Vox Day Gets Several Things Right

[Update: forgot to link to the article which is here http://heatst.com/culture-wars/donald-trump-vs-nevertrump-gamergates-vox-day-debates-conservatism/ Interestingly I Googled to get the link and this blog entry appeared higher on the list than the actual article! ]

Heat Street‘ is a newish center-right political website owned by Rupert Murdoch’s empire and run by Louise Mensch. Mensch is a Briish Conservative politician who is personable and relatively moderate (by US standards possibly very moderate).

In the fallout of what looks like the possible collapse of the main conservative party of the USA, Mensch decided to interview Vox Day. Quite why she things it is tactically smart to elevate Vox in terms of his status as a political pundit, I don’t know.

The contrast is remarkable. Mensch is somebody who if they were in government wouldn’t cause you to start building a bomb shelter and stocking up on food supplies and potable water. Vox is, well Vox. As with seen, Vox is not even that great a debate tactician. However, he simply walks all over most of Mensch’s arguments. How?

The answer is not some complex sociosexual dominance pseudo-gabble but rest on a core point that Vox gets across early:

LM: this is obviously a sad day for me and a terrific day for you as Donald Trump is crowned the presumptive nominee by the GOP establishment. Last night, while we were talking with each other, we were discussing the nature of conservatism.

To me, my duty as a conservative is to oppose Donald Trump because he’s not a conservative. I said that, to me, conservatism stands for equality of opportunity. You said in your view, it never had done. How do you define conservatism?
Vox: I define conservatism as an attitude more than a coherent ideology. If you look at the history of conservatism, which you as a British individual will be aware, it really is something different to the ideas that underlie the British Conservative Party or the Tory Party.

Russell Kirk attempted to turn that inherited tradition into a more coherent ideology, and he came up with the 10 foundational points of what he terms conservatism. So it’s less an ideology than an attitude – and a relative posture.

Equality of opportunity is merely something that fits that attitude, more than it is a founding point of the ideology, in the way that the “labor theory of value” is something that underlies the ideology of socialism

As painful as it maybe to say, Vox is right and Mensch is wrong. Sure, there may well be conservatives around whose core belief is ‘equality of opportunity’ but it is not a consistent position of conservatism, it is not a good predictor of conservative policies when in government nor is a point at which a conservative will react on principle (i.e. conservative politicians do not resign from government over the principle of equality of opportunity).

Mensch is fooling herself when she asserts equality of opportunity as a principle of conservatism. At best it is a sort of fig-leaf of decency over centrist or even center-left politics and even with one eyed closed and wearing wrong prescription glasses and giving that notion the most favorable reading I can, Mensch’s description fails to distinguish between Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton or a whole host of nominally non-conservatives.

Mensch spends the rest of the interview basically letting Vox run rings around her by letting Vox repeatedly control the terms of discussion:

 LM: To me, that seems defeatist for a guy that I see, though I may differ with you on many things, at the very least as an alpha male go-getter. You’re not behind any particular set of principles. You just want to oppose somebody else! Doesn’t that put all the power in their hands?
Vox: It does, but it’s not defeatist for me because, as I have repeatedly told people for well over a decade, I am not a Conservative. I am an extremist and I’m a radical.

Ugh. Seriously Louise? Calling Vox an ‘alpha male’ isn’t a put down, it is something he’d take as a compliment and two-minutes of homework would have told you he doesn’t call himself a conservative.

Both Vox and Trump have applied a very simple set of tactics.

  1. Treat conservatism as an ‘attitude’ or as a set of in-group markers with which many people who feel conservative identify i.e. engage with conservatives on an emotional level.
  2. Critique the flaws and ideological inconsistencies of conservatism (and related ideologies such as libertarianism) by co-opting leftist critiques.
  3. Exploit a mix of far-right and right-populist fear mongering.

Point 2 works for them because conservatives have spent decades now dodging those critiques by responding only with a kind of lazy equating of all of the left with the soviet/maoist left. Consequently when somebody comes along who is just as capable of ranting about how the left are awful people because Stalin, a modern conservative has no rejoinder when that person also says that free-trade sucks.

As I’ve said prior, modern conservatism has systematically undermined their own intellectual defenses for decades. Mensch, superficially nice, not a bat-shit US wingnut or some sort of creationist obsessed with text-book selection, displays the same inability to handle a critique from a man whose political views are actively absurd. She doesn’t even seem to notice that discrediting Vox or Trump *should* be easy for her. She is at least as smart as Vox, she holds more reasonable views and she is an experienced UK parliamentarian – having a wannabe fantasy-author and semi-professional internet troll run rings around her should cause her to rethink what is going on.

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18 comments

  1. KR

    Suggest allied sociosexual epsilon blog debut: “Baron Von Sacher-Felapton Reads Vox Day so you Don’t Have To”

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  2. The Phantom

    “Conservative” is a label applied by partisan Democrats in the US and Labor in the UK to anybody not on their side. No wonder there’s no “conservative” consensus.

    The reason Trump is winning is obvious. The Southern border has been thrown open to all comers during a time of war (yes, the USA is actively at war in the Middle East), the economy is actively moving off-shore to Asia and has been for thirty years, half the country is on food stamps, taxes have never been higher in US history, and Donald Trump is the ONLY CANDIDATE willing to even talk about any of it.

