This, more than anything, is what is so unsettling about Mr. Coates’s recent writing and the tenor of the leftist “woke” discourse he epitomizes. Though it is not at all morally equivalent, it is nonetheless in sync with the toxic premises of white supremacism. Both sides eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while those of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice. Both sides mystify racial identity, interpreting it as something fixed, determinative and almost supernatural. For Mr. Coates, whiteness is a “talisman,” an “amulet” of “eldritch energies” that explains all injustice; for the abysmal early-20th-century Italian fascist and racist icon Julius Evola, it was a “meta-biological force,” a collective mind-spirit that justifies all inequality. In either case, whites are preordained to walk that special path. It is a dangerous vision of life we should refuse no matter who is doing the conjuring.
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The so called postmodernists had a different view on the matter. They apparently thought that all this arguing is too much of a hassle, so they decided to make it simpler by drastically lowering the standards of what should count as an argument. That is why you can find sentences such as: “It is the horizon itself that is in movement: the relative horizon recedes when the subject advances, but on the plane of immanence we are always and already on the absolute horizon.” (That is an actual sentence from What is Philosophy, by the French duo Deleuze and Guattari.) The first and most obvious thing about this sentence is how convoluted and apparently meaningless it is. But while there are ways by which one can navigate the jargon and find some meaning in these words, there is no justification for it; no argument to demonstrate that “on the plane of immanence we are on the absolute horizon.”
As I said, Brazil’s situation is not the same as in the US. Intersectionality has just now started creeping out in the media and academia, and college campuses are part of a slowly bubbling debate on free speech. Still, in other aspects Brazil seems to be ahead of the postmodern curve when compared with America. Postmodern thought is prevalent from high school onwards and I am sure that it is at least part of the reason why, despite heavy investments in education and a growing number of college enrollments, Brazil’s education seems not to have improved at all in the last decade.
On Oct. 1, he predicted, Catalonia will be swept up in “a democratic tsunami,” as its streets fill with citizens casting their vote in favor of independence. Democracy, Mr. Puigdemont argued, is “to listen to citizens,” while Mr. Rajoy is doing “another thing” by threatening punishment, with the support of Spanish judges.
What unites the two countries often seems far more substantial than what divides them—an innate sense of elegance, a passion for gastronomy and proud histories of artistic and intellectual attainment. But all that, says Franco Venturini, is precisely what bedevils their relations. France and Italy both consider themselves the cultural superpower of Europe and the result is reciprocal jealousy. For Mr Venturini, who is a columnist on an Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, but French-educated and an officer of the Légion d’Honneur, the links between the two countries are “very close, yet not characterised by any great love. We’re like two cousins, each of whom thinks she is the prettier.”
Laws permitting generalised surveillance, as well as a proposal for a new espionage act that could criminalise journalists and whistleblowers as spies, were cited by Reporters Without Borders as it knocked the UK down two places from last year, to 40th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index.
In the past five years, the UK has slipped 12 places down the index. Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s UK bureau director, said this year’s ranking would have been worse were it not for a general decline in press freedom around the world, making journalists in Britain comparatively better off than those in countries such as Turkey and Syria.
It’s a strange argument. Is Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, more mainstream than Linda Sarsour? Are KKK rallies in Virginia better attended or more prominent than leftist anti-Jewish marches in Chicago? Of course they’re not. Why, then, the systemic focus on the alt-right? I pressed Gutnick for an answer; I never heard back.