12 January 2021

Technological and cultural power

It's an ongoing source of frustration that, due to the Electoral College and the way states are represented in the Senate, the religious-fundamentalist and generally right-wing and reactionary element of the US population controls far more political power than its numbers warrant.  But political power is not the only kind of power within a society, as events are now illustrating.

There is also technological power.  Amazon is kicking Parler off its hosting service and Apple is dropping its app, which apparently will pretty much shut Parler down.  There are no right-wing high-tech companies on which any liberal sites are similarly dependent -- in fact, there are no major right-wing high-tech companies, period.  Twitter has even kicked Trump off now, and there's nothing he can do about it.  Despite all his money and (until January 20) power, he himself won't be able to set up a viable rival system because it would be dependent on technology which is controlled by people no longer willing to support what he's doing.  Even before November, YouTube was removing extremist videos, though somewhat sporadically.  They could do the same with evangelical and right-wing rabble-rousers more generally, if they chose to play hardball.  The fundie/wingnut subculture will never produce its own Amazon, Google, YouTube, etc.  The necessary skills, knowledge, and tech culture don't exist in a population which has made disdain for expertise and education part of its very identity.

(The wingnuts are, of course, complaining bitterly about these moves, but think of it this way.  Their blogs and sites since the election have been wallowing in a morass of violent fantasies about shooting and hanging liberals, assassinating leaders, and armed revolt against the government.  Essentially, they consider this a war.  OK, so it's a war -- and our side is destroying the enemy's communications infrastructure.  That's the kind of thing people do in wars.  They can't declare a war and talk about killing us and destroying our culture and then expect us to play nice and not use every weapon in our arsenal to defeat them.)

Many people, even on the left, are alarmed at the power of the tech giants to control modern communication, and perhaps eventually there will be government regulations to force them to operate in a more content-neutral way, which would give the wingnuts a reprieve.  But they'd still be dependent, then, on the very government they consider illegitimate and want to overthrow.

Then there's cultural power.  An ongoing theme on this blog has been the power of mass entertainment to guide and shape the culture and values of society (if you're not familiar with what I mean, read this, this, and this).  Liberals tend to downplay this effect, while right-wingers are actually more aware of its importance, since it works against their values.

But there's more to cultural power than that.  Notice that most employers these days have explicitly gay-friendly, anti-racist workplace policies.  Only a few companies like Chick-fil-A have explicitly right-wing policies, and even they won't endorse the more crazy Trumpist delusions or acts like the Capitol attack.  All over the country, people who participated in the attack are being fired from their jobs when they're identified.  45% of Republicans, which translates to 21% of Americans generally, approve of the storming of the Capitol -- but aside from perhaps a few tiny businesses in the remote red hinterlands, there's no corresponding sector of the economy in which having been part of the attack or supporting it is good for one's job security.

(This isn't because all the people who run big companies are liberals.  It's because they've crunched the numbers and figured out that failure to endorse the liberal world-view is bad for business, and that the fundie/racist/anti-gay element of the population isn't a market worth catering to.  Their goal is to make money, and that means adapting to the culture the way it actually is.)

We have an advantage because our world-view is based on reality, and reality is consistent and objectively knowable.  The wingnut world-view is crazy, and the practical problem with that is that there's no logical or objective way of agreeing exactly how crazy to go or in what directions.  I read right-wing sites and blogs regularly, and right now, in the comment sections of some of them, they are bitterly divided, quarreling with each other and denouncing each other.  They all believe that Trump actually won the election and Biden stole it through fraud, but some are still fervent QAnonists who expect Trump to somehow vanquish all his enemies and emerge triumphant before January 20, while others are starting to realize that nothing else QAnon predicted ever actually happened, and that the whole thing is a scam.  Some are saying the Capitol attack mob were patriots "taking back" the seat of government, others say they were antifa disguised as Trumpists to make Trumpists look bad.  Some want Trump to run again in 2024, some think voting is useless because of "vote fraud" and the only option now is violent revolution, some think all is lost and they're doomed to live under liberal rule forever, some are saying wait for Jesus to come back and straighten everything out, etc.  Having abandoned evidence-based and reality-based thinking, they have no objective way of deciding between these conflicting delusions.  They can't agree on a common fantasy world-view to put up against our reality-based world-view, and given how paranoid they tend to be, they easily start seeing those on their own side who have different views as enemies and traitors to the cause.

Our side dominates culture, which is "upstream" from politics -- that is, culture ultimately shapes politics, but there's very little politics can do to affect culture.  This is why the wingnuts have almost always felt angry and frustrated and besieged even when their side is in power in the government.  Political power can hurt people they hate, and Trump has been very good at that, but it can't stop the wingnuts from being culturally marginalized.  We're going to win out in the long run, and deep down they know it


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

"They can't agree on a common fantasy world-view to put up against our reality-based world-view, and given how paranoid they tend to be, they easily start seeing those on their own side who have different views as enemies and traitors to the cause."
Also, the wingnuts and nationalists will run to their little dark corners online to spew their hatred (they're all on Telegram, now. With the White Supremacists). I have to admit I laughed when I learned Agolf Twitler was Twitter-less. They did take their damn time to shut that monster down, thought. It took a coup attempt, no more and no less.