    What he’s saying is reasonable, logical and most of it is what needs to get done. There needs to be a coherent immigration policy and a closed border. There needs to be a reduction of regulation. There needs to be a tax cut. They need to either win the fucking war, or get out.

    The problem with Trump is he’s a limousine liberal from NYC and he’s probably lying about everything he says. If he actually does what he says, the USA will do better than the last seven years. If he does what I and many others expect, the damage will still be less than Barack Obama because Trump at least understands “buy low sell high” as a principle, and that you can’t get milk from a dead cow.

    To be fair, if Obama had golfed less, things would be worse.

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    • camestrosfelapton

      Um, in the UK ‘Conservative’ is the name of the political party. When they want to apply a partisan label to them we say things like “numpty muppet yuppies” – or at least I feel like they should.

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    • KR

      Phantom, I really think you live in a fact-free zone. Literally every single sentence you have written is factually incorrect, ideologically garbled, or just plain ludicrous. To start with your first assertion alone: it is equally true with just a single content substitution: “Liberal” is a label applied by partisan Republicans in the US andTories in the UK to anybody not on their side. No wonder there’s no “left-leaning” consensus.” Equally assertable and equally unhelpful in advancing understanding of anything.

      Second: Obama has taken FAR fewer holiday days than any president in recent history. According to Factcheck.org — by 2014, Obama had taken 127 full or partial holiday days; GWB had used 407 at that same point in his tenure. Facts do not seem to be your forte, Phantom (despite the lovely alliteration).

      Third, The claim that the US is actively at war with the Middle East is definitionally inchoate and indistinguishable in practice from any other era since the American Century started in 1919. Using your claim, the US has been “at war” with Latin America since at least the time of the customs receiverships, Teddy R, the RoughRiders and landing Marines willy-nilly. Could you clarify why you invoked the “teh muslimz !!1!!1!” here? What makes them different than any other supposed fifth-column enemies of days gone by (insert reverse chronological choice here: communists, Colombian drug lords, filthy hippies and folk singers, the Blacks, Jewish conspirators, the Irish, popery, jesuits, freemasons, injuns, the Devil himself, the horse latitudes). Why, even the humble Kinder Egg is on the Homeland Security banned list.

      Fourth: Actually, no. I am too tired and bored to engage further with such things. I am currently in my element, “cantabrigianizing” to use a word I just read, and that’s more fun, and destined to a better purpose.

      Fifth: since I like to be positive and optimistic wherever I can, let me commend you on slyly integrating another hint of your (our?) marxist camaraderie: namely Lenin’s seminal work “What is to be Done?” (which is itself a riff on an older and most-excellent socialist novel “What is to be done” by Nikolai Chernyshevsky). Today is our REVENGE OF THE FIFTH! Let’s go out and (Darth) maul the capitalist running dogs of oppression together, shall we?

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      • KR

        Though you are probably not returning to read, Phantom, but what if you are? I wanted to leave an apology for my hostile tone here. I am sorry. I was feuding with conservative relatives on a couple of other fronts last week (and dreading the impending mother’s day) and so I probably sounded angrier than I should have. And to CF too. Apologies all around for a grumpy too-quick response.

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    • Peter J

      “What he’s saying is reasonable, logical and most of it is what needs to get done … he’s probably lying about everything he says.”

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  3. Mark

    You forgot a link to the article 🙂

    What struck me was that Mensch was attempting to define conservatism (and herself) in economic policy terms, while Vox was only interested in social terms, and in defining himself by what he opposes. By not challenging him to at least engage with her definition Mensch let Vox run riot on ground of his own choosing.

    Incidentally, Hoyt’s latest has some potential to reopen hostilities – there’s some rather pointed references to Alphas etc which seem to be mostly referring to Trump but also could be a handy side swipe at VD. It’s actually quite a subtle piece of blogging by her standards – I suspect the Trumpocalypse has her full attention.

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  4. lmensch

    it wasn’t meant to be a put-down. It was meant as a compliment.
    the fact you think ‘alpha male’ could ever be a put-down is telling 🙂

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    • camestrosfelapton

      I guess it is telling! To me calling somebody an ‘alpha male’ is like saying ‘you are best described as if you were in a nature documentary about a pack of animals without the verbal skills to form the kind of complex social structures that humans develop’ – i.e. somewhat dehumanizing and suggesting that person is in someway animalistic or out of place or lack a degree of social sophistication.

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      • camestrosfelapton

        Doesn’t take me by surprise but then I’m not a liberal (leftier than that). But, for example, humans aren’t squid or birds. We are a particular kind of animal which is why I said: ‘pack of animals without the verbal skills to form the kind of complex social structures that humans develop’
        We aren’t gorillas for example and Vox isn’t a silverback (indeed he is a happily married monogamist). Humans don’t form the same social structures as other primates BECAUSE of biology (specifically our capacity for complex language).
        Now in other ways we may be a lot like gorillas but in terms of social-hierachies, nope we aren’t.

        I see in your other recent interview with Vox you had a longer discussion about what he means by Alpha male. I see from your description of how you use the term why you’d see it as more complimentary. Vox uses it in a different way that perhaps encompasses a notion of being a bit of an arsehole more than your usage.

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  5. iamzenu

    “Vox: I define conservatism as an attitude more than a coherent ideology. ”

    It’s always seemed incoherent to me as well.

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