Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him.

We get the term “postmodern,” at least in its current, philosophical sense, from the title of Jean-François Lyotard’s 1979 book, “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.” It described the state of our era by building out Lyotard’s observations that society was becoming a “consumer society,” a “media society” and a “postindustrial society,” as postmodern theorist Fredric Jameson points out in his foreword to Lyotard’s book. Lyotard saw these large-scale shifts as game-changers for art, science and the broader question of how we know what we know. This was a diagnosis, not a political outcome that he and other postmodernist theorists agitated to bring about.

.. Jacques Derrida’s concept of “deconstruction” sought to understand language as a system capable of constantly hiding and deferring meaning, rather than a simple conduit for conveying it.
Another thinker, Jean Baudrillard, developed the concept of the “simulacrum,” a copy without an original, that leads to the “hyperreal,” a collection of signs or images purporting to represent something that actually exists (such as photos of wartime combat) but ultimately portraying a wild distortion not drawn from reality.
.. By the 1980s, conservative scholars like Allan Bloom — author of the influential “The Closing of the American Mind” — challenged postmodern theorists, not necessarily for their diagnosis of the postmodern condition but for accepting that condition as inevitable.
.. Unlike so many of today’s critics, Bloom understood that postmodernism didn’t emerge simply from the pet theories of wayward English professors. Instead, he saw it as a cultural moment brought on by forces greater than the university.
.. Bloom was particularly worried about students — as reflections of society at large — pursuing commercial interests above truth or wisdom. Describing what he saw as the insidious influence of pop music, Bloom lamented “parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it.” He called the rock music industry “perfect capitalism, supplying to demand and helping create it,” with “all the moral dignity of drug trafficking.”
.. Kimball called “Tenured Radicals,” in his 1990 polemic against the academic left. At the heart of this accusation is the tendency to treat postmodernism as a form of left-wing politics — with its own set of tenets — rather than as a broader cultural moment that left-wing academics diagnosed.
.. it treats Lyotard and his fellows as proponents of a world where objective truth loses all value, rather than analysts who wanted to explain why this had already happened.
.. If you’re going to claim that Trumpism and alt-right relativism are consequences of the academic left’s supposition about what was happening, you must demonstrate a causal link. But commentators looking to trace these roots play so fast and loose with causality that they could easily be called postmodernist themselves.
.. It is certainly correct that today’s populist right employs relativistic arguments: For example, “identity politics” is bad when embraced by people of color, but “identitarianism” — white-nationalist identity politics — is good and necessary for white “survival.” But simply because this happens after postmodernism doesn’t mean it happens because of postmodernism
.. figures such as “intelligent design” theorist Phillip Johnson and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich cite the influence of postmodernist theory on their projects. Yet, as McIntyre acknowledges — and documents extensively in his book — right-wing think tanks and corporate-backed fronts — like tobacco industry “research” — had already established an “alternative facts” program for the right, long before creative misinformation entrepreneurs came around.
.. because reading postmodern theory is so notoriously difficult — partly because of how philosophical jargon gets translated, and partly because so much of the writing is abstruse and occasionally unclarifiable — an undergraduate (as in Cernovich’s case) or a layperson will almost inevitably come away with misreadings.
.. Hannah Arendt’s 1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism”: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction . . . and the distinction between true and false . . . no longer exist.” 
.. “The deliberate falsehood and the outright lie used as legitimate means to achieve political ends,” writes Arendt in her 1971 essay “Lying in Politics ,” “have been with us since the beginning of recorded history.”
.. Fredric Jameson’s reflections on conspiracy theory (“the poor person’s cognitive mapping in the postmodern age”) aren’t what’s convincing people to believe that climate change is a hoax or that the Democratic Party has been running a pedophilia ring out of a Washington pizza parlor.

.. Likewise, the claim that the Trump-Russia investigation is — as Trump said on national television — a “made-up story,” an “excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election,” is not a postmodernist critique of the evidence the Mueller investigation has gathered. So it’s a massive category error to call Trump’s post-truth politics “postmodernist.” It’s just the say-anything chicanery of the old-fashioned sales pitch.

.. it’s clear that the real enemy of truth is not postmodernism but propaganda, the active distortion of truth for political purposes.
Trumpism practices this form of distortion on a daily basis. The postmodernist theorists we vilify did not cause this; they’ve actually given us a framework to understand precisely how falsehood can masquerade as truth.

The Jordan Peterson Demographic Isn’t Going Away

the glib elite consensus is that because American men are born with a head start, dominate the upper ranks of the country’s major institutions, and don’t face any particular challenges, life should be easy for us. Do the men who dropped out of high school need to be “convinced” that this isn’t true? What about the men whose friends are suffering from drug addiction, or who are addicted themselves? The men with no job prospects, no social capital, and no hope of finding a life partner? When Carlson pointed out, correctly, in the first entry of the series that American men are increasingly dropping out of school, addicted to drugs, falling out of the job market, committing crimes, and killing themselves, it wasn’t an exercise in persuasion. Carlson’s target audience doesn’t need him to “convince” them that their lives have gone awry; they know it already.

.. What Carlson was actually doing in “Men in America,” which concluded last week, was offering his version of an explanation of why conditions are dreadful for so many American men. He blamed a combination of

immigration,

automation,

second-wave feminism,

the vilification of traditional masculinity, and

certain ill-advised government programs

.. For whether or not he’s right about the reasons why men are facing hard times, Carlson is surely right that they are. Meanwhile, his critics, in a representative stand-in for polite progressive opinion, were content to mock or deny the existence of this state of affairs rather than take a stab at offering an alternative explanation for its causes.

