Friday, 30 June 2017

Facebook & Arbitrary Power

"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many - they are few."

Facebook has just proved itself to be an idiot again - or rather its algorithms have proved idiotic. Its guidelines on 'nudity' (a particular cultural neurosis emanating from the dark recesses of American disgust with the otherwise perfectly natural human body) are actually crystal clear that if an 'artist' paints a nude, then it is somehow just dandy.

This is, of course,  a concession to the nonsensical idea that, for some romantic reason, artists can represent safely what is not permitted in the real world. However, those are the guidelines - no nudity (except for a political concession to breast feeding mothers) unless it is art and then it is permitted. Let us be clear - if it is an artistic representation, it is expressly permitted.

In this particular case, I posted, in a Closed Group dedicated to art and with members who are all invited adults, a picture by the mid-level baroque female painter Artemisia Gentileschi, somewhat of a feminist icon. Indeed, I have the cynical notion that Facebook only backed down when I threatened to set the feminists on it for blocking their heroine, one of the few female artists to 'make it' in the seventeenth century - actually a fairly average and over-hyped artist.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, not only did their moronic algorithm not recognise a work of art and blocked it but the operation did something unconscionable - it arbitrarily halted me from posting anything and anywhere for 24 hours. It gets worse by the way, but wait for the end on that one.

My response was immediate, aggressive and utterly contemptuous. They got a message on their help desk every five minutes for two hours pointing out the idiocy of the blocking with a one hour twitter campaign of direct contempt for their inability a) to recognise art and b) to understand their own guidelines as well as an expression through every means of direct anger and outrage that they should arbitrarily block anyone for 24 hours rather than just block something that their idiot algorithm could not recognise as a rather unerotic bit of baroque flummery.

The net result was that the block on my posting was lifted within six rather 24 hours and the picture was restored but my contempt for this arbitrary act and algorithmic stupidity has returned me to my high level of distrust for Facebook that had existed some three or four years ago when they suspended my account without adequate cause and were forced to relent after another time-wasting and determined twitter campaign and complaints to the regulatory authorities in Ireland. At least this time, it was a matter of hours and not months!

But then they blundered again. This time in a way that is almost comical. I made it clear to two Groups that I would no longer be posting on them as a mode of resistance to self censorship but also to preseve rights that now seemed to threaten my right to post in some 15 or so others of an educational nature.

A debate ensued in which a bit of consciousnes was raised about Facebook's arbitrary power and then I commented on another sixteenth century Northern Renaissance nude, posted in the past where others saw 'attachment unavailable'. In other words, Facebook had arbitrarily stopped others from seeing it without giving me fair warning of why this was so. When I commented on it, the result was that the algorithm stupidly marked this art work (well within Facebook's guidelines) as problematic and, yes, in another arbitrary act, banned me from posting for another 24 hours. There is a moron out there, either a programmer or an AI.

Facebook needs to understand that it has every right to set the rules for its platform but there are two things it cannot do. First, it cannot breach its own guidelines - those guidelines give a rather silly priority to art but that commitment to permit art must be met. Second, blocking a picture may be unfortunate and immature but it is permissible within those guidelines. However, it is outrageous that it can behave like a medieval despot and remove posting rights and make threats of loss of account on any basis, let alone a breach of its own guidelines. Body neurosis is tiresome - it shows a weak and decadent culture incapable of standing up for maturity. It also evidences an even more tiresome American cultural imperialism. But this weird thing about Art/Good and Body/Bad remains Facebook's privilege. Arbitrary incompetence or algorithmic malice does not.

What is really disturbing here is something much deeper. Because of its administrative errors, my digital existence is being put at threat because these blunders are inexorably leading to my own digital arbitrary execution.  

The Debate on the Art Group during the brief period when I had access to posting was instructive because Facebook's acts are raising a sort of 'revolutionary consciousness' through its arbitrary acts which have not just affected me. It is a sinister algorithmic attempt at socialisation that is going very badly wrong.

I do not accept defeat but I recognise the reality of power which is that Facebook, if I persist, can remove, in an arbitrary way, my entire six year Facebook ouevre comprising engagement in over 15 groups and with nearly 400 Friends and 160 Followers. In other words, Facebook, like a despotic ancien regime estate, can execute me in the digital world on the whim of one of its own aristocratic algorithms. It is as decadent, corrupt and villainous as any ancien regime. 

So what does a rebel do? He does, as Churchill points out, like any oppressed peasantry take to the hills ... or he engages in guerrilla activity or he emigrates or he gets educated and plots or he engages in a calculated 'dumb insubordination' and 'go slow' or he raises the next generation to understand power and eventually seize it. Or all of those as circumstances dictate. The understanding of power is a fine art - first one must know one's powerlessnes (which few really appreciate) and then one must know the power of the powerless (as Foucault pointed out) in its insidious ability to destroy its oppressor. Eventually conditions change and there is a revolution against arbitrary power.

Every arbitrary act by the ancien regime increases resentment and eventually the heads of the aristocrats roll, eventually humanity will command these AI-driven platforms by revolutionary fiat. I engaged the platform in struggle and temporarily won the 'pay rise' to which I was owed anyway but the power relationship has not changed and the capitalist may still fire me at will when conditions change. He may have put me on a blacklist. Indeed, that is what happened. Within hours of the first suspension, I got 'locked out' again with the suspicion that I am a 'marked man'

I can engage in an idle and short term trades union reformism or I can take the revolutionary route and plan for the long game - the utter overthrow of the arbitrary regime and its replacement by a dictatorship of the subjects! The Art Group remains - it just does not have me posting. It is for others to carry on the revolution in the factory. Better to die on your feet than live in fear on your knees so off to the hills I go with mental kalashnikov in my fist. My investment elsewhere is too valuable in the revolutionary cause and there is nothing they can do about that except 'kill' me. And, if they kill me, others will arise to protest their arbitrary power. My very small amount of power has been redirected with more force. The only thing I can hope is that I have raised the revolutionary consciousness of my own fellow Facebook proletariat.

What is going on here? I think Facebook is running scared of legislation from an equally neurotic government structure and is trying out algorithms that restrict and contain us, all on the spurious grounds of protecting us. The platform is weak and governments are oppressive and, between them, we could be but nuts in their nutcracker. The answer is simple as it is to all arbitrary power - expose it, fight it and apportion blame where it is due: in this case, cowardly and greedy unchecked corporate power and weak and oppressive states. We must never be the nuts ... the nut cracker must be broken, and we should be allowed to grow into great oaks.

Appendix: My Protest At The Second Suspension

To Facebook

I cannot believe your stupidity or is it the stupidity of your algorithms. Yesterday, you suspended me for 24 hours on a seventeenth century artwork which met your guidelines. Six hours later you restored me. I commented on 'old' posting of a sixteenth century artwork (well within your guidelines) this morning and you suspended me again for 24 hours. Now I fear that your algorithms are marking me out for account loss on your idiot mistakes.

This really is not acceptable. I want the painting restored. I want the 24 hour suspension lifted. I want my algorithm corrected to remove all references to these arbitrary actions outside your guidelines.

If this is not done clearly and quickly, I will do the following: I shall write to the regulatory authorities and to my elected representative (who is a member of a minority government putting datas regulation through Parliament); I will produce a blog posting on your failures which I shall circulate widely; and you will have a Twitter reference every ten minutes for as long as it takes.

