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I came across a reprint of a 2017 article in which well-known "conservative" commentator David Frum makes an argument that democratic societies will always be unstable unless they start out with an "effective conservative party", and those that do will tend to allow more and more freedoms over time because the power elite won't feel truly threatened by them and can therefore graciously allow them to exist.

For reasons I'll get into, I don't at all trust Frum to be honest about what he really thinks, much less to have an unbiased view of history, but what I thought was interesting is how he apparently defines "conservative" -- which is, basically, support for a power elite.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "conservative", my first thought is something more like the dictionary definition: cautious, careful, preserving and restoring items of value -- rather than destroying or wasting them.

However, it has long been clear that in politics, the word does not mean this at all. "Conservative" policies are often obscenely wasteful and destructive -- so Frum's definition kind of comes across to me as a bit of a reveal: it really has never been about conserving anything of value, it's really just about conserving the power of the elite.

And that, of course, has always been the fundamental problem with "conservatism": the power-elite have no justification for remaining in power, and never have.

In medieval times, the power-elite made up stories about being appointed by "God", by "divine right", which an uneducated and uninformed audience would buy because most of the time they really had no choice. More recently, they invented the myth of the marketplace, in which their wealth is justified by the illusion of public choice, and any attempt to level the playing field is portrayed as interference with that entirely natural and virtuous process. ...and here, Frum is backing that up with a bit of an appeal to force, in that if you don't let the aristocrats have their way, they will fuck your shit up. "Noice democracy you got 'ere, colonel -- I'd hate for anyfink to 'appen to it."

So let's just be honest, shall we? It's not "conservatism"; it's neo-feudalism -- keeping a small group of people in power and comfort, regardless of what happens to the rest of us.

egalitarian neofeudalism

Incidentally, I did a little bit of research to see if the word "neofeudalism" was being used for anything else. It turns out that it means basically what I'm using it to mean, but it has been used as criticism of both "conservatism" and the opposite -- as an attack on egalitarian ideas. I couldn't see how that made sense, so I wanted to look into this and see how they were able to connect those particular diametrically opposed dots...

The one example I could find in which egalitarianism is attacked as "neofeudalism" is a 1961 article reprinted on Mises dot org.

The article is a response to John Kenneth Galbraith's book The Affluent Society, in which Galbraith advocates such notoriously feudal institutions as public schools, public parks, and public roads.. The response starts out with an ad hominem attack on Galbraith, so we can tell right away this is going to be a thoughtful and razor-sharp analysis.

The core argument, however, seems to consist of equating "providing for public needs" with communism, which it refers to as "Prussian feudalism" -- therefore proving? maybe? that {providing for public needs} is feudalism -- ignoring the fact that actual Prussan feudalism was gradually rolled back -- in an effort to better meet public needs -- over the century or two before the Communist Revolution, in which the last aristocratic remnants of feudal society were swept away wholesale.

That core argument is presented only about one-quarter way through the essay; the rest seems to be typically right-wing window-dressing -- shouting about "ownership", straw-man representations of the opposing view... I could do a full analysis, but I doubt it would be worth anyone's time.

The point is, this is just one of many examples of how dishonesty is a way of life for the right wing. Fake truth is manufactured by elites like David Frum and, and disseminated to the right-wing masses through a kind of emotional serfdom. The point is not whether anyone believes it, much less whether it makes sense; the point is whether people can remember and repeat it -- because to the Right, arguments are like war matériel. The content doesn't matter; the point is to have more than the enemy has.

climate change denialism

Another example I came across recently: a verbal confrontation which happened at an Austin, Texas City Council meeting in April 2015 between Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe and "conservative" councilman Don Zimmerman.

Hayhoe spent several minutes giving her best expert advice on what natural disasters the city was most likely to face in the near future due to global warming. She wasn't even arguing for carbon reduction; she was just explaining what was likely to happen, given existing trends, for which she displayed evidence. Two or three other experts after her also talked about disaster preparedness, including a fireman, and all seemed to take the idea of increasing weather severity as nothing less than an obvious reality.

Zimmerman, however, felt compelled to express his skepticism that climate change was a thing, and also to argue against "government bureaucrats being put in charge of carbon dioxide emissions", which wasn't even a subject under discussion, along with a selection of the usual ludicrous denialist arguments.

I could spend an hour tearing his arguments to shreds, but that would be a waste of time; anyone who actually thinks about them can see that they're nonsensical, and anyone who agrees with them -- which is to say right-wingers -- doesn't care that they're nonsensical.

What right-wingers care about, in this situation, is seeing that Zimmerman is putting up a good fight for their "side". It doesn't matter that the arguments are nonsensical; what matters is how many arguments he fires back and whether they have memetic potential -- will lay people be able to remember and repeat them back? To this mentality, complex truths "lose" the debate when they are trumped by simpler lies.

Now, what's the point of me going into this? I think the point I'm trying to drive home here is that we need to stop fighting right-wing denialism as if it's just an honest misunderstanding, or even as something we can overcome by appealing to empathy. The deal right-wingers have bought into is that their safety and everything they care about depends on defending the shibboleths they've been handed by their trusted masters. Their minds are dutifully switched off, and their hearts are in fealty to their lords.

Those of us on the outside of that little kingdom have this illusion that everyone is like us: we want to discover the truth for ourselves. We don't trust kings or priests to hand it to us, because we know they often are not acting in our best interests -- much less in the interests of a happy and prosperous civilization.

What we need to remember is this: civil debate involves an unspoken contract, of which the most important element is that all sides must be honest with themselves and with each other.

Right-wing philosophy is a fundamental violation of that contract. It believes in force over all else -- including the force of deceptive persuasion. They have no problem at all with the use of convincing lies as a means to victory, if that's what works. They'll happily use actual force to overcome dissenting voices, if that's what it takes. All that matters to them is that their side -- their kingdom -- prevails.

We need to stop trying to dissuade people who are entrenched in these nonsensical views, and start finding better ways of keeping those views entirely out of the discussion. They need to be deplatformed and de-normalized -- not treated as reasonable objections, because they are not.