The Legacy of Ralph Nader

It’s unfortunate that Ralph Nader is remembered as the “spoiler of the 2000 election” these days, rather than as “the founder of modern consumer protection.” It used to be the case that automobiles were extremely unsafe to operate. There were no regulations that we, nowadays, take for granted like seat belts and airbags. He fought against intimidation from General Motors as he laid bare the dangers of the automobile industry: private detectives hired by General Motors followed Nader into a bank, and looked over his shoulder to read what he was writing on a deposit slip. Furthermore, he helped carry out independent research on various federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. He was a hero and a household name for Americans in the 70s. Yet, we deride him as “a spoiler and a radical.”

Such amnesia is a key feature of the United States according to Gore Vidal. We have forgotten the imperialist efforts of the United States and its deadly consequences. We have forgotten the crucial role of labor unions in securing good wages and high pensions. We have forgotten the deeply racist history of this country. We have forgotten the horrors of back-alley abortions before Roe v. Wade. What must we forget next? Bernie Sanders’ popularist campaign that was totally funded by small contributions from ordinary people? A habitable climate? Freedom from corporate tyranny?


Donald Trump and Climate Change

I think people often forget an issue of great importance: climate change. Trump is a climate change denier. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both have comprehensive plans on how to deal with climate change. What’s important isn’t merely the present or the near future. The future is, arguably, even more important. There are about 7 billion people right now. Climate change would make all future persons and animals suffer. The sum total of such sentient beings would easily eclipse 7 billion. Therefore, we, as one of the biggest polluters in the world, need to elect a leader who will work to save this planet. Trump is not that person.

Why am I so angry?

We sift through millions of pages on the internet, and when we do, we encounter a slew of battles: the Right vs. the Left, Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton, Feminism vs. the Patriarchy, Atheism vs. Theism, Continental vs. Analytic Philosophy, and so on. We also run into a slew of anger. We’ve probably even experienced it ourselves – multiple times. Why is this so? Why are we so angry? Many have written on this topic: psychologists, philosophers, bloggers, and journalists. In this post, I’m not necessarily interested in all of the psychological and societal factors that fuel anger on the internet. I’m interested in a particular person –an archetype– among the many angry voices on the internet. That person is Angry Jack.

Angry Jack, according to Innuendo Studios in this excellent video series on YouTube: Why Are You So Angry? is someone – usually a straight, white male with a fair amount of privilege– who shows hostility when reminded of his privilege. He also tends to be involved in various anti-feminist and progressive groups. I won’t go into all of the details of this video due to its lengthy content; I highly recommend you watch the video before moving on, because I sincerely believe that it would help broaden your horizons. Instead of dwelling on the frightful history of #GamerGate and the vicious extent to which misogyny persists on the internet and in my generation, I would like to take the archetype of Angry Jack to a broader context –outside the scope of anti-feminist and racist gamers.

The phenomenon of Angry Jack can be seen in many forms: New Atheism, Alex Jones, Analytic Philosophy, and so on. This phenomenon, as explained by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Susan Faludi her book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Womenbares its ugly teeth at us when the privileged class feels that the fight for feminism is coming to a close, when they feel that feminism or any type of progressive battles prop up strawmen for the sake of prolonging a dying battle –to make progressives and feminists feel like they still have something to fight. New Atheists are mostly straight, white males who assume that most religious folks are irrational ignoramuses, rather than recognizing their own irrationality –rejecting sound criticisms against their heroes from secular scholars like Scott Atran or Phil Zuckerman, and forming conspiracy theories to rally a bunch of think-alikes. They believe that the fight against imperialism is meaningless, as evident in their treatment of figures like Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky; they also think Islamaphobia is a myth. Alex Jones constructs conspiracy theories after conspiracy theories as well, when confronted with facts that contradict his claims; he continues to spew hatred against immigrants, women, and homosexuals, rather than owning up to the fact that his world view is flawed and that he is privileged. On a similar note, Analytic Philosophers have ignored issues on gender and race for millennia. Despite legitimate criticisms against figures like Jacques Lacan, its downright refusal to engage with Continental Philosophy, which has contemplated these issues far longer with more depth, shows a certain type of reluctance that’s seen in Angry Jack: instead of involving myself with these issues, I’m just going to dismiss them and ponder over the nature of math and possible worlds.

This take on Angry Jack is important to me, and possibly many others, because I, and many others, were Angry Jack. I lost faith and became an atheist. I stuck with the New Atheists, despite their tribalism and misogyny, for a while. It wasn’t until I read articles and studies by Scott Atran and Phil Zuckerman that I began to distance myself from New Atheism. While I was a part of the movement, I engaged in many heated and angry battles. Often times, I ignored and dismissed feminists or post-colonial criticisms of New Atheism. I was also part of the dogmatic Analytic Philosophy camp. Before joining this camp, I was a postmodern communist who became disillusioned with the Continental tradition from reading scathing criticisms of postmodernism by Alan Sokal and other scholars. So, when I engaged other Continental folks online, I was angry again. I did not listen to their concerns; I often refused to even treat the subject matter in discussion –gender issues, imperialism, power structures, and so on– seriously. Now, I’m no longer a New Atheist. In fact, I’m a secular critic of New Atheism. I’m no longer so dogmatic about Analytic Philosophy as well. I actually read post-colonialism, sociology, and gender studies now; even though I still abhor Derrida and Lacan. What I’m trying to say is that I was Angry Jack, and I don’t think I’m alone. I think it’s essential to broaden the scope of Angry Jack – to apply the equally dangerous parallels of Angry Jack to domains beyond #Gamer Gate, and to appeal to those who had gone through and who are currently going through these phases as I have myself. So, if you are an Angry Jack, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. If you want to see a more in-depth analysis on this topic, I urge you to watch Innuendo’s video series –Why Are You So Angry?

On a final note, let me end with Innuendo’s comment in the last video of his series: “You will be an Angry Jack many, many, many times in your life. I promise you, you will be him again; it will happen. It’s the default reaction to having your privilege checked, sometimes even having it acknowledged. If you don’t make a conscious choice to be better than that, it’s just a path of least resistance.”