This is an absolute outrage - two blunders in 24 hours against your own guidelines with arbitrary and unjustified attacks on service provision.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Very Personal Conclusion About Recent Events

Position Reserved, at various times, has been an outlet for exploring a variety of cultural and political issues of interest to me as well as a means of putting my case and the facts in controversial areas where the mainstream media have failed to 'get it right'. I am, with perhaps just very rare future interventions 'for the record', reducing activity, not only because of pressure of work but also because I may have run out of things to say in public. This posting says most of what I have left to say until the world changes again: then my opinions may have to change in response. From now on, you are likely to get only very rare personal ruminations as the mood takes me, maybe odd discussions of obscure academic papers that don't fit with my Goodreads account or anywhere else and, of course, statements of fact if some malign media half-wit decides to have another go at me.

There are three great lessons learned from several years of writing these posts.

First, that search for some special meaning in the world is pretty futile. The world is as it is. It should be understood just as it is. This is not simply a matter of having a prejudice towards science but having an essential scepticism towards all human narratives. The questions have always to be - who invented the narrative and for what purpose and who is using the narrative and why as well as whether a narrative is true. Truth is a sticky issue. Many facts are not recoverable. All facts are interpretable. A moderate scepticism about all stories we tell ourselves, while understanding that narratives are still necessary for society to function, is the way forward.

The end game is thus detachment but with a degree of compassion for peoples' need to tell stories and a decision somewhere along the line to construct a workable but flexible story for oneself that best accords with the facts of one's condition in life. In my case, my narrative is rather workaday. Having exhausted most evenues surrounding the magical and the spiritual and the ideological, I am really perfectly happy just to go with the flow now and maintain an ethic of civilised survival. My core values are what they always were - a mish-mash of existentialism, libertarianism and basic compassion for the weakest and most troubled.

Second, the melange of social narratives criss-crossing our culture and competing with each other have now gone beyond a joke. It is easy to condemn the dreamers and ideologues as stupid but even the most formally intelligent seem to have extended their psychological flaws and preferences into complex systems and structures that seek to bend reality to their will. There is nothing more deviantly sinister than the human ego that denies that it is an ego. Again, detachment and a determination to stand one's ground with one's own story, while being questioning about its own validity against the facts, is easily the best stance. Social existence is a brutal struggle within a framework of accepted conventions and order and it should be seen as such. It cannot be otherwise and those looking for reason and perfection are doomed to disappointment.  Two areas of recent life brought this into focus.

The Exaro experience, whether good or bad in the sum, demonstrated the degree to which power manipulates narrative. The conduct of the mainstream media in this matter made me understand, without condoning, the resistance of populists to the claim that their propagandistic fake news was actually any worse than the constant devious manipulation of the MSM. It often struck me that the MSM's real gripe with Trump was that he was exposing their monopoly of falsehoods by simply making what they do subtly be done more crassly.

Fortunately the internet permits the individual to challenge the MSM on the record (which is what I have done on several occasions) knowing that, while the exercise is rather futile, the bulk of MSM coverage is equally transient and distrusted by anyone with half a brain. At least there are now many voices telling half-truths and porkie pies rather than just a few with presumed authority - that is progress of a sort since the detached observer can now compare far more narratives and then use their judgment to come up with some rough approximation of reality.Admittedly, most apparently highly educated people seem to have a problem with their judging faculty but, hey (as Tony Blair used to say), you can't have everything.

The second area of interest was and remains transhumanism which I intend to remain involved with, albeit in my classically detached way. This is a school of thought of considerable importance in translating the coming technological revolution into sets of questions that need asking and which still pass most politicians by. This community has produced creative ideas around the application of innovation like cryptocurrencies and technologies like automation. It has promoted ideas that are now being looked at by policy-makers such as Universal Basic Income. It has also created, however, some insanely apocalyptic thinking about existential risk and a quasi-religious narrative that can make practical men like me cringe with embarrassment.

And why? Because too many of the enthusiastic nerds and engineers involved still read too much science fiction and find themselves driven by their own extrapolations and weak understanding of 'really existing humans' rather by any understanding of social and political reality. Still, although the hysteria surrounding these communities and their often shambolic organisation is a bit depressing at times, nevertheless, these are the people throwing up all the ideas now about the possibilities for humanity, ideas that correct our stupid belief in certainties. Square the flaccid complacent folk culture of the establishment with the trans-human lunacies and you might yet get to see a pathway to understanding future probabilities.

Finally, there is politics. Oh my God, politics! This has become the art of posturing one's story as if your powerlessness mattered, at least as far as most social media discourse is concerned. Most people simply do not understand the nature of power and how to use it. They cannot accept that simply having strong opinions is too often just posturing that expresses psychological anxieties or is a primitive demand for respect in the ape-like world of social competition yet moves the world not one jot forward. We all have opinions but few of us truly understand where power actually lies, when and where we can make some small difference and how acquiring more power by its very nature shapes us into the victims of our own wielding of it if we are not aware of what is happening to us. We all need to make positive decisions on how to use the little power that we have effectively and with full understanding of probable consequences.

I have come to the view that politics must be treated either as a cynical game played by moral inadequates (which is not to my taste) or be considered as an expression of core sentiments and values, beyond conventional morality, where one chooses rationally to see through the expression of our prejudices according to the power that one actually has. There are people out there who we should not want to have any power because of their intrinsic irrationalities and cruelties. Representative national democracy still strikes me as the best means of keeping these wolves off our backs even if our representatives are deeply flawed and not always the sharpest tools in the box.

Most people's values are rarely thought about, contradictory and situational but they do make up who we are and democracy squares millions of confused world views into something broadly consensual. Reforming the machinery of it all (as liberal nerds want to do) is less important than reforming the informations flows and education that enable people to make better judgments in their own interest and according to their own values. Even sociopaths have rights in this respect if only to balance out those dangerous radical empaths who think so much of themselves. To cut the posturing, I certainly put the economic and personal survival of myself and my immediate family first and anyone who doesn't do the same is already probably someone who needs to be kept an eye on.

Beyond that, I have a hierarchy of values which include the general sanctity of life (a Catholic upbringing), a loathing of bullying and sympathy for the underdog, a gut patriotism for soil though not blood, a distaste for people who break promises without clear explanation, a distaste for the use of secrecy to gain advantage and a prejudice against all forms of abstract universalism. There is also a belief in the benefit of pragmatic non-ideological flexibility that permits opinions and actions to change easily with new information. Part of that pragmatism is that you cannot take on the burdens of the world ... concern should start with the self and work outwards through concentric circles lest one become the sort of humanitarian Napoleon who destroys the world in order to save it. Much liberal universalism strikes me as being derived from immaturity and anxiety in weakly formed selves who are unable to build an independent existence outside the group-think of the ideologically like-minded.

I also seem to have been surrounded, through Brexit and recent political events, by many people who have taken what values they have out of their mental box but then constructed rigid systems from them that seem not only completely out of kilter with the facts but drives them to believe that things could be as they never can be. This is the idiotic politics of naive idealism, wide-eyed hope that almost always presages great cruelties and incompetencies. It is compounded by the hysteria of the media whose interpretative and analytical skills are barely existent in the drive to tell stories thoroughly detached from reality. Reading the FT on Brexit is watching a sort of cultural oozalum bird in full flight. Watching the BBC is like watching a rather confused old dear try to deal with the i-phone someone gave them for Christmas. Reading the Daily Mail is like being cornered by a perpectually snarling mad dog.

Over the last few years, I have decided that I don't really like people who don't have clear values (I have no problem with people whose core values are not mine) and who cover up their feelings with ideology and pretence. I have removed them quietly and without rancour from my social circle as intrinsically rather stupid and boring. Those who cover their class interest or personal interest with a coating of emotional idealism, whether it be their stake in the NGO industry or their interest in cheap labour to keep their fluffy businesses going, are perhaps the ones who most exhibit 'mauvaise faux'. Unfashionably, I still have an admiration for people who can put personal material interest second to personal values and I always prefer the ruthless materialist who knows that he is a ruthless materialist to the self-deluding clown who pretends they are not.

