Sociologist Jurgen Habermas wrote a lot about his theory of communicative action, where individuals could exchange in discussion with the purpose of, among other things, “a mutual search for understanding”. Unfortunately, in the context of the increasingly intolerant world we live in, Habermas’ ideal may be becoming more and more elusive.

This is because too many people are more than ready to dismiss the “other” outright, without even engaging in communicative action in the first place. Recently, three members of the newly-crowned NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles announced that they would reject any invitation to the White House, should U.S. President Donald Trump extend one, as U.S. Presidents typically do to championship winning squads in U.S. sports. Torrey Smith said clearly that “It’s not about politics; I just don’t think the president is a good person. I don’t want to go out of my way to go see someone who isn’t even welcoming the men in this locker room and our different cultures”. Despite Mr. Smith’s claim that its “not about politics” something tells me it is; after all, he “thinks” the president is not a “good person” without having, most likely, ever even spoken with him. And here is where communicative action becomes impossible: When we refuse to acknowledge another person and write them off before even speaking with them, instead choosing to judge them based off of portrayals in the media or—even worse—based off of personal opinions that are being projected onto the “other”, we get into dangerous waters.

That the media “paints” pictures of individuals with their words is undeniable; in the modern world corporate mass media has become a master of propaganda, even though they are often very wrong. Take a recent Foreign Policy article, for instance, which mistakenly reports that Mosul is in Syria. Why should anyone—in their right minds—trust a media outlet that does not know the difference between Syria and Iraq? Perhaps it is because Foreign Policy sees both as being “shithole countries”, but I digress.

 

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Apparently, Foreign Policy Needs a Little Lesson on Middle Eastern Geography. Image Courtesy Of: http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/06/the-storm-before-the-storm-trump-middle-east/

 

What is remarkable is that it is not just main(lame?) stream media that is guilty of such heinous propaganda. The Jacobin, a publication that calls itself “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture” and boasts of 30,000 print subscribers and a monthly web audience of one million is—despite its self professed “left” perspective—just as guilty of propaganda as the ostensibly “mainstream” outlets. Of course, given the “left’s” proclivity for propaganda—think Pravda in the USSR—this should not, necessarily, be surprising.

The magazine recently published a piece written by Harrison Fluss, a lecturer in philosophy at St. John’s University and Manhattan College, entitled “Jordan Peterson’s Bullshit”. Since I find Jordan Peterson’s perspective to be vital in the current climate characterized by a growing tendency towards one dimensional thought, I decided to take a look at just how one could characterize it as “bullshit”. After reading, however, it became clear that the article should have been entitled “Harrison Fluss’ Bullshit” because the writer seemed to lack even a basic knowledge of Marxist thought, despite being a self-professed “leftist”. Indeed, if this is the caliber of lecturers at St. John’s University and Manhattan College American college students are being severely short changed and must certainly begin to take their educations back. Judging by his piece, Mr. Fluss has no place teaching at any institute of higher learning.

Mr. Fluss casually dismisses the growth of one dimensional thought (“the Left allegedly has turned authoritarian”) while himself taking a very authoritarian perspective while imputing views on Mr. Peterson that were never expressed in his half hour interview with Channel 4. The number of Mr. Fluss’ errors in this article are too numerous to note here, but—as a marginal sociologist myself—I cannot forgive this particular line:

“In response to Newman’s statistics about the wage gap, Peterson argued that this inequality was a necessary part of the capitalist dynamic.”

In order to make this criticism, it means that either Mr. Fluss has never actually read Karl Marx—despite his, apparent, “red” political stance (pardon the pun)—or that he is just ignorant. I’m not sure which would would be better in order for him to save face amongst his “comrades”! This is because—as all my students of sociology know, “Marx believed that the capitalist system is inherently unequal. The capitalists automatically benefit more from the capitalist system, while the workers are automatically disadvantaged. Under capitalism, those who own the means of production, those with capital, make more money from their money” (From George Ritzer’s Sociological Theory, Eighth Edition: Page 69). This was a quote from the textbook that my students read. Either Mr. Fluss has never taken an introductory Sociology course, or he is just a left-wing nut-jub ideologue masquerading as a scholar, since one of Marx’s main arguments was that capitalism is based on an unequal system. Clearly, Mr. Fluss is a product of the failing cesspool that is American academia at the moment.

 

Yet while I might be able to excuse pure ignorance, I cannot excuse calls for fascism. Mr. Fluss argues that

“When we theoretically confront Peterson, we need to do more than refute his pseudo-scientific claims, his bad pop psychology, and his Cold War–inflected version of history. The real challenge is overcoming his fundamental irrationalism” [Emphasis Mine].

Mr. Fluss seems to forget that we are all human beings. We are all, to some extent, irrational. This is because we are individuals.  And, if that is a problem, then there could only be one solution: Fascism. The drive to make us all “rational” would mean making us act with one and the same motive at all times; it would mean  erasing our individuality once and for all. Of course, given the history of Stalinism, it is not surprising that the someone writing for a “leftist” magazine should encourage fascism; it is par for the course since it has been attempted before.

This makes Mr. Fluss’ subsequent criticisms of Mr. Peterson even more comical:

Peterson does not speak for what is “normal.” His jargon of authenticity — that he is just a simple academic fighting for truth amid so much political correctness and censorship — masks his authoritarian ideas. He calls Marxism a “murderous ideology,” but his paranoid and conspiratorial politics are hard to distinguish from the alt-right’s denunciations of cultural Marxism. Indeed, the line between Peterson’s authoritarianism and Richard Spencer’s paleo-Nazism is a blurry one.

Here Mr. Fluss resorts to a common tactic that has become popular in the progressive era; label anyone that does not agree with you a “Nazi” or “Fascist”. No, society cannot continue to work under the assumption of an assumed dichotomy like this, especially when people are not even willing to talk with one another and instead prefer labeling people based on tropes popularized by the main(lame) stream media.

The only solution to this state of affairs is communicative action; that is people talking with one another not with the preconceived purpose of disagreement but with the purpose of mutual understanding. Otherwise, we kill off the logic of Hegel’s dialectic and risk a dark future indeed. I leave you with some images I took in the bustling working class district of Karakoy in Istanbul. Monday through Saturday it is bustling with a variety of businesses, on Sundays it is quiet without a soul on the streets; it is eerie to see what the area looks like when it is so chillingly empty. If we refuse to even talk with one another based on—in the case of the Eagles players mentioned above—images proffered by the media, or, in the case of Mr. Fluss, factually incorrect information, then we will only destroy the societies we live in. We can still avoid such a grim and dystopian future, it just requires an escape from one dimensional thought.

 

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A Dystopian Future of Empty Streets is Not What We Should be Aiming For. Images Courtesy of the Author.
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