Dr. Jane Clare Jones Profile picture
Sep 25 25 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Am listening to Naomi Klein's Doppelganger. It's a truly excellent analysis of the growth of the populist conspiratorial right and the rocket fuel given to it by the pandemic and covid conspiracy theories.
One thing she's very good on is the way Steve Bannon has strategised the platform of issues on the basis of balls that have been dropped by liberals/progressives. There are kernels of truth in everything that turns up in what she calls 'the mirror world.'
These include the abject failure of most mainstream leftish/liberal parties to challenge financial elites, corporate profiteering, and the antidemocratic power of the tech companies over public speech.
She recognises that the progressive side has developed a habit, also mirrored by those in the mirror world (who indeed is in the world and who is in the mirror?), to caricature and dismiss those who do not share their beliefs.
Both sides, I would say, are operating tribally. For the progressives it is 'us' vs 'the bigots/rednecks/nazis' etc. For the populists its 'us' vs. 'the coastal elites' or 'the sheeple' or 'the cultural Marxists.'
Because the leftish/progressive side has dropped so many balls about confronting the structural/financial/corporate/tech power dominating public life, it has left a lot of room for the populist right to build a platform which claims to address these issues, and then twist it into conspiracy theory, and direct people justified unease and resentment at the wrong targets.
Bannon did this for Trump before the 2016 election, trying to hive off part of the traditional Democratic vote, and appealing to blue collar workers, by taliung about bringing back American jobs, and confronting the power of Wall Street. None of which he actually did.
Now Bannon is building something called MAGA+, and a lot of its focus is on 'warrior mums' and the activist effort to push back on threats to children and to challenge what is happening in education by taking over school boards. Enter the pedo/groomer discourse, Moms for Liberty etc.
Here we encounter the single greatest weakness in Klein's analysis. With respect to the trans issue, she is still a good North American progressive. It is noticeable that on issue of the failures of progressive parties to challenge financial and corporate profiteering, she is accurate and honest.
However, she does a massive swerve around the trans issue. And fails to address what 'kernel of truth' there might be that the populists have picked up and run with. She reduces the whole basis of the backlash to trad moms concerns about bathrooms, which is to say, she tries to trivialise it.
She also has an interesting section on how progressives have focused too much on changing discourse, and the mistake they made about thinking that would lead to material structural change.
It's notable I think, that her analysis could be used, very effectively, to think through how the trans issue has massively fed into the populist backlash.

I'd say that after the capitulation to neoliberalism and corporate/tech hegemony, the trans issue is probably the single biggest ball dropped by the progressive side.
Indeed, it's not even a ball they dropped. It's a ball they picked up and ran with as far as they could in all directions.

Some time ago I said that trying to convince people that it was an artefact of 'ciswhiteheteropatriarchy' to think human beings were sexed was possibly the most damaging thing that has ever been done to the left-wing analysis of structural power.
Given how things are playing out, I stand by that. I do not think all this nonsense about cultural Marxism and wotnot would have got anywhere near the momentum it has had pretty much the whole of leftish/progressive society not decided to try and make people believe that humans being sexed was an artefact of power, and then tried to bully anyone who questioned them by calling them a bigot.
What Klein misses by failing to interrogate the trans issue, and its role in all of this, is that there is a connection between the take up of the trans issue by the progressive side, their capitulation to neoliberalism, and their excessive concern with discourse over real material and structural change.
It was *because* the trans issue allowed such evident justice washing among progressives and corporate and financial power, but required only symbolic or discursive changes that had no material structural impact on bottom lines, and 'merely' took shit away from women, that it has been so widely embraced by public institutions.
This is not 'cultural marxism.' This is corporate and institutional power wanting to dress up in the garb of caring about inequality or injustice, while doing fuck all to actually address it.

And in so doing, elevating a type of social justice discourse which is obsessed with policing speech, and castigating people for being bigots, and chucking them off social media platforms, and pisses most people right off.
All through this conflict I worried about the extent to which trans ideology and its intertwined SJW discourse was breaking all the concepts of left-wing analysis and feeding them to the other side.

That has happened, to an extent far beyond what I was worrying about.
Klein, like me, is especially worried about the way in which the breaking of meaning is undermining the discourse of anti-fascism. The way in which the Bannon-esque conspiratorial alt-right is using the language of resisting the authoritarianism of financial/tech power to feed into its own form of authoritarianism.
In this corner of the online world, we have also seen of late the way in which the trans/SJW misuse of the epithet 'nazi' or 'fascist' has fed into a backlash in which many people now think that epithet means nothing at all.
And they think this at a time where there is a massive populist backlash which allegedly sets itself against corporate and financial elites, while actually directing a lot of people's legitimate fear about what the fuck is going on in the world, at immigrants, or racialised minorities, or women, or deviants. That also directs people's fears at a 'globalist elite' which, if you just scratch the surface, starts to look very like 'Jews.'
Klein is right, we still need the language of anti-fascism. And we need to resist the way in which, like all the other language, it is being distorted in 'the mirror world.'

