Report from Inside the Bubble
By not seeing his own blind-spots, James Pogue Unintentionally Makes the Case for the New Right
By way of introduction, let me state that I plan on using this substack as a kind of “one stop shop” for my nonfiction writings. I had intended to use this place to review books and articles, but decided my first post would be a review of a rather distasteful piece in Vanity Fair, that was so lacking in self-awareness it cried out for a response. Dear reader, I hope you enjoy what follows.
Were I to give my honest opinion of contemporary journalists I would be banned not only from Substack, but from all of polite society. So, I shall—with the utmost politeness— suggest that our journalists quit their jobs and obtain a much more honest line of work. Being a barker at a carnival would be a more serious and entertaining way of making money that might fit their alleged talents better. It would be certain to improve the human condition if they renounced their imitation of Lewis Prothero and did something that improved society.
We know journalists are a group of mentally ill, sexually frustrated gremlins. Perhaps we ought to pity that group of people, rather than despise them as I tend to do. After all, sometimes they are unintentionally hilarious as I was reminded by a recent story in Vanity Fair.
In a article titled “Free Radicals” James Pogue raises a number of socio-cultural issues he’s not quite intellectually capable of answering. Nevertheless, he manages to raise certain ideas to the fore while missing many, key points. Most fascinating is his description of what his subjects call “the regime,” and how bizarre and erratic such talk must sound to those not steeped in far-right culture. I cannot help but note the tone-deafness of his approach. Like almost all the reprehensible members of his class (i.e. journalists) he cannot comprehend the sort of socio-cultural bubble in which he lives, nor how it differs from normal people’s interpretation of reality. Pogue is a sniveling stenographer for the very regime whose existence he can’t quite bring himself to recognize. But performing a thorough examination of such topics would require a number of essays. Let us stick with the topic at hand and how Pogue fails to understand his class in society.
The topic at hand is this: What is the relationship between modern-day Conservatism and intellectualism?
First, let’s begin by noting how Pogue’s analysis goes against the grain of a great deal of data. There is good evidence that the increasingly populist movement on the Right is made up of “regular” Americans and is opposed at all levels by our elite. Further, there is strong evidence—compiled by my favorite, political commentator Richard Hanania—that Conservatives watch television and Youtube more than they read news. One gets the idea that the populist Right has had a brain-drain of sorts. But this is not how Pogue sees things.
“[J. D.] Vance and this New Right cohort, who are mostly so, so highly educated and well-read that their big problem often seems to be that they're just too nerdy to be an effective force in mass politics, are not anti-intellectual,” Pogue writes. The New Rightists he encounters are, well, just geeks that love political theory too much to achieve their goals. It’s not clear that Pogue understands this, but the educated are always more likely to be in the driver’s seat of any political movement. Indeed, in the “Hidden Tribes” website Sociological research has shown that the two political extremes— “Devoted Conservatives” and “Progressive Activists”—are much more educated than the average American. Both groups are more likely to be White, college-educated and report higher degrees of security. (I would suggest readers take the Hidden Tribes quiz to discover more about where they fall on the political spectrum. It may help them avoid the pitfalls Pogue can’t seem to realize he’s walked into.) Pogue’s observations are nothing spectacular. Indeed they are quite predictable. But his attempt to paint the New Right as a heady haven for dorks is part of a larger agenda: to make the New Right seem bizarre and out of touch with reality. He writes:
Part of why people have trouble describing this New Right is because it's a bunch of people who believe that the system that organizes our society and government, which most of us think of as normal, is actually bizarre and insane. Which naturally makes them look bizarre and insane to people who think this system is normal. You'll hear these people talk about our globalized consumerist society as "clown world." You'll often hear the worldview expressed by our media and intellectual class described as "the matrix" or the "Ministry of Truth," as Thiel described it in his opening keynote speech to NatCon.[...] This is not a conspiracy theory like QAnon, which presupposes that there are systems of power at work that normal people don't see. This is an idea that the people who work in our systems of power are so obtuse that they can't even see that they're part of a conspiracy.
Now, it is fascinating to me that Pogue describes the New Right in this manner. I should note that, with slightly differing subject matter, this would be a description of the way in which the Woke Left views the world.
