change anything in this regard. In other words, without changing the US political and economic system fundamentally, changing leaders will make no difference. …

    After December 1960, the changing of its ‘figurehead’ leader caused the United States to support the Algerian FLN in its war against the French colonialists. On no less than three occasions, President Kennedy (JFK) over-ruled recommendations by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff to launch a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. (See “JFK and the Unthinkable – Why He Died and Why it Matters” (2008) by James S. Douglass.)

    JFK supported Indonesian President Sukarno against the Dutch colonialists in his eforts to retrieve the mineral rich West Irian to Indonesia (see “Allen Dulles’ Indonesian and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” (12/6/2016) at globalresearch_dot_ca _slash_ the-cias-involvement-in-indonesia-and-the-assassinations-of-jfk-and-dag-hammarskjold/ . After JFK was murdered, Allen Dulles was able to proceed with his plans to overthrow Indonesian President Sukarno in the bloody coup of 1965 after which between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Indonesian Communists were murdered by Islamist extremists.

    Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap (1911-2013) knew that if Kennedy had lived he would have ended the Vietnam War by 1965 and over half a million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans would have lived.

    Had JFK’s brother Bobby lived, the Vietnam War would have ended in early 1969 shortly after his inauguation as President.

    Neither JFK nor his brother were puppets. Clearly it is possible, even in a system as flawed as that of the United States, for someone with the integrity and vision of JFK to become President and for his brother Bobby to win the Democratic Party nomination (and almost certainly the Presidency in 1968, had he not been murdered) then it is possible for people of good intent to win that office.

    Ikonoclast continued:

    … the citizens of the US … will be ready when the current system starts to fail the masses in bulk …

    It has not already failed? The manufacturing sector has been destroyed and relocated to slave-labor economies in Mexico, China and the Third World.

    Ikonoclast, are you arguing that only when the working class has become utterly wretched and impoverished, will it rise up against its oppressors?

    Julie Thomas wrote on November 6th, 2016 at 09:31

    … Hillary … will obey the laws of their civilization which Trump will not. …

    Could I suggest you read my last post again? Which of the wars that Hillary Clinton helped to start did not violate international law?

    Julie Thomas wrote on November 6th, 2016 at 09:31

    … There is no reason to think [Donald Trump] is a less bellicose choice than H.C. …

    You have not acknowledged the rigged political system in which Donald Trump is working and the vicious media bias against him.

    After the “peace candidate” Adlai Stevenson lost the 1956 election to Eisenhower, JFK changed his rhetoric, accusing Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon of having allowing the Soviets to get ahead of the US in the nuclear arms race. This seemingly hawkish ploy just allowed JFK to beat Nixon in 1960 and, paradoxically, as I have mentioned above, prevented nuclear war from breaking out on three occasions.

    Donald Trump, who has adopted adopted similar hawkish stances – given the context of the 2016 Internet newsmedia – has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for having acted in support of the Syrian government against the Islamic State terrorist invaders – hardly the talk of a person seeking to start a war against Russia!

  12. @James

    “You have not acknowledged the rigged political system in which Donald Trump is working and the vicious media bias against him.”

    When did the media turn vicious? And what is it in for them? Of course I forfot, they are being paid oodles of money from that incredibly corrupt Clinton corporation that has passed under media scrutiny for all these years until ….da da, the media suddenly turns vicious because they can see there will be more money for them from Clinton and not from Trump?

    You should take this stuff to the rwnj sites; they will open your eyes James. You don’t know the half of how vicious that women is. Did you know she is bombing Trump election offices? She is having people murdered?

    And the worst thing this nasty woman has done? She is not trying to create a race war. The stupid stupid woman is not trying to turn people in america against each other.

    Are you supposed to be talking about this or would it be a good idea if you stopped raising this issue? It is only a few more days and then the next stage will begin. You can wait in silence.

  13. Trump has said some, ah, very provocative things: taken at his word, if in office as the President, he will act on some of those very provocative things; if he does so, he will become the most dangerous man in the world, because of how other countries will perceive his actions.

    Clinton, flawed as any politician who has been in the game as long as she has would be, hasn’t done any of the things that Trump is claiming he’ll do. While some of the Democrats should hang their heads in shame for supporting the ill-fated and disastrous Bush Jr War on Iraq, they are miles apart from what Trump claims he stands for.

    In a straight shootin’ contest between Clinton and Trump, there should be a big ray of daylight separating them, heck the bloody width of the Mississippi River for that matter. Instead, with the help of some egregious media moguls, it is neck and neck—according to some polls.

    I mean, really: it is like a choice between Clinton and a dead headless chicken.

  14. Julie Thomas,

    You don’t need to go to “right wing nut job” sites to find out that Hillary Clinton has caused the deaths of more people than any other woman in history. She has helped cause the deaths of many hundreds of thousands in Iraq, the former republics of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. All this is shown in reputable websites including Global Research, Voltaire Net, New Eastern Outlook, the Russian RT and Sputnik News, the Iranian PressTV and the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). (Donald Oats, you know that Senator Hillary Clinton voted for “the ill-fated and disastrous Bush Jr War on Iraq,” don’t you?).

    Hillary Clinton has been filmed laughing at the cruel murder of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and laughing at the prospect of America starting a war against Iran in 2014.

    Donald Oats wrote:

    Trump has said some, ah, very provocative things: taken at his word, if in office as the President, he will act on some of those very provocative things;

    He’s running an election campaign in the United States, Surely some hyperbolic rhetoric is to be expected? Nevertheless, can you cite any example as provocative as the words by Hillary Clinton I have given above, let alone actions?

  15. @James
    Yes, I did, and do know, that Clinton voted for the Bush Jr invasion of Iraq. They all have blood on their hands. The question isn’t just who is president though, it is also a question of who they have in the room with them as their staffers, and the heads of the organs of state. On that latter aspect, it is as opaque to me as it is to most Americans. Trump’s words, if they are mere hyperbole, well at what point do you draw the line and say that this is what he *really* means he’ll do, and on the other side is mere hyperbole?

    As a comparison, consider President Duterte in the Philippines: what he said about killing of drug users could have been considered hyperbole, except that is what he wanted done, and it is being done right now, in the slums and back streets, under cover of night and anonymity of police task forces. How do we really know what Trump says is mere hyperbole? Until he is elected and we can see what he actually does in office?

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