12 January, 2021 02:38  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Jesus sure is taking his own sweet time about getting here, isn't he.

12 January, 2021 04:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Never heard of Telegram. Let's see how long that stays up.

Debra: If you were him, would you be in any rush?

12 January, 2021 06:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well stated.

12 January, 2021 06:37  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

My brother just signed up for Parlor so I'll have to let him know it's not worth it now.

12 January, 2021 10:53  
Blogger Mary said...

You need to write for The Atlantic, NYT or the Post.

The hardest thing is time, knowing things usual drift progressive and upwards and better for all, over time. But is a winding road with many pitfalls and change can take generations and our need to see things change now and see things appear to get better fast, can be our own worst enemy at times. I know it’s difficult for me to feel hope for the future during these times and knowing I won’t see the upward swing of the pendulum because at 74, my time might be too short ranged. I can only hope the following generations do a better job.

12 January, 2021 12:44  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

Infidel, you have remarkable insight, that is enlightening and encouraging.

12 January, 2021 13:41  
Anonymous Mark Alexander said...

What Holte Ender said.

13 January, 2021 06:40  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Thanks for this Infidel753. I've been feeling despondent over the past week, but this post has lifted my spirits. I'm hopeful. And once Congress impeaches the lawless POTUS, I'll feel even better. I've read that this second impeachment will prevent Trump from running for public office ever again and will have him lose his presidential pension. I don't know if that's true, but I'm hoping it is.

Your post made me think that among the many reasons the Trump cultists have been so angry is that they've seen one of their favorite punching bags, i.e., same sex couples, become mainstream and accepted, even attaining a US Cabinet post. This is horrifying to them because it forces them to see reality; it forces them to see how culture truly does shape politics.

13 January, 2021 08:09  
Anonymous Annie said...

I’ve come to expect in-depth, thoughtful commentaries from you, and this one fits right in.

One thing that’s bugging me now is that businesses, claiming to take the high road, began by saying they’d stop supporting the Republicans who’d supported the insurrection—good. But then many just closed their wallets to Dems and R’s alike. But who knows? As I’d like to see ALL corporate money out of govt financing, maybe this will turn out to be a good thing.

Trump may have a lot of money now from fleecing his believers, but he has enormous debt, and his brand may be permanently tarnished. I think he’s far more worried about his debts and legal exposure than he is about impeachment. It’s so appropriate that he’ll end his presidency once again in huge financial trouble. That wasn’t how he thought this con would end. Abject failure by any reality-based standard.

13 January, 2021 12:33  
Anonymous The Spartan Atheist said...

They declared war, so we are cutting off their lines of communication. Today's internet winner. Good post, Infidel.

13 January, 2021 13:01  
Blogger Lady M said...

Great post - it gives me hope!!

13 January, 2021 17:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: Thanks!

Mary K: They're suing Amazon and may manage to stagger on for a while with one thing and another. But I doubt it will last.

Mary: Thanks. Due to my historical perspective, I'm always aware that what we're seeing is part of a centuries-long struggle that runs deeper than most people realize. But I want to see as much accomplished as possible. I hope you stick around for a long time.

Holte & Mark: Thanks!

Shaw: The storming of the Capitol was very disturbing, but already we're seeing benefits -- Republicans more divided than ever, and Trump's approval finally dropping far below its usual low-40s level. And we always need to remember these other forms of power. What goes on in the government isn't as decisive as many believe.

Yes, one of the penalties that can be imposed after an impeachment conviction is a ban on ever running for office again. That's the only logical reason for doing it so close to the end of his term. I don't know about the pension, but I imagine he's planning to live off of scamming the Trumpanzees, anyway.

We're almost at the point where anti-gay prejudice will be as socially unacceptable as racism. That's going to put the fundies in a bind since anti-gay prejudice is a clear Biblical taboo they can hardly just abandon.

Annie: Thanks for the kind words. Companies that stop donations to both parties are sending a muddied message, but man are just cutting off the Republicans who challenged Biden's electoral votes. And as we've seen, money doesn't make as much difference in politics as many people think. Ultimately the social ostracism of extremists and rendering their views socially unacceptable will have the most effect.

As long as Trump can fleece his marks for millions, he won't starve. But I think he's more worried about prison at this point.

Spartan: They keep expecting us to engage them in gunfights because guns are all they have. Instead we're going to beat them by focusing on the areas where we have the advantage -- propaganda, technology, and logistics.

Lady M: Thanks -- there is hope, and I want people to always remember that.

14 January, 2021 02:29  
Blogger Victor said...

An interesting and smart take.
As usual. :-)

14 January, 2021 12:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks :-)

15 January, 2021 02:59  

Post a Comment

<< Home