One odd thing I’ve noticed about our current times is how massively illiterate the movements are. Communism in the 1930s actually turned people away, Woody Guthrie prominent among them. There seem to be no foundational texts amongst any of the fringe movements(Defund, the Q people, the Proud Boys, whatever passes for anarchism these days, the very woke, etc, etc).
I first noticed this trend a few years ago in this interview with this… person.
Oddly, I came across this post I wrote a while back
Ideology as the usable consensus of extreme personality types – see my “Let’s Kill Hitler” book idea. Basically the ideology evolves not as the continuation of first principles, but as a series of compromises on the part of part of the extreme personalities involved – basically the ideology is whatever allows a certain collection of extreme personalities to work together. Cooperation is the important thing – not the consequences. An extreme ideology will be composed of extreme members and so forth. See the the alt-right and modern wokeness.
I’m reminded of the Utah Phillips line “common sense of degradation”. The modern unifying feature would seem to be a common sense of alienation from visible society.
Update – Feb 13th, 2023
I was going to update the post as a clarifier, but it is probably better off as a new paragraph(s).
I think what I’m trying to say is that books are no longer Schelling points. You could always point to some habit or event as not in keeping with the laws of the old testament or das kapital, but can you really point to a new habit or event as something that conflicts with the outrage over George Floyd or gas pipelines? Instead it just evolves with the changing preferences and day to day hatreds of the people drawn to the original Schelling point. Which basically means that the alienated fringe will be both dynamic and dysfunctional. Not a big deal really (what else would they be doing) but with internet and mobile technology they are unified and strangely influential on mass culture. Instead of the top 5% of the population in alienation moving in a thousand different directions they will move in 2 or 3. The lack of textual constraint allows them to keep up with current fashions, trends and technologies. And an active, motivated, unified (same people, shifting goals and language) 5% of people with very strong preferences is a meaningful marketing and voting bloc.
I suppose in a way this is a rediscovery of BJ Campbell’s “auto update” feature of the culture war, but with lack of foundational texts as well as Schelling points added to the explanation.
Update Feb 14th, 2023
Thinking about this again – I realize that I’m underemphasizing the role of fashion and ease of coverage by the modern media. “Wokeism” (the Q people not as much) is very, very, very easy, and cheap to cover from a home office – all you have to do is weave a bunch of screenshots from Twitter into an existing story and there you go. Gresham’s law, improperly formulated strikes again – bad stories will drive out good stories based purely on price. Currently the ease of coverage and woke fashion overlap rather well., although crime does seem to be taking away from this a bit.
An aside – it would be great if ChatGPT (or whatever AI is current at the time you read this) came up with an approximate price for each news story. Media articles in whatever form are usually not presented in terms of cost – but it would be great if they were. Say this is what your news source looked like:
- Celebrity A says Celebrity B is washed up and has had bad plastic surgery ($35, warning, Tweets)
- See our in depth, on scene coverage of the Syrian Civil War ($17,500)
If an AI browser plugin created something like that, along with a “Hide under $1000” checkbox I would be eternally grateful.