I’ve been hoping aggrieved Lefties would take a day off from raising my ire. How can I be expected to virtue signal with an even hand when wounded millennials pop up on my Twitter feed every five minutes? The fruit of the Left seemingly caters to midgets, which makes it awfully difficult to pass up. At this point, one wonders whether it’s a strategy to dodge charges of ableism. But I digress.
Since these gentle folks aren’t taking any vacation days, let’s put them to one side and turn our attention closer to the centre. I’ve previously written about the myopic liberal-conservative alliance borne out of opposition to the far Left, but the behaviour of certain “moderate” figures increasingly strikes me as more than a little troubling. With that in mind, I’m going to offer my thoughts on some of the more prominent people straddling the Left/Right divide.
Let’s start with Gad Saad. Here we have a college professor who appears to have fallen in love with being a minor e-celebrity. More importantly, Gad seems to be on a personal journey toward the political fringe. Can he legitimately market himself as part of the centre when he enthusiastically supports Donald Trump, tries to shame ex-Muslims into putting themselves in danger, and parrots hypermasculine Alt-Right terms like “cuck” and “castrati” without the merest hint of irony? Gad communicates like a man who needs to tuck his dick into his sock, yet looks like a hypogonadic gnome. If only self-awareness was his biggest problem.
Gad’s attempts to shame a prominent ex-Muslim for her decision to remain anonymous is what I find most egregious. For those unaware, he has something of a running feud with an ex-Muslim known as Eiynah (@NiceMangos), host of the Polite Conversations podcast. During an unhinged Twitter tirade, he repeatedly suggested that there is something cowardly about her anonymity. We’re living in a world where ex-Muslims are brutally murdered for leaving the faith, yet this crusader for secularism is apparently eager to create more victims. There is nothing brave about putting oneself in harm’s way for no reason. Ex-Muslims who already have their identities exposed are certainly brave, but that’s quite different from purposely inviting risk. Any reasonable person would class that as stupidity, not bravery. Gad is either oblivious to the distinction or loathes Eiynah so much that he has simply abandoned compassion and common sense out of spite.
If you are going to hurl endless insults at people who risk everything to speak openly, don't be anonymous. You live in Canada & are not
— Gad Saad (@GadSaad) December 3, 2016
— James MacDonald (@JimMacDonaldMMA) December 3, 2016
— Tom Bloke (@21logician) December 2, 2016
— Tom Bloke (@21logician) December 2, 2016
My issues with Gad extend beyond his perspective on ex-Muslims and him looking like part of Snow White’s inner circle, but I’ll save further objections for another day. One theme you’ll notice, though, is the subjects of this piece tend to focus almost exclusively on the excesses of the Left. This is a mistake I’ve been eager to avoid, and I find it disingenuous when I see it from others.
On that point, let’s shift focus to Dave Rubin. Since leaving The Young Turks in 2015, Dave has built up a sizeable audience of anti-regressives with The Rubin Report. I even counted myself among them during his early shows. His content hasn’t evolved over the past couple of years, though. Indeed, the show is almost identical from week to week, and I can only listen to someone drone on about classical liberalism and the regressive left for so long.
While it’s true Dave interviews people from across the political spectrum, it’s invariably to the same end: lamenting the decline of the Left. I can’t read Dave’s mind, but I get the awful impression he is terrified of losing his audience. Every show and every tweet appear designed to pander to anti-SJWs and avoid alienating far Right allies like Milo Yiannopoulos, Steven Crowder, and Mike Cernovich. Trump embarrasses himself daily, yet the most pointed criticism Rubin can offer is a Star Wars joke or a Golden Girls reference. But when some lunatic on the Left is apoplectic over a stray pronoun, you can bet it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get serious.
Dave has responded to this criticism by claiming he’s on the Left and is merely trying to clean up his own side. Many seem to have accepted this explanation as though they are suddenly fans of the Chomsky rule. This reasoning is equally flawed when Western feminists ignore Islamic misogyny because they need to first dismantle patriarchy in their own culture. If you are concerned about misogyny, geography shouldn’t prevent you from criticising the worst offenders. Likewise, if your focus is culture and politics, you cannot just ignore the Right because you are more concerned about the failings of your own side. The very idea of “sides” is a major part of the problem. The Left and Right aren’t opposing sports teams. Interpreting the political spectrum in such terms is just another form of identity politics. To that point, let’s move onto someone who fundamentally misunderstands identity politics and its causes.
Carl Benjamin, better known as Sargon of Akkad, is a popular British YouTuber who spends the bulk of his time criticising the far Left. He’s most effective when arguing unopposed—not unlike Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks. This gives him the freedom to construct an army of straw men and burn them to the ground over the course of a 30-minute video. When faced with a live opponent, Sargon doesn’t fare quite so well. For example, he somehow managed to lose a debate to third wave feminist Kristi Winters—and it wasn’t particularly close. If car crash content is your thing, you might also want to check out his disastrous debate with The Majority Report’s Michael Brooks, where both men spent about 40 minutes trying, and failing, to define the regressive left.
When he isn’t losing debates and cheerleading right-wing populism, Sargon can occasionally be found decrying collectivism as one of the world’s great evils. He has argued at length that identity politics is rooted in collectivism. He does this by attacking its most extreme forms and ignoring almost everything else. It’s worth noting here that Sargon supports all sorts of collectivist policies, such as socialised healthcare. He’s either one of the most philosophically confused people I’ve ever encountered, or he doesn’t understand the subject. His initial diatribe on the topic begins with this gem:
“All ideologies are either individualist or collectivist. These are mutually exclusive perspectives that have no overlap.”
In that case, I can only assume Sargon views mixed economies as one of life’s great mysteries. He must equally wonder why so many ardent individualists tend to be libertarians and not anarcho-capitalists—which is actually a fair question in the right context. Spoiler alert. It isn’t only possible for individualism and collectivism to overlap, it’s probably the most common position you’re likely to find in the developed world. You’re unlikely to encounter many pure anarcho-capitalists or pure socialists. There are certainly wingnuts like Stefan Molyneux, but these people tend to be the fringiest of the fringe.
Much like Gad, Sargon presents himself as an intellectual. The problem is much of the content he churns out meets the definition of anti-intellectualism. Consider his championing of Brexit, for example. We’re talking about a movement animated by statements like, “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.” Almost every qualified voice was critical of Brexit. This applies equally to Sargon’s endorsement of Trump. You don’t get to brand yourself as an intellectual while supporting a man who has made a virtue of ignorance. You can offer me all sorts of reasons for supporting right-wing populism, and I might just buy some of them. What you don’t get to do is pretend you occupy the intellectual high ground.
The Left has earned some sort of backlash, but a sense of perspective is needed. Whatever happened to calling out bad ideas wherever we find them? The prevailing view now seems to favour calling out bad ideas so long as they’re coming from the opposing team. The individuals discussed here are by no means the only ones guilty of a lopsided approach to social and political discourse, but they are helping to create an atmosphere of pure tribalism. It should be obvious that combating identity politics with more identity politics is counter-productive, but then I appear to be hanging off the middle of the horseshoe these days.