In their excellent book Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race Gender and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody Dr. James Lindsey and Helen Pluckrose examine the contents of Woke ideology that stem from Postmodernist thought. Unlike, classical (or “vulgar”) Marxism that posited a Bourgeoisie elite that often consciously looked after it’s own economic interests and exploited the proles at the bottom—in other words, a vertical hierarchy with a clearly defined elite at the top and mass of proletariats at the bottom in a pyramidal structure—the Woke (or “Neo-Marxists) hold a slightly different view of power and oppression. Instead of a clearly defined, socio-economic elite that asserts its will upon the masses, the Woke hold that everyone in all economic strata take part in oppressing others. (Without going into great detail—which would take several essays—I will recommend Dr. Lindsey and Pluckrose’s book, and encourage readers to look into Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of “intersectionality” to fully grasp this next part.) Instead of a pyramid of oppression with the Bourgeoisie at the top, picture a grid in which we all oppress one another and enable oppression in one another (often without being conscious of our doing so). Hence, the Woke believe we are all harboring racist, sexist, ablest, homophobic and transphobic ideas (usually in an unconscious manner) and these deeply-held (and I should add without rolling my eyes) often empirically undetectable forms of bigotry lead to the socio-economic and psychological disparities between groups. In other words, the Woke do not posit a conscious conspiracy of old, White men oppressing People of Color (POC), women, homosexuals, transgender folk, etc. but posit a kind of “unconscious conspiracy” where those who hold power (e. g. heterosexual, White men) oppress others without even quite realizing it. (I could, of course, go into more detail. But that would consist of a book, not an essay. So, I suggest researching Foucault’s theories of the relationship between “Power and Language” to come to a more complete view of things.)
In a similar vein, the New Right posits a “regime,” a “Cathedral” in which members of society unconsciously do the will of unseen (and usually Leftist) forces in society. In this view of things, Christians, Whites (especially White men) men, and those opposed to mainstream COVID narratives are undermined, censored and despised by those in power. Yet, Pogue never sees the connection. In fact, he reinforces the notion—without a hint of irony!—that he is part of that regime, that class of people who live in what the Libertarian Social Scientist Charles Murray called a “bubble,” of socio-economic privileges and ignorance, and who are filled with fear and disdain at those who don’t fit into their view of things. Rather than try to understand his subjects beyond a few bar-room conversations, Pogue injects left-wing criticism of law enforcement into the conversation:
But for all the chatter of looming dystopia, no one I spoke to raised one of the most dystopian aspects of American life: our vast apparatus of prisons and policing. Most people seemed more caught up in fighting what they perceived as the cant and groupthink among other members of the political media class, or the hypocrisy of rich white liberals who put up Black Lives Matter signs in front of multimillion-dollar homes, than they were with the raw experience that has given shape to America's current racial politics.
It’s fascinating that Pogue takes the opportunity to chastise police rather than talk about the fact that crime is soaring in America, and that our police and prison systems may be more necessary than ever. But never fear. Mr. Pogue informs us elsewhere that he lives in a ritzy, Los Angeles neighborhood (and runs a charming plant nursery) no doubt next to other elitists and far from those awful, nerdy New Right people who live in fly-over places like rural Ohio. One wonders if our underclass experiences crime in a, ahem, different manner than the type of people who live in Mr. Pogue’s neighborhood. With this in mind, it’s not surprising he views crime and prison in the out-of-touch fashion he does. But what do the average, White working class folk in a place like Celina know about prison policy? Why, they haven’t been described as a “brilliant young Southern writer” by Oxford American, I’ll have you know!
Indeed, it would have been fascinating if Pogue had asked one of the New Rightists their thoughts on prisons and policing, as many in the far-Right despise the police and see them as enforcers of Left-wing ideas. (If you doubt this, ask a member of the far Right about the police response to COVID, the arrests made on Jan. 6th or Law enforcement’s “taking a knee” during the George Floyd protests.) It might have been another instance where left and right might agree. Instead, Pogue lectures his audience with Woke Boilerplate. This would appear to confirm rather than challenge the New Right notion that an elite journalist at an elite publication like Vanity Fair (read mostly by educated Liberals) is, indeed, part of the very regime which he can’t bring himself to see.
I could go on, but this essay of mine is long enough, and it’s time that I cast this paper airplane into the wind to see how it works as first post. That, and the topics Pogue unintentionally raises would carry into several more essays which I hope to devote time too later.
For now, I’ll leave Pogue with some hope. Today is the first day of the Los Angeles County Fair—right in Mr. Pogue’s back yard. It’s not too late for him to get an honest job. In this economy, somebody’s got to be hiring clowns.
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