My own ideological positions are simple, pragmatic and contingent - for Brexit, for an intelligent democratic socialism (which, in my opinion, is only possible under conditions where sovereign democratic nation states can be abstracted from regulatory empires) and then for strong national defence directed at peace. War should be the ruthless defence of the homeland and never more. But even these are flexible positions. Brexit is a necessity for example but I see no reason why it should require a primitive and inflexible nationalism. I would go with the Corbyn-McDonnell approach if I trusted the Labour Party more, while I see no inflexible nationalism in the Johnson-Gove position. In other words, once Brexit is decided (as it has been), there is every reason to go with the flow of national consensus (which actually there is, despite the whining of Remoaners and the posturing of the Populists) and then and only then engage in struggle over whether it is to be a Brexit for Labour or a Brexit for Capital. The behaviour of Remainers is now a national embarrassment.

The same apples to democratic socialism. My heart is very much with Corbyn and McDonnell and I find myself cheering much of their speeches but then I look at the detail and sometimes blanch. The aspirations are great - they are mostly my aspirations - but then I look at my own experience in international affairs and the market and I see that the populist promises currently under offer, combined with the failed ideological liberalism of the still dominant soft Left of the Party, create reasons for serious concern. Will we see a twentieth century welfarism, shorn of warfarism, that still fails to understand the massive import of the coming technological revolution, fails to lead it and misses the boat just as Globalisation 2.0 takes hold as a mix of anarcho-capitalism, strong nation states and decaying authoritarian empires? Quite possibly.

At the moment, I see little more than platitudes reminsicent of Harold Wilson's 'white heat' and a weak sub-Marxist understanding of power. At the time of writing, I feel disinclined to renew my Party Membership in September. It would be better to become, once again, truly independent and observe with my customary detachment, employing what tiny power I have very carefully in the direction of understanding and managing Globalisation 2.0 rather than granting it to a mass party of semi-educated enthusiasts whose programme seems doomed to disappoint. Once Brexit is done, one might reconsider one's position.

However, all in all, I know what I want. I want a smooth Brexit broadly along the current Government's lines. Accordingly and logically, I want a stable Tory minority Government until that is completed precisely because the PLP and Labour activist membership cannot be trusted on the issue. This does not seem compatible with Labour Party membership for the next two years or so. And then, two or three years on, I want to see a strong and stable, radicalised and intelligent Labour Party come to power with a working majority of 50 or so to implement a programme of democratic socialism better than the one we saw in the catch-all 'package of measures' Manifesto of a few weeks ago. Brexit first, a credible democratic socialism second, Globalisation 2.0 third. 


Monday, 1 May 2017

When The Facts Change ... the British Election Plays Out

I am not sure I have been so detached from a General Election in my life. Others seem to feel the same - excepting committed left wing activists who are clearly highly energised, far more than conservatives who seem to be asleep and complacent, at least on social media.

Just under two weeks ago, it seemed simple. The issue was Brexit and that meant a simple decision - to go with a Government that promised to see it through against an Opposition that could not be trusted on the issue, perhaps despite itself. Two events have shifted opinion slightly though not yet decisively.

The first is the sheer energy of the beleagured Labour Party. While everyone else is complacent or whining about things already done, Corbyn's campaign team has come out slugging in all directions on matters that are quite separate from Brexit and which should be matters of public debate regardless of our entrapment in the European political project.

This is still, frankly, mostly talking to the support base, reminding wobblers that the faith is strong but it does seem to have pushed Labour up to 30% and halted the Party's decline even if the total package is not in place and still seems incoherent. Above all, Corbyn has raised issues of austerity, public services, poverty and peace and war that a complacent Conservative Party has thought to bury under the carpet.

The second was the intervention in The Sun of the pseudo-patrician Boris Johnson who managed, in one rather ridiculous attempt at populism, to alienate in a few hundred words many natural Labour voters who were prepared to give the Tories the benefit of the doubt on the basis of May's promise of good governance in a time of crisis.

He reminded us that the Parliamentary Tory Right operated in a sub-Churchillian rhetorical world that talked down to the voter and still behaved in foreign policy matters as if the Crimean problem was no more than a re-run of Palmerston's. May's barely suppressed irritation at the intervention was no comfort because it reminded us that these fools on the Parliamentary Right would have a say on Brexit when the right message to get across was one of national unity in the face of a potential foreign threat - and I don't mean Russia!

In fact, Johnson showed to his Leader a cynical disregard of the national interest in his own interest, not even the Party's. A big majority for May allows her to dispose of him, a rather second rate politician who managed to ride the tide of history last year but who is really surplus to requirements. By making a bid for leadership of the populist Tory Right as last of the Etonians, Johnson was really trying to ensure that he remained a Big Beast in a post-Election reshuffle and was quite prepared to knock off 1-3% of May's national unity vote to do so. I hope she sends him to the back benches for that act of occult disloyalty alone.
 
But why be so detached? This is certainly the most critical election in a very long time in terms of the national interest. Perhaps because it all appears to be absurd. Perhaps because the combatants seem not to be able to rise to the occasion for all their energy (Labour) or promise of stability (Tory). The Prime Minister mounted a sort of coup against a divided and useless Opposition which has not come to terms with the events of last year but seems incapable of ensuring that the Conservative Party conveys a national interest rather than a party interest argument for office.

The Labour Party itself is just not ready for office. It is deeply unstable and may end up being the lynch pin for a coalition that would include parties I really do not like. These parties will divert the people's resources and the State into issues (green, petty nationalist and liberal) that are irrelevant to our primary concerns which are economic survival and some degree of cultural cohesion. Their presence in Government would be disastrous.

On the other hand, the Tories are about as trustworthy as the Blairites, which is tantamount to saying no more trustworthy than a rattlesnake, on a number of issues. As we have seen with Johnson and his circle of buffoons, they seem to have rapidly degenerated into the worst sort of tub-thumping militaristic foreign policy and to be utterly blind to the necessity for necessary sacrifices to be necessarily made in a fair way.

Labour does not seem to get our serious economic situation (which actually has nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with the previous Labour Government and the last lack-lustre Coalition Government). Its policies to date are a mish-mash of crowd pleasers without coherence. The Tories certainly do not get that their policies are set to create social problems that will cost more to rectify than the savings they hope to make from austerity.

Both sides are out of touch still with the country and its needs. Corbyn and Starmer have trimmed once too often. May and Hammond have no finger on the national pulse but are hoping merely to ride the general fear of instability in difficult times. The tribal loyalists on all sides may be getting very excited but what we really want is competence and, of course, stability so I am sticking to three principles for the moment:-

1. What we need as a country is not partisan stupidity, whether it comes from excitable activists or Boris Johnson, but strong Government to see us through Brexit and out the other side. Anyone seeking to limit strong Government in the hope of reversing the vote on June 23rd is giving comfort to the enemy in a tough negotiation on which all our futures depend. When Article 50 was invoked, from that day on, the EU became 'the other', our opponent. Not being able to trust a possible progressive coalition to understand this - which is actually one of choosing treachery over patriotism (there is nothing shameful in patriotism in a crisis) - is a serious barrier to voting Labour on June 8th.

