Friday links! Invincible perfection of ideology edition

Vladimir Putin and a puppy that later betrayed him

Vladimir Putin and a puppy that later betrayed him

We all know that one ideology is correct. That’s just common sense. So many ideas are wrong, and so many people are wrong for holding them, that there must necessarily be a way of thinking and behaving that is absolutely right. It’s like when you see land; you know there must be an ocean somewhere, because otherwise you would just be seeing space. But how can you know which ideology is correct? With your heart, obviously. And how can you know whether you are adhering to that ideology enough? Through constant vigilance—specifically, constant vigilance of others. Today is Friday, as other people will agree but maybe not enough. Won’t you believe perfectly in a perfect ideology and become invincible with me?

First, the good news: Vladimir Putin is in perfect health, even though no one has seen him since March 5. Rumors that he has been stricken with the virulent strain of flu going around Moscow are unfounded. You know because the official Kremlin website reports that he appeared in Karelia on Wednesday—even though a local newspaper reported that appearance on March 4—and that he met with “a group of women” on Sunday, an event that actually happened March 6. Here’s why you shouldn’t lie to an entire nation: most observers think Putin has the flu, but former advisor Andrei Illarionov suggested that he fell to a conspiracy of hard-liners. The important thing is that the President of Russia never acknowledge even a susceptibility to viral infection, lest his perfect system collapse.

Meanwhile, in the other Russia, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran has responded to Republicans’ open letter re: nuclear negotiations. And I quote:

The letter by American senators indicates the collapse of political ethics in the United States…The negotiating team that President [Rouhani] has chosen for the talks are good, trustworthy and act based on the interests of the country. But I’m worried because the other side is cunning, deceitful and back-stabbing.

Nice try, Muslim Putin. We all know that your plan to “agree” with US demands is just a trick to make your beloved President Obama look good. Decent, freedom-loving Americans want another war in the Middle East, and they shall have it, because backing down is bad. As soon as you imagine a war, you have to fight it, even if somebody offers to just give you whatever objective that war might pursue.

That was irony. I labeled it as such not because I was afraid you wouldn’t recognize it, but to acknowledge that I was making light of an important issue and therefore deserve censure. No statement is so orthodox that it couldn’t agree with ideology more. Take this post describing the anatomy of a ban at Shakesville. As you know, Shakesville is a safe space, thanks to the vigilance of heterosexual, able white woman Melissa McEwan. Here’s how safe it is:


In banning this commenter, McEwan notes that although he does not seem malicious, his comments are “inconsistent with keeping this space safe.” Thus is disagreement insufficiently earnest agreement elevated to the level of endangerment. Don’t start reading Shakesville, or you will become a conduit for pure hate like Ben al-Fowlkes. He sent me this post about how she she rewrote a sentence from Malcolm Gladwell to make it more inclusive.

The beauty of the intersectional critique is that it’s fundamentally reactive. You could work your ass off1 to pursue concrete goals related to social justice—more equitable tax codes, improved voter registration, criminal justice reform—or you could just discover other people’s mistakes. The trick—by which I mean the performance—is not to address injustice, but to look for new expressions of that injustice to decry. For example, the student legislative council has voted to ban the American flag from certain parts of the UC Irvine campus. Their explanation suggest that they have fully absorbed the principles of academic writing, if not academic reasoning:

“The American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism…[F]reedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible, can be interpreted as hate speech.”

Oh, look—it’s our old friend the passive voice. You would have to be kind of a jerk to argue that free speech is hate speech, but to note that it can be interpreted that way is simply to observe a neutral fact. That first sentence is too perfect an abstraction to even criticize. It’s like trying to box fog. The good news is that the ban on American flags was immediately overruled by another part of student government. The even better news is that conservative commentators continue to act as if that part of the story never happened. “Where I come from,” Todd Starnes writes, “you salute Old Glory. You don’t toss it in a closet. You don’t ban it.” It’s a relief to know America still enjoys good relations with Assaholia.

You know what else? You should toss the American flag in a closet. You should try to ban it. Do everything you can reduce the power of that symbol, and see if the ideology it symbolizes collapses as a result. If a value system is no more resilient than what signifies it, you don’t have an idea. You have a fetish. I post this video because I am a patriot.

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