War Of The Worlds
I’m at Day Two of a conference at MCC in Budapest. At lunchtime, I was talking with an American journalist. When I mentioned that the Canadian government has threatened to freeze the bank accounts of protesting truckers, her jaw literally dropped. And now, the Trudeau government is using emergency legislation to cut even people who are indirectly involved with the truckers’ protest — such as those who donated to them — from the financial system. You may not be able to buy, sell, or access your money, apparently, if you are in any way suspected of aiding the truckers. From the CBC:
Under the regulations, the banks have a “duty to determine” who among their customers is considered a “designated person” who should be denied financial services. The regulations stipulate it is up to the banks to “determine on a continuing basis whether they are in possession or control of property that is owned, held or controlled by or on behalf of a designated person.”
Banks will be working with law enforcement to decide who should be “de-banked.”
“When are we going to face that we are headed towards totalitarianism?” she said.
“Well, I wrote a book about that,” I said.
It really is astonishing, isn’t it? Every single day there is another sign that we must, must, must start preparing ourselves for the day when they will come after us, simply for dissenting. Meanwhile, the other day, this lunatic leftist below is allegedly the one who hacked the Give Send Go site, stealing and publicizing the names of tens of thousands of small donors who had given money to support the truckers.
This is apparently the dude who hacked GiveSendGo pic.twitter.com/rmZNN9iDXb
— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) February 16, 2022
There are reports that now people are losing their jobs because their name is on the list, but I haven’t seen anything confirmed yet. Let me know if you see any.
Now the media are participating in the de facto doxxing of donors. Here’s a Washington Post story about donors, based on the hacked information. The info has been released into the public domain, so it’s not like the Post did the hacking itself. But I gotta say, J.D. Flynn has a point:
Back in July, the Washington Post lectured us for identifying, through legally obtained data, a public official engaged in suspect conduct.
Here the Post identifies identifies a public official, using hacked data, who made a donation to a controversial group. pic.twitter.com/eFds80dYZ0
— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) February 16, 2022
Yes. The Pillar, edited by Flynn, used that publicly available information to out a senior Catholic priest at the US Bishops Conference who was using the gay hookup app Grindr. After 20 years of scandals having to do with closeted, sexually active gay priests, The Pillar decided that a priest as prominent as their target was ought to be outed, given that his behavior could directly impact the US Church’s response to the scandal and its causes. See, for the Post, gay priests should only be supported, even when they are violating their vows and working against the integrity of the Catholic Church. It’s always “who, whom,” you know.
Anyway, she is not my favorite member of Congress, but I give a lot of credit to Rep. Ilhan Omar for speaking up here:
Omar said journalists should not be reporting and publicizing the names of people who made ‘insignificant’ donations.
Omar tweeted in response to a newspaper editor from the Ottawa Citizen who had shared a report about Stella Luna Gelato Cafe in Ottawa, which was forced to close down after receiving continual threats.
The owner, Tammy Giuliani, had her name listed among donors who gave money via the GiveSendGo website to the Freedom Convoy, which is protesting the country’s vaccine mandates.
The entire list was made public following a hacking on Sunday. The data included names and email addresses.
Omar tweeted how she failed to understand why journalists felt the need to report on people who made donations as it resulted in harassment.
Tammy Giuliani was forced to shut down her business after she received an onslaught of threats over her $250 donation.
The most important thing you’re going to read all day is this analysis of the truckers’ protest by N.S. Lyons, who writes the must-read Substack newsletter The Upheaval. Lyons writes that the protest embodies the divide between people who work with their hands, and those who work with their minds. He writes:
For our purposes here, let’s call these two classes the Physicals and the Virtuals, respectively.
When considering the causes and character of the current protest, and the response to it, I would say the divide between Physicals and Virtuals is by far the most relevant frame of analysis available. In fact I’d say this is among the most significant divides in all of Western politics today.
Much has rightly been made of the “working class” and their alienation from “the elite.” But this phrasing comes mixed up with associations about material wealth and economic class that aren’t necessarily helpful. Many (though not all) of those who support “populist” politics in opposition to the elite tend to frequently be either fairly solidly middle-class skilled tradesmen, relatively successful small businessmen, or land-holders (e.g. farmers, ranchers, real estate entrepreneurs) who are often actually relatively well-off. It is the character of their work that seems to shape the common identity and values of each side of the class divide more than income.
So too does this difference appear to widen – and perhaps even help explain the root of – the huge and growing gender divide in politics, given the fairly well-established preference (on average) by men to work with “things” (more concrete) and women to work with “people” (more abstract).
But the most relevant distinction between Virtuals and Physicals is that the Virtuals are now everywhere unambiguously the ruling class. In a world in which knowledge is the primary component of value-added production (or so we are told), and economic activity is increasingly defined by the digital and the abstract, they have been the overwhelming winners, accumulating financial, political, and cultural status and influence.
In part this is because the ruling class is also a global class, and so has access to global capital. It is global because the world’s city-brains are directly connected with each other across virtual space, and are in constant communication. Indeed their residents have far more in common with each other, including across national borders, than they do with the local people of their own hinterlands, who are in comparison practically from another planet.
But the Virtual ruling class has a vulnerability that it has not yet solved. The cities in which their bodies continue to occupy mundane physical reality require a whole lot of physical infrastructure and manpower to function: electricity, sewage, food, the vital Sumatra-to-latte supply chain, etc. Ultimately, they still remain reliant on the physical world.
The great brain hubs of the Virtuals float suspended in the expanse of the Physicals, complex arterial networks pumping life-sustaining resources inward from their hosts. So when the Physicals of the Canadian host-body revolted against their control, the Virtual class suddenly faced a huge problem.
Lyons says that the response of Justin Trudeau, the progressive beta male who is the epitome of the Virtual Class, as well as all the institutions controlled by that class, has been entirely predictable:
If all this seemed awfully synchronized, that’s the whole point. Systematic information control, or what the Chinese Communist Party refers to as “public opinion management,” is now the entire strategic response of the Virtual class to every political problem.
But have a little sympathy for them: they do this not just because it is cynically convenient (though it is), but because this is literally the only way they know how to navigate and influence the world. The post-modern fish swims in a narrative sea, and their first reaction is always to try to control it (through what the CCP calls “discourse power”) because at heart they well and truly believe in the idea of the “social construction of reality,” as Lasch pointed out in the quote at top. If there is no fixed, objective truth, only power, then the mind’s will rules the world. Facts can be reframed as needed to create the story that best produces the correct results for Progress (this is why you will find journalists are now professionally obsessed with “storytelling” rather than reporting facts).
See how this works? This is why the Virtuals believe that women can have penises and men can have vaginas. They are gnostics who believe that reality is constructed by the imposition of will.
Now, though, by threatening the bank accounts of dissidents and fellow travelers, the class war has gone nuclear:
That Trudeau’s government would choose to jettison any remaining illusion of Canada still being a liberal democracy just to harm their political class enemies isn’t too surprising. It’s their method of doing so that is particularly striking: control over digital financial assets is pretty much the ultimate leverage now available to the Virtuals. We should expect more use of this tool around the world anywhere the Physicals continue to revolt against their masters.
So expect the Virtuals of the ruling class to double down on trying to exert control, moving with all haste to develop new and innovative methods of information management and coercion to try to eliminate every human vulnerability from the machine. Self-driving truck startups are about to have an excellent next funding round.
Again, this is class warfare. The Left hates not only the working class, but the Physicals. Leftist culture will continue to push the Virtualization of all aspects of life, because this is what dispossesses the Physicals and increases the control of the Virtuals. This is a story of the World Outside One’s Head clashing with the World Inside One’s Head.
UPDATE:Damon Linker sounds the alarm from the center-left about how Canada is right now pioneering a social credit system with its financial punishment to truckers and their supporters. Excerpts:
The alignment of pervasive high-tech gatekeeping with an impulse to police ideological and moral conformity is not only possible but already beginning to emerge. The right’s warnings about ascendent antiliberalism are therefore welcome — though many of those sounding the alarm are singularly ill-suited to combat it.
Modern politics is, among other things, a battle over these competing sensibilities — with liberals usually thriving in the cosmopolitan openness of the city and conservatives favoring the closed comforts of the countryside and small town. Liberal democracy itself favors the former, as the name implies, foreswearing any attempt to bring the nation state as a whole into alignment with a single comprehensive and exclusive vision of the good life. Individuals and communities are left free (within limits) to cultivate and enforce that kind of life at the local level, but the nation as a whole is far too diverse to attempt it collectively.
That has always been unacceptable to some antiliberals, who have longed to reproduce the community and solidarity of the small town or village at a national level. Civic nationalism, when wedded to liberal norms and institutions, is a relatively benign expression of such hopes, aiming merely at the encouragement of national cohesion. Totalitarian dictatorship is a far more malign version of the same yearning.
Where would a social credit system fit in on this spectrum? It’s too soon to know. But what is clear is that the drive for it comes from a similar place — a kind of nostalgia for the moral unanimity and homogeneity of village life, and the hope to recreate it on a national scale. (In the case of China, that scale extends to 1.4 billion people.)
Conservatives are right to worry and warn about the danger of the progressive left using a combination of political, technological, and cultural power to enforce unanimity on American life. That would be an unacceptable infringement on the liberty of millions.
But so would populist conservatives seizing those same powers to impose a comprehensive moral vision of their own rooted in the “integralist” fantasies of the Catholic right or the autarkic dreams of a blood-and-soil or race-based nationalism.
It would be nice to see critics of a social credit system taking their stands in the name of an honest and consistent liberal pluralism. But alas, ours is a time of equal-and-opposite illiberalisms battling for moral control of our national life.
Well, I am not an integralist, and have said in this space before that some form of classical liberalism is the only way I can conceive of a pluralistic nation like the USA holding itself together. The problem, though, is not going to come from the integralists, all of whom could fit into a big coffeeshop. It’s an interesting intellectual project, but there is zero chance of Catholic integralism taking hold in America. Damon’s idea that there are “equal-and-opposite illiberalisms battling for moral control of our national life” is simply not true. If there are autarkic race-based nationalists pushing for an illiberal state, I have never heard of them. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I don’t know where they are. The illiberal progressive left, however, are in control of most institutions of American life, as I argue in Live Not By Lies (Damon takes a shot at the term “soft totalitarianism,” but I stand by it, because it signifies how what we are moving into, thanks to the progressive left in power, is a non-violent but still effective form of totalitarianism).
There may well be figures on the Right who would be willing to use a social credit system to enforce their moral vision — and I would strongly oppose them, even if I shared their moral framework! — but where are they? Where are their supporters? I ask not to be a whataboutist, but simply to say that it’s a false equivalence to say that both sides do it. The most dangerous enemies of liberty today come from the Left. I do agree, however, that we should absolutely not normalize social credit system tactics, because if we do, a future right-wing government would certainly be tempted to use that Ring Of Power, telling itself that it will use those capabilities for the Good. Both freedom-loving liberals and freedom-loving conservatives should come together and stand strongly against this malicious use of technology.