2. Once Brexit is out of the way, the Tories really will need to be removed but not by a ramshackle, squabbling bunch of competing and rather dim-witted egoists. The Blairites and Hard Remainers need to be isolated and contained, the Liberals, Greens and Petty Nationalists thrust into the dustbin of history and a serious hard-edged alternative to class-based Toryism needs to develop that can seize power by democratic means in 2022. This can either be a transformed Labour Party or a New Party of the Left (since UKIP is now an obscene and destructive joke) but it has to happen or the Tories will complacently be in power for over a decade, only to be replaced by some depressing abortion of the Centre-Left carrying on the Tories' policies in muted form.

3. Theresa May and David Davis are tolerable as the caretakers in these difficult times but not so second raters like Johnson, Gove, Hammond and Fox. Moreover, even May should be tolerated only because of the need to see through Brexit. She should be challenged on her class-based politics, her Deep State militarism, her insistence on still being a poodle to Washington and the essential unfairness of her Government's approach to what should be fairly shared burdens as we adjust to new conditions. She is no more to be trusted than the Labour Party apparat that would knife Jeremy Corbyn at the drop of a hat.

So what would be the best result, knowing that such a result is not in our power and that each of us is making fine judgements on local constituency politics? In my case, Johnson has obliged me to withdraw, as a matter of honour, my planned loaned vote to our very nice and competent liberal Remainer Tory who will loyally serve his Prime Minister. It does not yet have a home to go to.

Nationally, out of my control, the best result would be a sufficient majority for the Government to be able to stand up to both Tory Remainers and Hard Brexiters alike during the process of negotiation, so long as there are no compromises on national democratic self determination, but also a relative strengthening of the Labour Party against the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Petty Nationalists (not necessarily in terms of numbers of seats but in terms of an increase in the share of the vote from the low opinion polling levels of recent weeks).

It would be good to see the Liberals wiped out, the Greens and UKIP positioned as extra-parliamentary forces and nothing else and the Petty Nationalists reduced to minority status in their own territories. It would also be good to see the balance in the PLP shift towards the Left and Corbyn secured as Leader in order to undertake the two to three year programme required to democratise the Labour Party and change its culture, with new candidates systematically in place before 2022.

By all means, given its base, the Labour Party should challenge the Tory Government throughout the Brexit process in the interests of the vulnerable and workers but it should not be so foolish as to seek to overturn the result on June 23rd or give comfort to the enemy during the negotiations. Once Brexit is out of the way, the Labour Party can surely, by then, have earned our trust as a unified national democratic socialist alternative to the decadent posturing of the current Party of the State.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Position in the Forthcoming UK Election [always subject, however, to new information]

This is going to be one of the most complicated elections to date - class and regional interests will compete with cultural priorities (as in Brexit, Scotland and Ireland) and assessments of leadership. Personally, the matter is simple. National self determination and democracy first, then socialism.

We need a strong Government to see through national independence and then we can fight over the results. I regret that Labour failed to offer a strong socialist Brexit but it didn't and it must take the consequences of that failure of nerve. The SNP, Liberal Democrats and Greens are now mere creatures of a foreign power. UKIP are behaving like morons. 

Five years of Tories (even ten) is a small price to pay for national independence. It may be a lesson to the Left in not expecting foreign bureaucrats to deliver a programme that you failed to persuade your own people to accept ... so it is a lesson also in political education and democracy as well.

Once national democratic self-determination is secured, we can get back to the business of national socialism (before the term was lost to fascists) and inter-nationalism as we used to understand it before bureaucratic federalism by nincompoops became the fashion.

Unless, of course, the Left continues to be dumb enough to be Jacobites under the Hanoverians ... in which case it deserves permanent exile and a New Left needs to arise.

Some people really do not get it - there is no socialism without democracy and there is no democracy outside the organic nation state and there is no peace in the world without organic nation states that are socialist.

But before you get to peace and socialism, you have to have the secure, organic and democratic nation state in the first place. In 1975, we had not completed the task of democratising our own country before we started handing over powers to a foreign empire - 42 years later, we can start to get back on track again.

Logically, for the first time in my life, I am going to have to vote for my nice liberal Tory in Tunbridge Wells to secure the Revolution of June 23rd and resist the devious attempt of the local Liberal Democrats to reverse a mass democratic vote in favour of a malign centralist ideology (Labour simply does not matter where we live and is staffed by Europhiles in any case).

In other constituencies, other political equations will result in other decisions (in some cases, there will be a strong argument for Labour) but at least I know where I stand - with some regret since I would much have preferred a Corbyn-led Party of the Left to rule.

But I just don't trust his Party machine nor his MPs not to undercut him and the nation and he clearly lacks the authority to command them. His and McDonnell's messages about the economy and austerity are right but meaningless without national democratic self-determination and the trimming required to retain power and keep their Party together creates profound distrust.

There are three questions to ask in each case: what effect does my vote have in my locality if I am not interested in making a mere gesture for the national totals?; is the leading candidate committed by free choice (most Tories and some Labour) to democratic national self-determination?; and, if not, who is the next best candidate committed to that core value.

So there we have it ... a necessary evil. The Left completely out-classed by the usual suspects. In the end, one goes for the candidate in each case most likely to serve the cause of democratic national self-determination both by values and by ability to win. The rest is for the future.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Trump's Bombs - An Analysis

The question today is whether the Assad Government (the use of 'regime' is a propaganda tool otherwise we would say Trump Regime or Hollande Regime, only our enemies are 'regimes') used chemical weapons in Idlib. There are five reasonable theories:

- a) it did

- b) Assad is not in control of his forces and one of his Syrian airbase commanders undertook this action without authorisation (in which case he must still take responsibility if he does not expose and remove the commander, that is, if he can),

- c) the Syrian Air Force (as the Russians once said) accidentally struck a chemical weapons dump in rebel hands (this is plausible but we have to add the possibility that the air force deliberately bombed such a dump),

- d) a chemicals dump in rebel hands was deliberately used in a false flag operation by rebels or proxies for political reasons against its own people (unfortunately this really cannot be dismissed as a possibility given what is at stake and the ruthlessness of all parties in the struggle),

- e) chemical weapons were brought into the area by an unknown group in order to create an incident or provocation for political reasons.

The truth is that we really do not know what happened and the reasons to take d) and e) seriously without accepting them as necessarily true are these:

- i) chemical weapons stocks cannot be assumed to be solely under the control of the Syrian Government nor unavailable from a range of proxy actors in the country,

- ii) all proxy actors have shown the ability to disregard civilian life in the past when it is politically useful or deemed necessary (just as much as the Government in Damascus),

- iii) proxies and their client rebels were in a desperate political situation in relation to the US Presidency increasing the motivation for a desperate acts,

- iv) the timing was totally counter-intuitive to Syrian state interests to the extent that option a) above is almost certainly irrational: Damascus appears genuine in its anger at the turn of events (only the radically absurd notion that Damascus was testing Trump to the limit accounts for the fact unless a faction of the Syrian Air Force undertook the action to scupper the peace process),

- v) Russian protests at the claims should be treated with care but the firmness of the protest indicates genuine anger at the claims with Russia in a better position to understand the facts on the ground than the West.

There are other considerations to be taken relating to the Western side. Western intelligence has proven poor in the past. Its incoming intelligence may come from the very persons who may be motivated to undertake a 'false flag' operation. Western allied assertions have often been dictated by their unified stance towards Russia and not by the facts on the ground. Whatever the truth of the matter on the ground, conservative Republicans, European allies, pro-rebel activists (who are well funded) in Washington, and senior State Department, intelligence and Pentagon officials are all engaged in manouevres to place an unstable Presidency under control and force him into a defining interventionist line. The underlying aim is to shift his policy from a populist one to the standard line that has existed since 1945 of forward defence against Russia.

