Identity Politics: Vox Day

After and during the election, Vox Day constantly opined that ideological politics was over and it was the time of identity politics. At times, Day almost seems apologetic about that, implying that he uses the tactics of his enemies — which includes identity politics — only because they use them, and you need to fight fire with fire. But in these two posts, Day settles himself into the identity politics that he most subscribes to: that there is something special about whiteness and the white races of the West, and that the real problem in America and other places is replacing white people with people who are not white.

Note that Day isn’t actually a classical white supremacist in any way. He constantly argues that when it comes to intelligence, for example, whites aren’t the most intelligent. Asians are. But underlying his entire philosophy is the idea that the white cultures of Europe and North America are the ones that are civilized and are the most capable of it, and that the way for those cultures to survive is for them to remain predominantly white.

Which, then, leads to his frustration with these questions:

I find it very annoying when someone decides it is an optimal use of my time to ask me to contemplate their personal situation and ascertain a) if their current political position can be characterized as Alt-Right, b) what variant of Alt-Right best describes their current political perspective, c) what the Alt-Right makes of their family situation, which inevitably involves some amount of interracial sex or adoption, d) if the Alt-Right has taken into account their family situation, which inevitably involves some amount of interracial sex or adoption, or e) if the Alt-Right is aware that its political theories violate the individual’s current theological perspective.

He tries to respond through translating the questions through an analysis of Keynesian economics:

How, then, would one regard an individual who asked the following questions?

  1. Can my current financial position be characterized as Keynesian?
  2. What variant of Keynesianism best describes my current financial position?
  3. What do Keynesians make of my financial situation, which inevitably involves some amount of debt or investment?
  4. Have Keynesians taken into account my financial situation, which inevitably involves some amount of debt or investment?
  5. Are Keynesians aware that their economic theories contradict my current theological perspective?

Now does the utter irrelevance of these questions make a little more sense? The truth or falsehood of Keynesianism does not depend on the amount one presently owes on ones’s student loan debt or credit card balance. Many people seem to be of the opinion that the legitimacy of the Alt-Right somehow depends upon whether it is good for them or not. This is, in three words, stupid, solipsistic, and erroneous.

Well, let’s examine them in order, because there’s at least potentially a bit more to the question than simple solipsism:

1 – 2) I’m currently using this financial position. It seems to work and doesn’t seem to contradict your economic model. Am I right in that, even if it differs in some places?

3- 4) This is the only financial system that makes sense for me to use. Can your view encompass it? Or do I have to reject your financial model?

5) Your view and the religion we share seem intertwined. But how can you advocate for that position and still maintain this theological commitment of that religion we share?

Any of these can be, in some way, translated to a charge that the position is not, in fact, correct, as it ignores reality or at least something that the economist seems to think true, and might even contradict it.

So let’s go back to the original questions, then:

1 – 2) Our political positions seem to broadly agree. Am I, then, a member of the Alt-Right and acceptable to it, even if I disagree on some points? Are there even acceptable variants (note that Day is explicit that there are).

3 – 4) You constantly talk about race mixing and those of other races as being inherently incapable of producing or maintaining civilization. But my other race spouse is as dedicated to your values as you are, and my children act more in line with how you want people to act than most white children. How does your view explain that? Or, if it can’t, isn’t this evidence that you’re wrong?

5) You claim to base this or associate this with Christianity. But you seem to contradict this part of Christianity. How can you maintain your view and claim that it reflects Christianity?

This leads us to the big problem with the identity politics of the Alt-Right: what they want to appeal to are certain values or cultural beliefs, but they are mistaken to think that the things they want are necessarily attached to race, religion or even nationality.

Think about it. There is a significant number of white people who are SJWs, and a not insignificant number of people who are not white who at least lean towards the values Day appeals to. A not insignificant number of the immigrants that Day dislikes really do want to come to the United States because they see American values as being in and of themselves good. They really do see America as civilized and their own nations as backwards. They have no interest in converting America into a copy of the nation they’re leaving. Moreover, many of them are willing to work hard and at whatever jobs they can get to get ahead, and have no interest in government assistance … often moreso than a lot of white Americans. Is Vox Day going to prefer lazy, entitled, SJWs to these people only because they share his race? Shouldn’t Day push to kick out the people who don’t share the proper values and keep those who do, no matter what their skin colour is?

Moreover, by associating it with racial or even national culture, he ends up including a lot of values that are irrelevant. I would rather associate with someone who works hard and respects other people and celebrates Ramadan than someone who doesn’t do that and celebrates Christmas. When you try to pick an identity as a proxy for virtue, you end up including things as virtues that are, at best, indifferents (long time readers will know what that means, but if ya want a hint, read the name). Virtue does not align perfectly with race, or even with culture. I know; of the people that I’d work with again in a heartbeat, there is one person of Polish — and so white — descent, and one who is Egyptian. And there are a number of others from the Middle East, from India, from Canada and, well, pretty much everywhere. And this also goes for the people I’d never work with again if I could help it. All racial groups can have virtue and vice, and Vox Day really wants virtue. But he insists on selecting on the basis of race.

Note that this doesn’t even have to impact his policies. Swamping the existing American culture through immigration may indeed destroy America, not not necessarily because they are bringing in too many “brown people”, but because they are bringing in too many people with cultural commitments to values that at least contradict those of America. If someone thinks that American values are inferior to those of those other cultures, then that would seem like a good thing … but very few people really think that. What we’d want to do is, ironically, something like what that “racist” Trump espoused: let’s try to bring in people with the right set of values. But you can’t determine that by the colour of their skin.

The second failing of identity politics is that determining what identity to focus on is always difficult, because it’s not clear what identities mean. As a Stoic-leaning philosopher, you could indeed read off what that should at least mean for the values I have and what I think are virtues and vices … but to what degree is that an identity as opposed to a philosophical position or worldview? And as a white man, you can easily point to that as an identity, but what does that say about me? I clearly disagree, often strongly, with both sides in this debate. You can’t read my virtues from my skin colour, gender, or social or economic status or class. The logical thing to do would be to stop trying.

But identity politics forces you to try. And that’s one of the things that’s terribly wrong with it.

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