On the old saw, “The left will never win due to in-fighting”

This morning, [someone with a protected Twitter account] retweeted a quote from Justine Tunney, an Accelerationist a person who recently made some remarks to the effect that the humane genome project had revealed certain genetic inferiorities in those of African descent and had obviously faced criticism for saying such a terrible thing. The quote expressed sentiments that may be familiar to us from many other public intellectuals: “The left is going to lose. Why? Because they eat their own.”

I’ve concluded that expressing these types of sentiments is an absolutely certain sign of someone who wasn’t actually committed to the left in the first place — of someone who was merely “left-curious,” one might say. First, there’s the position of enunciation. Structurally, it’s identical to the “concern trolling” of someone like David Brooks telling the Democrats why they’re in mortal danger of alienating the American people once and for all. Further, the sentiments expressed are classically liberal-centrist: let’s make room for everyone, let’s not make a big deal out of actual political ideals, etc.

The question is why a person like this would bother trying to associate with the left in the first place. I assume part of it is a quest for edginess — and it presumably has a special appeal for Christian intellectuals, given that it allows them to make “risky,” countercultural claims (e.g., “economic justice is important”) that are nonetheless clearly grounded in Scripture.

In some cases, though, I wonder if it might be a consciously cynical ploy. Once they turn their backs on the left for, you know, being people who care a lot about politics and hence have strong opinions, they are then uniquely positioned to show their “seriousness” to the mainstream: “There’s a grain of truth to left-wing ideas, which initially attracted me, but they’re much too factious and extreme to be taken seriously.” A bold career of centrist, “both sides are equally wrong”-style op-eds awaits the chastened left-curious intellectual.

11 Responses to “On the old saw, “The left will never win due to in-fighting””

  1. Philip Says:

    It’s times like these that have me reaching for Stephen J Gould:

    “I do not claim that intelligence, however defined, has no genetic basis—I regard it as trivially true, uninteresting, and unimportant that it does. The expression of any trait represents a complex interaction of heredity and environment. Our job is simply to provide the best environmental situation for the realization of valued potential in all individuals. […] It is just as likely that blacks have a genetic advantage over whites. And, either way, it doesn’t matter a damn. An individual can’t be judged by his group mean.”

    It speaks volumes of a person that they could think it in the least bit important that there is any correlation between genes and intelligence. Who cares?

    There is, of course, an element of truth to the argument that the left endlessly bickers over doctrinal minutiae rather than actually collaborating on anything. But that can’t be used as cover for being an idiot and not getting called out on it.

  2. noir-realism Says:

    I tend to agree with your much rather “cynical ploy”… she’s an agent provocateur, its all about her, her ego, her message – nullity, nihilism, etc. She provokes with such statements as this from twitter: “The left is going to lose. Why? Because they eat their own.” Keeping up with Nick Land and NRx bunch even noticed her hypocrisy… she’s toying with the ultra-right of late: http://www.xenosystems.net/crossing-the-line/

    Independent UK had a good write up on her latest escapade, a petition “transfer all federal administrative authority to the tech industry,” with three additional demands:

    1. Retire all government employees with full pensions.
    2. Transfer administrative authority to the tech industry.
    3. Appoint Eric Schmidt CEO of America.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/occupy-wall-street-leader-calls-for-googles-eric-schmidt-to-be-made-ceo-of-america-9207226.html

    And, as with most provocateurs she’s gathered a tribal following (200,000) on twitter. In an age of sound bytes I guess this is what the dumb down crowd are now calling the new intellectual. lol Dang… whatever happened to Groucho Marx, anyway!

  3. pjebleak Says:

    An accelerationist? What makes her that? She is Silicon Valley libertarian (sort of dreaming of a succession of techie futurists from governments or even becoming their own).
    Anyway, her remarks are in relation to this book: http://www.amazon.com/Troublesome-Inheritance-Genes-Human-History-ebook/dp/B00G3L7VFM/
    By Nicholas Wade, no less, and with Penguin so nothing too kooky. But yes, he touches on very sensitive racial subjects. So it’s not entirely out of nowhere that she has said this. Like she has not just went all racist like the rancher or whatever. I’m pretty disinterested in these questions so I can’t contextualize beyond that (I’ve just seen it on Twitter enough to know it’s a thing).
    She has definitely not, however, been committed to the big L, Left for a long, long time anyway and her Occupy history is deployed by her almost like it was an advertisement for her talents. She’s still got some soft liberal tendencies maybe, they believe in economic justice too, but I wouldn’t consider her too cynically. I think she’s a sincere believer in something. I’m just not sure she’s quite sure what it is yet (the future? skynet? california goes into space?)

  4. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I don’t care whether she’s an Accelerationist or not, honestly. And I also don’t care where she got her dumb racist ideas — having read them in a book doesn’t make them less dumb or less racist.

  5. pjebleak Says:

    That’s great. I don’t care about many things, but that don’t mean I can call them whatever I want.

    As for the dumbness of her racism my point is that it’s closer to Steven Pinker, Jews have high IQs, genetic difference is diversity and beautiful, etc., etc., (and good) she even says says in one tweet. She’s clearly mixed up. Just trying to point to where she seems to get betting the stuff.

    Her remarks about Africans seem to have disappeared.

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’ve edited the post accordingly.

    Being mixed up is one thing, but responding to valid criticism with “man, you guys will never achieve anything being so critical” is… I don’t know, “fucked” up?

  7. pjebleak Says:

    Thanks. I’m just being prickly (and pointlessly) since I am not an accelerationist. She is all over the map for sure. I mean the only reason to follow her is for entertainment purposes (or, as you have done, to show what happens when someone runs from left to right super quick).

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    This is a safe space for being pointlessly prickly.

  9. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Perhaps names don’t mean anything, but she’s an acclerationist in so far as she thinks we need to take control from nature and the best way to do that is through big tech, a revised state built around tech, and an emphasis on unleashing the powers of capitalism. It probably doesn’t matter, but if Nick Land is an accelerationist than those Silicon Valley assholes are probably a species of it the genus. Or perhaps accelerationism is a species of some other genus, I had assumed it was the one way, but it could be the other.

    Her racism, regardless of your interest in it or not, is still idiotic and pseudo-scientific (as is Pinker’s, as is Charles Murray’s). The whole biodiversity element of popular racist discourse and of the more fringe neoreactionary stuff is a bizarre form of scientific illiteracy driven by scientism. The fact that so-called “scientific racism” is making a come back is highly disturbing to me.

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    How did you get started following her in the first place, Anthony?

  11. pjebleak Says:

    I can get on board with that. She’s not one of the accelerationist crew, but there are plenty of similarities (I guess they being left and her now right). I think what you say in the rest is something I’ve been musing on too…the taxonomy is confusing as all hell. I’ve been enjoying my return to Twitter because I have no idea what anyone is anymore.
    Regarding the racism I meant of no interest to me in terms of I’m not intending to spend my time looking into what they are talking about. Not to downplay that it may become a thing in the future.


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