We also need to be unflinchingly honest about how the progressive side really fucked shit up in a way that has fed into what we are seeing now.
I do not think the usefulness of Klein's excellent book is impaired by her swerve around the trans issue.

But that swerve does tell us something. Because Klein is one of the greatest contemporary analysts of corporate and neoliberal exploitation and one of the most clear sighted about the absolute dangers to humanity that it poses.
The fact she won't let herself analyse the way the trans issue has been exploited by corporate and institutional power, and how that is feeding into the populist backlash, is itself an artefact of the oppositional culture war mirroring going on between the progressive and the populist tribes she discusses. As she says, they are, 'reverse marionettes.'
The space for discussion between these two tribes of marionettes is getting more and more squeezed.

Those of us who understand that a good part of what is going on in this craziness all around us is the departure from reality, must, I think, however hard it is, stick to our commitment to think in contact with reality. And the understanding that being in contact with reality is often a matter of messiness, and complexity, and nuance. None of which is ever welcomed by tribes of 'you're either with us or against us' identitarians.

We must continue to call out the distortions of reality being executed by both warring tribes, although that will often lead to name-calling, and accusations of treachery, or being on the other 'bad side,' by both tribes.

Fun times eh.

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More from @janeclarejones

Sep 8
JFC I am so furious right now about how TRA and related bullshit has completely fucked up the basic norms of political discourse.
1. You are allowed to say whatever you want - bar incitement to violence - even if it upsets or offends people.

2. If people are upset or offended, they are allowed to say they are upset or offended.

3. It would be even better if they explained why they are upset or offended.
4. Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism.

5. Criticism is not 'consequences.' Trying to harm people's livelihoods, slander their reputations, or subjecting them to harassment or abuse for expressing opinions or criticism is antithetical to free speech.
Read 5 tweets
Sep 6
So, I'm going to give it my best shot to exit this conversation now. As usual, when this topic comes up, the conversation devolves through analogies to locked cars and whether one should look twice when crossing the road, through claims about swamps of alligators, and into a
conversation about why feminists are ridiculous and stupid for not accepting that the staggering rates of male sexual violence in this society are just some immovable rock like datum put there by evolution.
As I suggested, and was multiply evidenced, in the conversations yesterday, there is a very deep and entrenched resistance to the idea that there is a cultural component to the incidence of rape in a society. And people will often make appeals to its trans historical or trans
Read 58 tweets
Sep 4
These are the comments made by Meloni’s partner and the responses by critics. amp.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug…
I’d like to point out:

a) Gambruno compared male rapists to wolves, and said that ‘the bad guys are always out there.’ You don’t have to be straight out saying ‘men are entitled to rape women’ to be perpetuating narratives that feed into rape culture.
One of those narratives is that rape is just the expression of a basic animal instinct in men, and the implication they can’t help it. It’s funny how this culture is structured by the claim that men are the rational controlled ones, and women are over emotion and hysterical, but
Read 18 tweets
Sep 4
This. This is one of my principal concerns.

- I do not think that is a representative portrait of feminist women's concerns about shifting the discourse about rape onto women's behaviour, to claim that we are denying the fact that women who get very drunk in public are >
vulnerable, to all kinds of unpleasant things happening to them. Every decent woman I know responds with concern when they find a very drunk woman out alone at night. Usually we stop and talk to them, try and get them a taxi, wait with them until we know they are on their way
to safety.

- Framing it as if our entire concern about this kind of discourse is 'they are denying that drunk women are more vulnerable' is a kind of caricaturing about reality-denying feminists that plays into a form of wide-spread antifeminism.
Read 30 tweets
Aug 28
Very pleased to have this reply to *that* (nonsensical and enraging) Catharine MacKinnon speech published in @philosophersmag.

@sleeepysandy @philosophersmag It staggers me they can’t hear the internalised misogyny in it…
@meltingshining @philosophersmag If you’d like to explain what I said that was wrong and why you think it’s wrong that would be great
Read 15 tweets
Aug 11
It impacts (not determines) social relations *in a patriarchy.

And the mechanism by which sex impacts social relations in a patriarchy is called…. Gender.
Because in a patriarchy women are oppressed along the axis of sex.

And erasing the recognition of axes of discrimination isn’t a good way of doing law.
No we don’t say that. Feminists think that patriarchy is a historical structure.

And to repeat, the social meaning of sex are… gender.
Read 15 tweets

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