.. Elliot Kaufman calls the Jordan Peterson demographic: men in their late teens, twenties, and early thirties who are frustrated with the way their lives are going, often for good reason, and eager for someone to recognize their plight and offer a way out

.. the Peterson phenomenon; the writer Park MacDougald describes his message thus:

Life is hard, you will suffer, and in order to handle that suffering, you will have to be prepared. Preparing means taking responsibility for yourself. That’s hard, too, so you may try to avoid it. You may use all manner of evasions and rationalizations to convince yourself that things will sort themselves out on their own, or that others will bail you out, or that if they don’t, it’s their fault and not yours. But that’s a lie. So stop lying. Accept responsibility for your fate.

..  “Peterson has become a celebrity by telling young people to get their act together, which suggests that there are a lot of them who need to hear it.”

.. one of Peterson’s virtues is that he appeals to men who have fallen out of society — those “not in education, employment, or training” — who might otherwise wind up in fringe movements.

.. Angela Nagle who, in her book about the Internet culture wars, posited a connection between the “growing celibacy among a large male population,” the “anxiety and anger about their low-ranking status in the hierarchy” that such persistent sexual frustration engenders, and the mushrooming of the so-called alt-right in 2016.

.. Peterson appeals to the same folks, but scorns the identitarian movement that has captured many of them.

..  to the extent that Peterson’s rise has drained support for cranks, there’s a strong case that in consequentialist terms it has been a good thing.

.. And, as the dismissive criticisms of Peterson and Carlson show, the Left has little on offer for young men save for a choice between self-abnegation and enduring slurs about sins of the past. Peterson is on to something: They could use a sustained dose of the insights they used to get from tough-minded teachers, coaches, clerics, professors, or drill sergeants. Many of the institutions represented by those stalwart role models, however, have decayed.

.. nobody should be blamed for feeling ambivalent that Fox News’ most cynical host is chief among them. Carlson’s career has been an exercise in switching convictions. His decision to pivot toward Peterson is intended to grow his rapt audience, not promote his sincerely held beliefs. He’s a shrewd actor and savvy businessman, not a responsible thinker.

.. Rather than grousing that the wrong people are reaching out to this demographic, it would be more productive to think honestly about why the demographic exists at all.

How Hungary Became a Haven for the Alt-Right

The increasingly illiberal European country offers shelter to a growing number of international nationalists.

.. Orbán’s “refugees” have been moving to Hungary, and Budapest in particular, for years. A small clique of Identitarians, or aggrieved nationalists from Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and elsewhere, all motivated by their disdain for their home countries’ commitment to liberal values, have found an ideological match in his Hungary, where two extreme far-right parties, the governing Fidesz and Jobbik, the largest opposition party, make up most of the National Assembly.

Jobbik is the first European political party to champion a border wall. Its members frequently express open anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiments, and prioritize the preservation of “Hungary for the Hungarians.

.. they have created a structured propaganda circuit, in the hopes of spreading their ideas far and wide.

.. At the center of the scene is a publishing house called Arktos Media. It is routinely referred to as the preeminent publisher of the alt-right

.. Dugin’s “ethnonationalism,” a belief in the creation of ethnically homogenous nation states, has been championed by white nationalists, who argue that Europe and America are innately white nations.

.. Arktos titles largely promote a viewpoint it characterizes as “alternatives to modernity” that are critical of liberalism, human rights, and modern democracy.

 .. he argues that multiculturalism and liberal human rights—what he calls “cultural Marxism”—have been the dominant culture since the fall of Nazism, and outlines how transforming this culture space is necessary for political and social change.
.. In 2014, Jobbik’s popularity surged, thanks to a platform that pledged to preserve Hungarian ethnic purity.
.. These are people with an almost medieval view on the world and they find a safe haven in Hungary,” Kréko told me.
.. multiculturalism is the supreme enemy
.. Both believe in draconian immigration laws based on ethnic and racial preservation.
.. 20th-century intellectual fascist Julius Evola’s A Handbook For Right-Wing Youth
.. Evola, who White House chief strategist Steve Bannon quoted in a 2014 speech at the Vatican, is considered by academics as “possibly the most important intellectual figure for the Radical Right in contemporary Europe.”

.. Marton Gyöngyösi, another key politician in Jobbik credited with calling for all Jews in Hungary to be registered on a list.
.. Jobbik’s resistance to immigration, he said, is limited to people from “Africa or the Middle East,” because they do not share the same “cultural values” as Hungarians, as opposed to the “Austrians or Polish or American people who come to our country and who share the same civilization, the same religion, or the same values or way of life.”
.. Friberg has sought to obscure his violent transgressions under a cover of intellectual legitimacy.
.. He has spent his far-right career repackaging eugenicist ideology by rebranding the same or similar material with words such as “identitarian,” “traditionalist,” or “archeofuturist.”
.. Michael Polignano, co-founder of Counter-Currents, moved to Budapest in 2016, and joined the nationalist scene. After moving to Hungary in January 2017, men’s rights activist Matt Forney wrote:
“Imagine there’s no leftists. It’s easy if you try. No protests in the streets, and in front of us, only cute white girls. That world exists, and it’s called Hungary.”
.. YouTube and Twitter personality RamZPaul, who has lived in the Hungarian capital off and on since 2013, tweeted in February to nearly 35,000 followers: “Budapest is like Paris of the 1920s. #Hungary.”
.. British Nationalist Party leader Nick Griffin .. has been deeply involved with a radical Christian organization called “The Knights Templar International,”
.. a resettlement campaign called “Operation Ark” for “refugee” South African Boers to relocate to rural Hungary
.. Breitbart is now rumored to be opening a Hungarian office in the near future
.. these nationalist internationals are creating a sanctuary from which to broadcast anti-globalism across the globe.