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?

Homosexuality as Sin

There is a group of South Koreans I’ve been arguing against for the past month. They have claimed ridiculous things such as “global warming is a hoax, Obama is a muslim, and homosexuality is not natural.”

Recently, one of them asked me “if I were homosexual, and if I were top or bottom?” followed by a link to a horrendous video that accuses homosexuality of malice and evil. They believe this because, apparently, homosexuals wish to make everyone homosexual, and because homosexual intercourse may hurt.

He also insinuated that it isn’t normal for a straight man to defend homosexuality so much, and tried to shame me for doing so. I responded in kind:

“It is disgusting how you try to shame me by insinuating that most men do not support the LGBTQ movement. There are, in fact, many straight men who support the LGBTQ movement: Noam Chomsky, Bernie Sanders, Gary Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the list goes on. As you can see, the support comes from both conservatives and liberals. I think you should be ashamed of not standing beside these individuals. You should be ashamed of spreading lies, conspiracies, and phobia.”

I usually don’t speak too much on these issues. I don’t feel like I have anything important to say on the matter. Plus, I am heterosexual, so these issues do not affect me in any personal way. Nonetheless, today I can’t shake off this feeling of disgust and anger. I think it bothers me because they are making fun of someone for the wrong reasons. It is like making fun of someone for being disabled, Black, or Asian. It is ugly and horrible.

This is the video that started everything. Here, he defends Trump and all of the bigotry I mentioned already. The video is in Korean, so you might not understand it. But if you believe, as I do, that this kind of bigotry should not prosper, then I urge you to downvote this ugly video. I am already sickened by the recent shooting, and I believe it is imperative for us to actively fight such bigotry.

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.”

Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter: the Left’s white supremacy, or millennial identity politics?

Recently, a group of so-called Black Lives Matter activists interrupted Bernie Sanders’s event. Most reactions have been negative, due to the rude and bullish behaviors of these activists. Amidst the swarm of furious Sanders fans, I’ve found a progressive group called “the Other 98%” endorsing an article that sings the opposite tune. It was quite a troubling piece, and I’d like to jot down some of my criticisms.

This is the article’s argument:
A) Bernie Sanders brings up economic inequality, when he addresses Black Lives Matter.
B) Therefore, he believes racism is ONLY a product of income inequality.

Obviously, there are many problems with this argument:
1) Social stratification worsens and systemically enforces racism. Resolving income inequality is one of the ways to combat social stratification.
2) Mentioning such facts of income inequality does not necessarily make one a subscriber of the belief, “racism is ONLY a product of income inequality.”
3) No evidence has been found to indicate that he doesn’t believe racism exists. On the contrary, there’s plenty of evidence, where he expounds upon the relationship between social stratification and our long history of racism [1].
4) This is typical of “post-modern” millennials, who believe that all matters are “power struggles” that stem from the “unconscious.” Manifestly, a) they do not know rudimentary facts of psychology: that human beings are not merely motivated by power. We’re motivated by tribalism, irrationality, and many other instincts; we’re also motivated by rational interests. This means that not every act of quasi-racist behaviors stem from one’s will to power. b) they adore postmodernism and a particular pseudo-science: psycho-analysis. This allows them to weave two unrelated facts together, since every behavior stems from the “unconscious,” or a Nietzschean will to power. This allows them to postulate wild conspiracies from little to no evidence.

The author could’ve done better by arguing that since Sanders doesn’t speak of the psychological and cultural intricacies of racism, he indirectly perpetuates the denial of their existence. It’s certainly a much better argument. However, this is still problematic: discussing the delicate tangles of racism does not eliminate the material conditions that perpetuate racism. In order to successfully fix racism, one must make material changes. Thus, it would be preferable to see Sanders address such intricacies as well as making material changes. But, like most “post-modern” millennials, their psycho-analysis and pseudoscience compel them to resort to wild accusations, character assassination, nonsensical correlations, and –as Martha Nussbaum has shown us through her eloquent take-down of Judith Butler– bid us to prefer theorizing over material change.

Link to the referred article: