plus a catalog of excuses for America's crimes
I think the core issue is that ultimately it is up to an individual to open him or herself up to other viewpoints, even those with which they disagree, while still maintaining sufficient mastery of the self to see value in that person's thoughts and views. It's rare for a well-thought out perspective to have absolutely nothing of value to it. I actually enjoyed Freddie's Thanksgiving post even if I disagreed with it. After all, what's more American than having someone play the gadfly or turd in the punch bowl at the holidays?
My only real disagreement with FdB in this piece is that America has been uniquely bad in character, when I think the more accurate way to look at it is that we have been uniquely powerful in some very consequential ways. We aren't as special as being uniquely bad would grant us, but we are maybe more unique in that our system allows us the ability to do things about our misdeeds, and prevent future misdeeds, should we care to. And that's why it's important to keep talking about them.
Really if I had to give him crap about anything it would he unreconstructed Marxism, a philosophy designed to address 19th century problems, as a solution to 21st century challenges. But then all the more reason to read him. No one comes away stupider from any of the posts here, which I think is the best compliment one can give any writer.
The tendency to melt down over any disagreement is related to my least favorite thing about politics, “How dare you read/follow someone who believes x.”
Razib Khan was the “Substack of the Week” on Freddie’s digest back in the early days (May 2021), and the response to those who want him canceled blew my mind. There is more, but this is the quote that stuck with me:
“I wasn’t asking him about pseudoscientific racism. [….] But suppose I was asking him about race science: so what? I don’t know what he actually thinks about that topic, as I have not seen him write directly about it and the accusation against him was driven by innuendo. But say he holds with the Steve Sailer version of the world. Why would listening to what he had to say mean that I had to believe it, that I would come to accept it, that I endorsed it? The idea that we’re all so vulnerable to bad ideas, endlessly moldable clay that can become one of the fallen if the wrong idea briefly flits across our brain, is so bizarre and pernicious.” https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/digest-5222015-let-the-dead-poets
This response to one of the worst accusations you could make in lefty spaces was so unexpected and refreshing. I still think about it regularly.
** I sincerely hope my comment does not become a thread about whether RK is good or bad, and I apologize to him and everyone if it does.
Most of this comes down to making excuses for Team D.
Note how the election of Obama neutered the antiwar movement better than anything Bush/Cheney ever could have done, and the election of Trump (who made some sensible noises before he got elected, along with a lot of asinine noises) turned goodthink liberals into rabid supporters of Muh National Security State.
I've thought about this quite a bit too. Will Heterdox ultimately fall into the same traps as every other political tribe?
Blocked and Reported has mostly been pretty good about avoiding this, but I can't tell you guys how many times I've joined a group going "Finally! Nice to have fellow liberals push back on this Woke shit too!".... only to watch helplessly as that group goes further and further off the deep end to the point where they're indistinguishable from Fox News. It sucks.
For what it’s worth, I wasn’t surprised by the previous post and I’ve found you to be quite consistent in where you stand on things. I do read you precisely because your point of view is quite different from
mine in a number of respects, which is useful in more ways than one, including when we do agree as you often bring a different perspective to a similar conclusion. I don’t hate America, but I do think your criticism of its foreign policy has a lot of merit, and in my view the tendency to avoid unpleasant (and let’s just say it, immoral) realities is a far bigger problem than some kind of rampant America-hating (if indeed the latter is a problem to begin with). My ideal in this regard follows Rorty, even if I can’t say I am successful in following it https://adamgurri.com/2019/06/30/the-project-of-a-nation/
We don’t know how to deal with discomfort.
I’m a liberal but the past few years it has become so very hard to pass their purity tests. For example those yard signs. You know the “Love is love...”. An super liberal friend of mine was going off on someone we both knew who had begun dating a woman 22 years younger than he. Oh how awful! How unacceptable! You get the picture. I reminded her she has that love is love sign in her yard. Silly me. I took it at face value. I didn’t read the invisible print that says this only applies to those of gender/trans/etc identities and not everyone. I was promptly labelled a trans phobic and a fascist. I was told our friendship was on hold until I got my views right.
The subscriber-supported model is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, aggregating a readership for a specific writer can create a viable financial basis for that writer to express independent views more freely. On the other hand, as FdB points out, individual subscribers often take their money elsewhere if the writing doesn't conform sufficiently to their worldview. Some hit the sweet spot; others, I think, will find themselves saying "I can't go further into my thoughts on this because my last attempt to talk about it tanked my subscriber growth for two months" rather than, "I can't go further into my thoughts on this because the editorial staff said we're not printing anything that brings it up."