This last motivation is not to be dismissed. Trump has threatened to over turn American foreign policy priorities. In this one action, he has proven that he is not willing or able to do that when push comes to shove. Because of what is at stake, without conspiracy theory being required, these facts provide the motivation for taking d) and e) seriously. Given the long history of such operations in American and Western foreign policy, provocation must be accepted as a real possibility in the context of what has been called the American Deep State (that is, those career military and foreign policy officials with skin in the game of a particular policy line). The speed of alignment of allies indicates that this manouevre represents a major political win for the international shared position underpinning the NATO model.

This is not to say that the American Deep State engaged directly in a provocation but only that its reaction to a provocation and its own difficulties in controlling the Presidency would have made the calculations of third parties capable of a provocation ones that encouraged direct action. However, this is not to say that d) and e) are true representations of events and we do not want to go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory with no more facts in favour of a provocation than one of deliberate state action but only to say that d) and e) are, at this point in time, no more nor less possibly true than a), b) and c). The wise and fair approach would have been either to undertake investigations in order to bring the matter before the UN or supply sufficient reliable intelligence (better than the rubbish presented to the UN in 2003) into the public domain that would incontrovertibly justify direct action that we could all support. In this regard, Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely right in his caution.

Without public access to intelligence, a reasonable suspicion has to be that Trump was guided into a machismo gesture by motives far beyond the simple direct response to a humanitarian disaster. If so, it was not even directed at Russia primarily, let alone Damascus. It was directed at halting a certain turn in American foreign policy, signalled only days before, and shifting it back in a conservative direction through the advisory intervention of an array of forces within the Washington and NATO establishment with two aims in mind - the restoration of the elimination of the Assad Leadership from the ultimate game plan for Syria (a position strongly advocated by France and Britain) and the re-assertion of a policy of contestation for territory and influence with Moscow and the final burying of any suggestion of a Washington-Moscow detente.

Again, we are not saying here that a) and b) were not possible - far from it - but only that the trajectory of events seems not to be a simple one of a proven war crime resulting in a efficacious direct response but rather one of a crime veiled in the fog of war and being used in such a way that it raises the reasonable suspicion (no more) of it being a provocation. Eliminating all chances of it being a provocation through rapid investigation (with a refusal by the Syrian Government to permit investigation being a reasonable admission of guilt) should have been prior to what amounted to an act of war. 

Postscript

Since writing this note, we have seen the publication of the important letter from Theodore A Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which casts severe doubt on the intelligence assessment on which the bombing was based and which indirectly raises questions that relate directly to the analysis above. 

It may be useful to note that Al-Nusra (or rather its successor organisation which really is just a rebranded Al-Nusra, meaning Al-Qaeda) is on the very border of the town, that it was reported as quarrelling with the other rebel groups as recently as January and that the original Al-Nusra seized one Syrian air base and besieged another before the September 2013 Chemical weapons Agreement and then captured the second after it (conditions would never have been ideal for any decommissioning). Most observers agree that some chemical weapons are in the hands of rebel groups and Al-Nusra declined to sign the 2013 Agreement. 

This is definitely not to say that Al-Nusra 'did it' (we have no evidence of that) but only to say that a lot more questions needed to be asked before lobbing missiles around and reversing policy on the say-so of analysts working for agencies with skin in the game of preserving the policies of the previous Administration. Maybe answering those questions would have led back to Damascus but it seems a lot of key questions were not being asked any more than they were in previous 'shoot from the hip' American operations. 

This is not a cowboy show on 1950s TV with men in black hats and men in white hats who can see each other clearly across the saloon, designed to entertain tired less-than-well-educated punters at the end of a tough working day ... it is complicated and it decides whether tens of thousands live or die or are maimed or made homeless. This means that a high level of intelligence analysis is required without the 'sources' (which include the 'white helmets') being given too much leeway as if they had none of that 'skin in the game' themselves.

Friday, 10 March 2017

The Left and Intangibles

The Left often has a difficulty with intangibles. Often the notion that what is intangible is important is rejected altogether because of an over-insistence on materialism. Acceptance of the importance of intangibles does not reject materialism as the basis for being and so of society and politics. It simply sees the emergence of 'things from things', from matter, as constructions of minds that are material but have evolved into a consciousness that is creative in using language, concepts, the creation of new formations of matter through science and manipulation and new relationships as tools and weapons in the struggle for power, resources and status.

On the other hand, the Left often collapses this analysis into a po-faced Frankfurt School vision of intangibles which is riddled with inappropriate moral judgments that derive ultimately from Judaeo-Christian habits – hence the often trotted out garbage about commodification and objectification as if the concepts meant much more in their hands than the sort of moral disapproval that Jeremiah would have warmed to. The correct approach to intangibles is one that is detached and neutral about the fact of intangibles and concentrates on their actual use in ‘really existing’ human relationships as instruments of power – in effect as weapons and tools.

For example, it may well be (I think it is) true that so-called 'commodification' and 'objectification' are potentially progressive insofar as they are expressions of actual human being. It is the interpretation and use to which they are put by power that is problematic and not their use in themselves. Even consensual pornography, let alone free trade with full information, can be highly progressive if undertaken between equals freely choosing their position. The issue is thus not the fact of intangibles or even their analysis but the ownership of the use of them and the right to choices about use value. The Left has certainly not come to terms with late liberal capitalism’s ability to create and control economic and power relationships based on these intangible weapons and tools rather than on the use of iron, steel and rail.

The current political case study is the violent struggle in America going on at the moment between liberals trying to define their own fake news as truth and conservatives discovering that they can create their own truth with impunity as fake news. The struggle sometimes seems trivial but it is a war as important as the mid-twentieth century ones conducted with bullets and bombs because ultimately it is about control of the levers of informational power and so economic choices affecting the material lives of millions. Both sides are basically lying liars who have got into the habit of lying but this complex eco-system of lies is a good example of the power of intangibles and of the Left's failure to rise above the lying to create the opportunities for the mass of the population in order to derive their own functional truths from full information and a solid grounding in critical thinking.

As we write, the US stock market rises and employment levels are increasing and yet an entirely different vision of reality is presented as truth because it is necessary for some people to believe it is true – the same applies to the persistant apocalypticism about the British economy under Brexit. These are examples of political intangibility distracting us from reality that are as absurd as our uncritical acceptance of brands and the claims of corporate social responsibility going on within capitalism. As invented reality spins away from really existing material reality, so the chances for cataclysm do increase - hence our social progress as a continual two steps forward, one step back amongst mountains of gore and lost dreams. The educational problem is one of lack of critical thinking under complex social conditions and the equally important lack of some sense of the self as more than simply the creature of social conditions - this last lie is the fatal pessimistic crime of the modern intellectual liberal left towards the people.

There is thus a total system of intangibility overlaying materiality with many layers within it, all derived from a materiality for which there is no serious Left critique that is not mired in a priori theory. The dead weight of all forms of essentialism - especially the cant of Kant - gives power to an intellectual class denuded of intellect. Our new critique should encompass our acceptance of the value lying in intangibles in economics, in culture, in social relations and in politics but then explore how to vest the value in the people in general rather than in self-interested classes – including an intellectual class which is highly manipulative of intangibles in its own class interest. In short, the Left has no serious philosophy of the human condition that is not already moribund and it is time to call the universities out on their failures.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

What is the Problem on the Left - A Very Brief Analysis

"Brexit is a destruction derby's worth of car crashes waiting to happen". This is an almost standard quotation from a rant on Left Futures. Yet the evidence for this is slight, especially after the failed pre-Brexit vote analyses of economic prospects - the expected disaster gets pushed ever further forwards and has now reduced itself to a bout of moderate inflation that is matched by the export opportunities arising and being taken.

