Saturday, 18 February 2017


When snowflakes melt...

by Ryan Andrews

What we are witnessing in the ever more aggressive leftist efforts to suppress their political opponents is in many ways fairly familiar. When the status of an existing power structure is threatened, it fights back; and when true believers' ideals are challenged, they lash out.

However I also think there is another element at work here, and here I'm thinking primarily of the lower-order types of Leftists (like the antifa), which is that this has the feel of a kind of Ortegan revolt of the masses. I am not usually in the habit of seeking the aid of past thinkers' insights to form my own ideas—I already know what I think, so why waste my time with them? Here though, I’ll make an exception.

In his masterpiece from the Interwar period, The Revolt of the Masses, José Ortega y Gasset describes the emergence of a new type of man, an increasingly dominant type, that has been made possible by the greater material abundance of the times. In Ortega’s telling, the great change in society is that the "mass man" no longer defers to the expertise of the qualified minority. And what is more extraordinary, the new assertiveness of this "mass man" does not result from his (mistaken) belief to be equally qualified; no, he simply desires to have his way.
"Under the species of Syndicalism and Fascism there appears for the first time in Europe a type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions.

The present-day writer, when he takes his pen in hand to treat a subject which he has studied deeply, has to bear in mind that the average reader [i.e. not an especially qualified critic]...[reads the writer’s work] with the view, not of learning something from the writer, but rather, of pronouncing judgement on him when he is not in agreement with the commonplaces that the said reader carries in his head."
For the record, I pronounce that Ortega is a complex jumble of brilliant insights and wrong-headed observations/ideas. More than that, he has an unusual ability to consistently deduce brilliant insights from his wrong-headed ideas, and vice versa. Whatever the merits of his work in general though, his mass man thesis identifies a type which we know all too well; the contemporary mass man (or gender non-specific person) is someone who "can't even."

The fingery pose of the turbulent thinker: Ortega
Everyone by now is familiar with the idea that we are all "special little snowflakes." As far as schoolmarm platitudes go, this seems harmless enough, but the expression is symptomatic of a mindset that emphasizes the individual's fragility and at the same time strokes his ego. I'm not really thinking of the participation trophy culture here per se, but more of the idea that 'only you can be you, and you are the most perfect you.' On the Left, this attitude is accentuated by the fact that the bottom-half of that coalition is made up of minority grievance groups. Among the many grievances these groups have is their belief that society does not understand (and appreciate) them, that their 'story ain't been told.' This all adds up to a personality that is neither equipped nor inclined to tolerate dissent.

If only it stopped there, but Progressivism does not stop. No, instead we can see the beginnings of something even more brute than Ortega's mass man; we are moving towards an Orwellian-Orteganism in which the liberal foundation of equality and individual rights is degenerating into a belief that the individual has the right to define how he is perceived by the rest of society. (I know our side throws the word "degenerate" around rather loosely, much the way Leftists overuse the word "fascist," but some things actually are degenerate, and this is one of them.)

That prodding finger is a pillar holding
up the sky of a liberal safe space. 
The petulant SJW who thinks it is his moral right to forcibly suppress the speech of "Nazis" like Ben Shapiro may have reasons for his feelings (though mostly, he just has feelings), but in some real sense, he simply desires to force the world to conform to his feelings. This is a dominant factor not just in his motivation to suppress his political opponents, but in the formation of his ideology itself. It is with this next step that the Ortegan merges with the Orwellian.

So how do I mean that it contributes to the very formation of his ideology? Well, in part, he has made himself into his ideology (and I mean it when I call it an ideology, because, to him, this is a moral belief). His ideology is that you should see him as the way he wants you to see him.

Obviously, it is nothing new for the individual to attempt to project a certain image to the wider world. What is new is (1) it is your moral duty to conform your perception to his self-image, and (2) he needs no reason other than his own feelings. This privilege is not available to every personal orientation, and the thought-process behind it is riddled with contradictions, but none of that is unusual. What is unusual, and amazing really, is that the doctrine exists at all.

Consider the logic behind the claim that Caitlin Jenner is a woman. How is he a woman? Because he says so. That is the new standard. If a man claims himself to be a woman, either because he really wants to be one or because he genuinely believes himself to be one—in other words, because in some way, he feels like a woman, polite society is supposed play along. Because it is so natural to feel very strong emotions of both pity and revulsion for people like Caitlin Jenner, the conservative response has largely centered on these emotions, but lost in that response is that this is laying the foundations for a radical new civil right: and again, that is the right to determine how others see you because you feel that is how they should see you.

Transgenderism is the extreme end of things, sure, but does anyone think this is where it ends? The now common notion that you (generally a cisgendered white man) can not "question the validity of my [not a cisgendered white man] experience" is only a degree or so removed from the farce of transgenderism. So what if the data contradicts blacks' narrative that they are persecuted by law enforcement? That data denies the validity of their experience, therefore it is just another of the white man's tools of oppression. Back in the days of Ortega's "hyperdemocracy" they used to say that perception is reality. The mass man of today goes even further; he says "my perception is your reality."

What is best in life? To trigger your enemies, invade their safe spaces, and read the lamentations of their Twitter.

Ryan Andrews is the author of The Birth of Prudence, which was published by VDare.


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