It's tough; no one has a moral imperative to spend their money where they don't want to, and it's the work of a lifetime figuring out how much honest disagreement one can take before reading a periodical is no longer pleasurable. Yet what people sometimes risk ending up with in a subscription-based world is a fanbase as much as a readership, who can feel betrayed when the main character seems to be acting wrong or they feel the plot goes off the rails.
First, I value you for your independence, even though I think old-school Marxism is akin to phrenology. We disagree! Hooray!
I deeply disliked the "I hate America" statement, though I didn't plunge into the comments at that time. Do you consider yourself to be nothing more than the thirty very worst things you've ever done? Are those things what you are and all you are? If that's what you do think, I feel bad for you, brother. But if you don't think that's true, why not?
I just think that full-on HATING your country for the undeniable crimes it has committed and leaving everything else out of the calculation reduces history to melodrama when it is actually, as I.F. Stone said, a tragedy.
I first read Freddie on the Daily Dish, where liberal readers bemoaned his leftist commitments. Now, I read him on Substack, where the “heterodox” bemoan his leftist commitments. I can’t wait to read him in the future in a virtual magazine in VR, where apolitical bots and suspended avatars will bemoan his leftist commitments.
Thank you for this piece. But one question I have is what “deranged conspiracy theories” did Bret Weinstein spew about the vaccines? It seems people have a cartoonish and downright false view of his perspective and associate him with a lot of statements he’s never made. Most of what he’s actually said has turned out to be correct and when he’s gotten something wrong he’s owned that. Of course it was absolutely insane to want to mandate the vaccines, especially considering they never stopped transmission, which he and some others knew from the beginning, simply by reading the actual data from the manufacturers. The pushback and dehumanization he received for daring to question mandates and express concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines was chilling beyond explanation. When he said “come back to the tribe” to Claire Lehman, that’s what he was referring to. Not that she need share his opinions or somehow be against the vaccine herself, but for her and others to stop the vicious and dehumanizing campaign against those who held a different view.
I enjoy learning about your left ideology even if I don’t subscribe to it. Always learn something in here. I do think your dislike of the US and your affinity for Marxism often come off more like religious beliefs compared to your other talking points but it’s still interesting to read about.
I feel like this issue may be more tricky than you consider here. I value independent thinking, but I also value "good" thinking.
My particular "red line" is COVID conspiracies. If you go down the Bret Weinstein route, if you are going to start spouting things about how COVID is really caused by lack of Vitamin D from lock downs, or that the Vaccine is part of some government conspiracy, it is going to raise serious questions in my mind about your ability to think about things and make me question whether you are really worth listening to on other topics. The alternative is Gell-Mann Amnesia.
This doesn't mean that I will reject everyone any time I find that I disagree with them on a particular topic. I'm very much not a socialist, let alone a Marxist. However, I don't find that your views on Marxism (or American Patriotism) are evidence that you are bad at processing information, just that we have different world views and have come to different conclusions based upon the available evidence.
There are also situations where I might see that someone is wrong on a topic, but I've seen them be right on enough other things, that I can remain reasonably confident that whatever is causing them to be wrong on that topic doesn't seem to span domains. If so, I may continue to be interested in listening to them on other topics, even if my degree of skepticism on those other topics may have increased somewhat.
Ultimately, it is a balancing test.
I’ve long noticed that there is a thread of American exceptionalism that cuts across all political strata. Either the United States is the single greatest nation that has ever existed, and everything that we have ever done has been justified because it allowed the rest of the world to sample the greatness that is the United States, or we single handedly invented human atrocity, and without the original sin of our founding fathers, the rest of the world would be living in peace and harmony; every person holding hands as they dance and sing in a field of rainbows.
I think the real story of the United States is both much simpler and much more complicated than that.
We are a rich, powerful country, run by people who are, on average, no more or less fundamentally decent than the people running the governments of most other developed countries.
The caveat is, we have more money. We have more resources. Our good decisions are felt around the world, and our bad decisions are felt around the world. Our atrocities are not exceptional in and of themselves, but they need to be answered for. They need to be accounted for. And it needs to be recognized that because of our vast resources, our atrocities tend to impact far, far more people.
Recently, Glenn Greenwald talked about the only meaningful distinction being between pro-establishment and anti-establishment. I like to think I'm open to a variety of perspectives, but when people start cheering the State for totalitarian measures -- by which I mean everything from overthrowing foreign governments to jailing dissenters to violating people's bodily autonomy by mandating "vaccines" and threatening to take away their livelihood if they don't comply - then I don't view it as a simple disagreement anymore.
Maybe I’m in the minority here but I would like to hear more from Freddie about his Marxist views, and I also really appreciate the arguments here about America’s malign influence in foreign policy. I grow weary of lib-owning dressed up as heterodoxy, as does he. Let’s hear more about the surplus value of labor!