"Are You Linking What I'm Linking?" Edition
Obligatory shilling. This week I wrote about Louis C.K., comedy and outrage culture for UnHerd, “Chris Chan” and Internet obsessives for Spectator World and “soyfacing” and synthetic emotion for my paying subscribers.
I also spoke with S.D. Wickett of Bournbrook Magazine for their podcast. It was a fun discussion, though I do say “err” too much when I am being interviewed and cannot seem to stop. Personally, I think it is because I err on the side of reason, and err on the side of decency, and err on the side of truth et cetera. Anyways, that's one reason why I couldn't do podcasting.
Hungary like a wolf. The right-wing American TV presenter Tucker Carlson has been visiting Hungary, following the lead of his friend, the American author and blogger Rod Dreher. Both are admirers of the national conservative government of Viktor Orbán. Rod writes about it here.
This has kicked up a lot of fuss. Some leftists who denounce any approval for a leader such as Orbán, on the grounds of his supposed authoritarianism and demagoguery, make me laugh because they have time for left-wing regimes in Cuba and Venezuala where dissident speech is actually banned and there really are political prisoners.
To be fair, I am sure that this does not apply to Matt Yglesias, who criticises Dreher and Carlson here. The meat of his argument is that the USA is rich and innovative while Hungary is poor and culturally and technologically insignificant.
True enough. Still, any leftist knows that wealth can enrich X without doing much for Y and Z. If you showed an unsuspecting person images of urban decay in San Francisco, or told tales opioid deaths in the Rust Belt, but claimed that they originated from Eastern Europe nobody would bat an eyelid.
In addition, Scandinavian countries are poorer and less innovative than the US and left-liberals are still drawn to their social policies. Inspiration is not the same as imitation. So, as Aris Roussinos has written, the EU has drifted towards Orbán's attitude towards what is essentially a limitless supply of non-European immigration rather than the other way around. His creative pro-family policies, meanwhile, have led to a small but not insignificant baby bump.
On the other hand, I caution conservatives against the search for trad-topia. What attracted leftists to Cuba, Venezuala et cetera was the idea that their values were thriving somewhere even if they had failed at home. Of course, I think right-wing ideas tend to better than left-wing ones. But the impulse behind ideological tourism can still obscure the actual conditions of a country.
Technology and history. Here is a very rich discussion with Balaji Srinivasan, one of the most interesting people in tech. I recommend the whole thing but here is one excerpt:
…many of the ideas on how to organize human society have been around forever, but technologies make them feasible and infeasible by turns. A political ideology that requires total centralized control may seem unstoppable when technology favors this...and then may become untenable when innovation turns things in the direction of decentralization.
Right-wingers, knowing that “ideas have consequences”, too often delude themselves that they exist in a vacuum - as if Marxism, say, sprang into being because people made the same intellectual mistakes at the same time.
On the other hand, we had better hope that ideas have consequences. Technology will produce ever more sophisticated and efficient means of manipulating and destroying human beings and their environments. Call me a sentimental humanist but God help us all if that current is too strong for swimming.
The always interesting Titus Techera adds his thoughts.
Outsider art. Freddie deBoer reflects on uncultured snobbery, riffing on a documentary about Woodstock ‘99:
All of the people piously complaining about nü-metal have given those artists and their fans what they always wanted: the status of rebels. With a bunch of talking heads clutching their pearls at Limp Bizkit and Korn and their fans, looking down with distaste from their lofty moral perches, this type of music has achieved its final ascension to the condition of true outsider art.
FdB asks how “poptimist” critics can celebrate Taylor Swift and Marvel films while looking down their noses at nü-metal and Twilight. One answer is that the latter do not meet their political rather than artistic standards. Even if you cannot judge the cinematography, you can judge the cultural appropriation.
To be fair, I am sure Avengers: Endgame is a better film than Twilight. A toasted cheese sandwich is better than a cold one.
Chappers. I am a huge fan of Tim Chapman, an, er, loving homage to a certain kind of middle-class English commentator. This week, Tim reflects on being “cancelled”. You can also catch up on his thoughts on vaccines and racism.
Have a lovely week