The better analysis is that adaptive capitalist entrepreneurialism offers a greater threat to socialism - apparent success through not-so-hidden exploitation. Observers are often letting an 'ought' get in the way of an 'is' as is the way with ideologues.

Corbyn has things partly right by hammering on about those who are going to lose from adaptive capitalism - the public sector workers, cultural workers and the near-marginalised (those between the truly marginalised which adaptive capitalism will care for and the private sector working class which may well benefit or rather appear to benefit sufficiently to continue voting for it rather than higher taxes) - and those 'hidden costs' that the weakening of welfare causes to the wider population even in times of economic growth (social care, lack of housing stock on which he could say more and so on).

The problem is that the analysis stops there. A bloc is mobilised but not one sufficient to take power democratically. Meanwhile middle class ideologues engage in constant misdirection by predicting (or hoping for?) some economic meltdown in a one-off gamble that is as likely to help the populist Right as the Left depending on the circumstances of the time.

Since the Tories under May are almost certainly 'in' for up to four years, they have considerable room for manouevre. Even the strike at their own base with self-employed NI (which Corbyn cannot exploit for ideological reasons) is happening early with deliberation in order to store up giveways later.

Their internal contradiction is their new-found interest in ‘strengthening the state’ for security reasons and their need to contain radical populism that wants either lower taxes or more expenditure and it is in thrusting a pole into that hole that their model can be wedged apart.

But that is not what we get. Beyond the social mobilisation strategy to get the existing bloc in line, all we get is short term ranting and obsessions with ‘done deals’ like Brexit from the ‘intellectuals’ while the old base of the Party drifts into the other camp.

What is required, on the back of the bloc mobilisation strategy, is a second level of national economic strategy that deals in a non-Luddite fashion with techno-innovation, especially techno-innovation in the key areas of social care and the NHS where one suspects it is the public sector unions who are in danger of being the block to changes that could considerably improve lives of citizens and workers.

I have seen robotics used safely for patient-lifting to end or limit back injuries for NHS workers – Labour should be engaged fully in the socially responsible process of assessing, analysing, regulating, promoting and state support for technologies that would make the UK a global leader in the new cost-effective mass welfarism. The People’s State should be the intermediary between capitalist innovation (which, I am afraid, works in its clumsy wasteful way) and the condition of the people.

By engaging in a national debate about the future rather than the past, the middle ground no longer has to be secured on Blairism (minimal taxes, foreign adventurism, cultural manipulation and adaptive neo-liberalism) but on something very different – a neo-socialist commitment to life cycle welfare, lifetime education and retraining to adapt to new innovation, application of innovation to social needs and increasing income security for all citizens within a national sovereign state.

Worrying about who will succeed May is almost certainly idle. She has control of the levers of power until she loses an election and that is at least four years away – if then, at this rate.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Articulating Distrust of Labour Over Brexit

I have been fairly quiet over the last six weeks, watching the political preliminaries to the invocation of Article 50 unfold and finding myself, despite being a committed democratic socialist, increasingly drawn to Theresa May's robust approach. The reality rather than the media-driven simulacrum of what is happening is a power struggle between a left-liberal 'radical centre' that is used to having its hegemony over information flows, culture and policy unchallenged and a rather moderate form of nationalism that is actually outward-looking and inter-nationalist and filled with potential for radical change if only the moment can be seized when it arrives.

The thrashing around of the tails of the Clintonist, Blairite and Liberal Democrat dinosaurs while challenged not, as they should have been, from the Left but from the Right - conservatives in the UK and populists and conservatives in alliance in the US - indicates a tragic failure of socialism since the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead of building a democratic eco-sustainable economicism, it has collapsed into a mish-mash, a soup of eco-conservatism, rights theory, liberal constitutionalism, cultural politics and identity nonsense.

Watching this unfold, my patience is at an end with the sight of an unelected House of Lords stuffed with creatures of the old liberal hegemony seeking to defy the essence of a simple national vote under conditions where the official 'Left' is clearly seeking to create the conditions for a reversal of a democratic mandate. Forty years of acting as foot soldiers for this failed system must come to an end at some stage. To take a Soviet analogy, fighting in the Great Patriotic War is one thing, loyally arguing for the sclerosis of Brezhnev is another. The liberal Left have become an artery-clogging part of the politically sick patient, resisting the surgical solution of Brexit.

For some weeks, I have been contributing to debates on Left Futures where I would say that the debates in the Labour Movement have been fairly represented, a majority clearly taking the Remain position at face value with a vocal minority wanting a programme of action almost indistinguishable from that of the Liberal Democrats. On the other side a robust minority making the solid arguments for a Left-Brexit which tend to be evaded and avoided as to their substance in favour of a rather woolly-minded aspirational idealism about a Socialist Europe. This is my reply to one of the stronger Remain advocates from that source:-

" ... I have agreed that the 'middle way' is probably the best that could be done under the circumstances for the party but it is not an adequate long term strategy.

" Take the votes in the House of Lords. The first amendment (EU citizens) is a matter of relative indifference. Although the Government is probably technically correct in terms of negotiating position, Labour 'values' do suggest that EU citizens should not be treated as hostages and there is an argument that middle class expats should not expect EU citizens creating wealth in-country to be pawns in their interest. That is a fair Labour fight.

"The second amendment (Parliamentary vote) is not what it seems (an issue of Parliamentary sovereignty) but is an obvious attempt by Remainers to create sufficient uncertainty that time can be bought for a reversal of position.

"This is not necessary because the matter has been decided, the negotiation is executive, the uncertainty advantages the other side in the negotiation (which is 'treachery' to a great degree) and Parliament will get full scrutiny of the Great Repeal Bill which is the point where resistance to the type of Brexit is best handled.

"The population, aided by the mid-market tabloids, is not stupid. It knows that a clique of radical centrists is conspiring to reverse a democratic vote. The only saving grace is that their Second Referendum was knocked out of the water.

"If and only if Labour in the Commons, using Parliamentary sovereignty as cover, supports the second amendment in the Commons, even if it loses, then many otherwise fully socialist and labour-supporting people who sincerely believe in the priority of democracy and of national sovereign power against neo-liberalism really do have to 'consider their position' with Labour on two grounds.

"The first ground is one of trust - by supporting the second amendment in the Lords, Labour has indicated to democrats that it cannot be trusted but by doing so in the Commons, it will demonstrate that it cannot be trusted to maintain democracy along the lines that the Chartists initiated so long ago.

"The second ground is that, even if it loses and especially if it wins, it will have indicated what it is not to be trusted on - that is, the attempted reversal of the democratic vote and, above all, the de facto attempt to reintegrate us into the neo-liberal European model in alliance with Tory business remainers and liberal democrats.

"This latter is a very serious matter that has not yet been fully understood by many activists. In effect, it sets up the condition for the splits that are now taking place across Europe in the socialist movement between socialists and liberals (on which I have written elsewhere) but where socialists are ready to associate with democracy and national sovereignty along traditionally British lines.

"The fissure will not happen over night but, with two years to prepare and many minor elections on the way, once Labour goes down the road of resistance to the 35% of its voters' wishes (and I share the acceptance of that number) then it is a road that it cannot go back from.

"Since its economics and defence policies are not trusted by many others and university students, wobbly middle class professionals in the south  and public sector workers are not sufficient base for a national majority, Brexit will have done for Labour in the long run much as the First World War did for the Liberals.

"Personally, being in a minority of a minority, I shall be studying the conduct of the Leader and the PLP with great interest. My own Party membership extends to September but decisions on the future by me and others, and then others, will start to inform themselves on that conduct in the next few weeks.

"Since the issues are existential, any emergent force, oppositional to the ignorant populism of UKIP as much as to the weasel ways of the liberal centre, is not likely simply to be a withdrawal or a a slightly disassociated component of a liberal-led Labour. It is likely to become an intellectual implacable enemy and then gather around itself others with a similar commitment to radical democracy (neo-Chartist) and to socialism.

"I tend to have a fairly good track record on predictions though things always happen more slowly than expected - but they do happen. By 2020, such a force might be only an irritant to a Labour that cannot break through and win an election.

"By 2025, it could be a mortal threat (the equivalent to the threat of UKIP to the cosy elite liberalism of the Tory Party) if Labour persists in being a pale version of a European Socialist Party seeking 'enosis' with a failed dream or prepared to act as a pseudo-socialist grunt provincial assistant to a European 'socialism' that is about as radical as Clinton's Democrat Party."

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Alternative Universes in American Politics?

The so-called mainstream media, obsessing about its own concerns with 'what is truth?', seems to have given up on the job of reporting what is actually happening in Washington as the Trump administration gets into gear. One of the best short accounts comes from the personal economics blog of John Maudlin and I refer you to that posting as a starting point. Here I want to look at the 'what is truth?' debate with as little rancour as possible towards a global media system that is part infotainment and half partisan advocate for its own fixed positions.

Looking at events from the United Kingdom, you get a distilled view of the situation in which the BBC offers snippets from American politicians - the classic 'sound bite' - and interviews with people who happen to be in town promoting a book or passing through. It is not a true picture of events. These can only be properly understood by someone in Washington with some access to Administration officials. Nevertheless, if I cannot comment as Maudlin comments, I can see how things are going pear-shaped on the cultural level. I listened to what Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway said about 'inauguration numbers' in their sound bites and then to Thomas Friedman promoting his book on BBC Radio 4 yesterday and came to some conclusions.

First, the Trump camp are surprisingly inarticulate under close questioning, seem appallingly ill-prepared (the incorrect facts that tumble out are gifts to their opponents who give no quarter) but not necessarily entirely wrong. Before he started throwing out ill-researched claims, Spicer was clearly referring to the global internet and broadcast viewing figures of the Inauguration rather than the numbers who actually turned out on the day in Washington. Partisan commentators refused to recognise that claim and decided to concentrate not on all the facts that might apply (that is, that global interest in the Trump Inauguration was probably unprecedented) but one set of fact - the lesser numbers on the ground at the Inauguration - in part because Spicer allowed himself to be moved on to that territory himself. The commentators were not actually interested in the interpretative wider truth which is that, while Trump had less people on the ground than Obama, there were fair reasons for that fact (which was a demonstrable fact) and internet and global media interest was probably higher than in any previous election. Commentators were only interested in weaponised facts where they had the advantage and in demonstrating that truth was to be defined only on their terms.

Something similar is going on in the UK with May's blunder over not revealing a failed missile test to Parliament before a vote on the extension of the nuclear deterrent. It was a fact that was inconvenient that she should have presented factually and then argued her case as to why this fact was not relevant to the decision before the House. Her opponents are now able to avoid a discussion on that decision and simply concentrate on a partisan piece of 'amour propre' because of her blunder and her continuing inability to admit the facts for entirely spurious 'national security reasons'. She dug a hole and keeps on digging as we write but that does not stop her opponents being self-serving partisans. Neither is actually interested in the truth and so it is with the American case.

When you consider that Washington is a City that lives off Government, that it has a large poor black community (possibly disproportionate to all other cities) and that Trump's support was largely based outside the East Coast and in States where significant cost and effort would be required to travel to Washington in the working week - especially for lower middle class and working class supporters - then it is reasonable that the numbers on the ground should be significantly different between the Obama and Trump administrations. Spicer was right that the media and elements in the administration were trying to use the 'fact' to delegitimise the President even if, like Prime Minister May, he blundered badly in his handling of the situation.

Spicer seemed unable to make his points clearly and articulately to the point where one really does have to ask whether he is the right person for the job and that is what is interesting, not so much which facts are true and which are not. Conway's contribution on TV was much the same - when she said 'alternative facts', she should have said (according to the articulacy standards of the mainstream media) 'alternative interpretation of the facts' (see above) or that there were facts (see above related to global reach) that the mainstream media wilfully ignored in order to offer an interpretation that suited its narrative (which would be true).

This is part of the frustration of the Trumpers. They are both wrong and not wrong. Things are more complicated than the attack dogs of the mainstream media allow. The mainstream media's methodology is to select facts but then fail to add further facts that would indicate complexity and suggest alternate interpretations. This creates a partisan and self-serving editorial narrative that is designed to de-legitimise what has now become an enemy, an enemy that they largely created for themselves in the second half of 2016. By systematically concentrating on specific 'facts', ignoring other facts and then expressing a partisan and manufactured outrage when inarticulate responses seem to question the facts they have decided to make significant, the mainstream media is often playing a sly game that is deeply embedded in their way of doing business.

The Trumpers, meanwhile, are contesting the media interpretation and the lack of fair presentation of all facts as well as the obvious purpose behind the selection of facts. This is ground that cannot be conceded by the media in case it raises questions about their right to act as intermediaries between power and the people. This methodology on the part of the media is not specific to the Trump case: it is how the media works normally. Politicians before the populists arrived always understood this. They adapted with their own techniques in return and both parties (politician and journalist), in playing a confrontational game with rules accepted by both, created the widespread distrust that both professions suffer from today. Both sides fought over interpretation according to rules set by the media but where the media did not always inquire too deeply into the facts that underpinned the politicians' position. The partial politicisation of the executive has brought civil servants into the frame of distrust as well - the Rogers case in London earlier this month demonstrated this. In effect, the public was 'informed' with half truths in a contest of competing 'weasels' and its model of the world shaped by what 'weaseldom' decided was the shape of the world. Now that game is over.

A journalist guest commentator on British TV was (unusually) corrected by the BBC presenter last night when he referred to Trump as a 'monster', No one rational who disagreed with Trump has any justification for calling him a monster and yet the Twitter feeds of journalists and academics and the comment columns are filled with similar aggressive claims without real substance other than personal prejudice or arederived from particular ideological judgments that should have nothing to do with straight news gathering. One can disagree with a man without having to call him a monster and agree with him without deludedly expecting him to be a saint.

What we have here is the arrival of inarticulate populists in high office trained on 'heuristic' thinking where everything is connected. This is at its worst when poor connections are made so that conspiracy theory results but it is at its best in giving a more realistic picture of the complexity of the world to a person than he or she can get from theory of book-larnin'. They are facing off 'rational' intellectuals, all operating within a framework of pre-set rules that have the double effect of containing them within a social structure and allowing them privileged status within that structure. The intellectuals are actually highly selective and partisan in their fact collection procedures because they see the world in terms of competition between ideas and persons. They competed in order to get a position within the game and so they see those outside the game offensively as risks to their hegemony. Part of their mythos is that a 'fact is a fact' rather than a fact in relation to other facts. Friedman unintentionally grasped the problem this morning when he said that this was a matter of an 'alternative universe'.

Friedman certainly intended the notion of Trump's people being in an 'alternate universe' as an insult at their expense but the accusation could be turned on its head. We have two alternative universes neither of which is entirely real. One is based on complexity and life actually lived in which two incompatible thoughts are possible before breakfast because that is how the world actually works and where leadership is making judgments that parse dialectical tensions. It also happens to be anxious, occasionally paranoid and certainly defensive. It sees itself as protecting itself from the world.

The other universe is based on absolute and simple notions of fact and non-fact that fail to understand how facts are selected for interpretation, how inconvenient facts are omitted to effect change and how facts can offer us multiple interpretations. Facts are accumulated within unspoken paradigms where inconvenient facts can be sidelined until their insistent knocking at the door of reality forces them back into the game - by which time 'rationalisation' has found a way to incorporate them into the model without affecting the essential structure of reality - or rather what passes for real amongst those with the power to define reality. It is also a universe based on the 'logos', the connectedness of words rather the connectedness of experiences and things. It takes emotion or sentiment and rationalises these into strings of words that may be perfectly coherent but may well be a map that is not accurate to the territory. It sees itself as being co-terminous with the world.

This clash of universes is profound because it is a clash between the ways that minds work as profound as the difference between the ways men and women think. It is not a case of one being right or one being wrong but simply one of of difference. Men and women can get along just fine in the good society through norms that respect difference but, here too, recent political conditions have created conflict through confrontation and identity politics (also associated with 'logos'-type thinking). In the good society the 'heuristic' and intellectual approaches can also get along through the medium of the effective politician but Trump has arisen (as have other national populists) precisely because the intellectual has not only despised the heuristic but has demonstrated publicly that they despised the heuristic.

The national populists have thus not caused 'reaction', they have arisen as a reaction to the long term effects of having society run from a position of aggressive intellectualism. Why is this? The massive increase in the graduate class, in regulatory capitalism and in the scale and reach of government has created a mass base for the intellectual stance which never existed before. Until this period in history, intellectuals were either servitors of power or manipulators of the levers of power. They are now power itself - or thought they were until 2016. The loss of leverage (literally) has de-intellectualised the intellectuals and turned many of them into ravening wolves seeking the blood of those who unexpectedly removed them from hegemonic power whether democratically (UK) or merely constitutionally (US). The loss of control of democracy and of constitutional forms is part of the agony of this class.

Until the post-internet era, the 'logos' political system could command and control through relying on limited information and communications systems in society. The agents of information were of the same broad social origin. The adaptability of politicians in finding the right rhetoric could defuse the bomb of populist resentment. FDR and Reagan are perhaps the models of how the American political system found the right person at the right time to defuse political discontent by conceding just what was required to salvage the system. The arrival of the internet at the same time as the unresolved economic issues arising out of 2008 combined with the inability of the liberal side of the equation to 'get' what Bernie Sanders was perhaps trying to tell them - that the old politics was creating its own opposition, its own nemesis, through hubris. We should note here that Trump has been careful to invite labor union leaders to his first meeting on manufacturing today and that many trades unionists were not happy with the liberal espousal of NAFTA which Trump has vowed to renegotiate. A million marching women may find that the heuristics of increasing job security are as or more important than their cultural politics.

The heuristic approach does not rely on interconnected and carefully calibrated coalitional politics and the dumping of single issues into packages of measures demanding loyalty but tends to see life as a process of constant negotiation and even struggle. It also places much emphasis on promise keeping whereas the logocratic approach is not interested in promises but only in shared values and the law. Judicial activism is the final position of the logocrat just as the 'movement' is the final fall-back position of the heurist. Trump symbolically epitomised that sense of life as a set of deals just as Hillary Clinton symbolically epitomised the other form of thinking which has become culturally dominant - order being imposed through fiat by regulation based on theory. Her slight popular victory reflected that cultural dominance (ironically, the conservative desire for the maintenance of order) but Trump won the formal victory which was based on the carefully balanced prejudice for a form of heuristics implicit in the original but now perhaps partly dysfunctional Constitution.

Where does this lead us? Possibly to disaster? The absolute incompatibility of slave owner values and non-slaveowner values by 1860 did not lead to a civilised separation and a different form of struggle for freedom from slavery in the South but into a vicious war. Its lack of resolution gave us the current race problem that is America's most serious continuing internal crisis of social cohesion on which a lid is kept simply because black Americans are not a majority, are concentrated geographically and America has the rule of law to fall back on. The incompatibility of populist heuristics (shared in fact by many libertarian and advanced thinkers on the East Coast as well) with ideological rationalism built on the 'logos' is now absolute - as incompatible as the differences of opinion between states in 1860.

There is now no effective dialogue between the two universes. One represents vast and well paid special interests embedded in the State and the Academy as well as the Media. It certainly means well and has noble values but it did not deliver what it promised to many people while its own elite members got richer. It is important to note that the black American vote did not surge for Hillary and that this was not because she was not black. As many have pointed out, inequality between whites and blacks certainly did not improve and probably worsened under Obama, a mixed race wealthy (by their standards) lawyer.

The other universe of Trumpers, however, seems unable to develop a language for articulating its own complexity just as the first is blind to the limits of rationalism and the extremely weak philosophical base for its Kantian 'pragmatism'. There are palaeo-conservatives, libertarians, identitarians, Judaeo-Christian communitarians and all sorts of essentialist dreamer floating around the nether regions of the Trump movement but it really is a case of a 'thousand flowers blooming' with no clear core. This may be a good thing for a heuristic way of dealing with reality but it also means that we cannot expect coherence any time soon. The mainstream media (outside Fox and RT and sections of the British right-wing media) is wholly trapped within one universe and the centres of power in Washington, increasingly in London and possibly elsewhere later this year, are now either in or being drawn into the other universe by necessity.

The problem gets more difficult for the intelligent citizen who understands that the heuristic approach to the world is intellectually correct (though it need not come up with the analyses of Trump by any means) but that both universes are spinning towards a clash that will not result in war yet might well result in a collapse in internal cohesion, political violence and attempts to change the Constitution ... perhaps worse. At best, it may mean a cultural war in which one or other has to win or die, leaving the loser in a state of simmering resentment like the Confederacy after 1866.

This is an international problem not confined to the US by any means. Our putative intelligent citizen has a difficult choice whether to assist the heuristic universe to articulate its position more effectively (that is, to adopt the technology of the 'logos' without its ideology or special interest aspects) and so bring it to some sort of compromise with the rational - but will it or cannot listen? Alternatively, he or she could try to introduce a more informed heuristic understanding to the other universe, the one which has become self-serving in its use of the 'logos' to drive ideology. The inhabitants of the latter universe have already weaponised language and the Trump camp are right to see this weaponisation, making use of the mainstream media, as a threat for which they have developed little protection. Perhaps they feel like an insurgent liberation army facing a ramshackle but well armed state military that won't admit defeat after losing control of its capital and is now inclined to warlordism.

The protection that the Trump camp may employ (since human beings are adept at survival) is likely to be asymmetric and culturally subversive. The lack of respect for the new Presidency may become something that the 'educated' but not necessarily always 'intelligent' preceding elite may come to regret since the one thing that the incomers have which they do not command is the internet under the conditions of the First Amendment. The battle for control of the social media platforms comes next. Already, the German logocrats are trying to intervene to manage and control Facebook and other media in anticipation of their own trial of strength in the Autumn. The most probable outcome of all this, much further down the line, is a dialectical one in which both sides exhaust themselves into something new, perhaps a younger generation adopting heuristics as a way of life but directed towards more liberal ends and less intolerant of difference. Perhaps that is just wishful thinking. Perhaps history will look on 2017-2018 as America's bloodless (we hope) Cultural Civil War because that is what it is shaping up to be.