NEEERRRRRDDDDD!!!

Looking back at the American election results, it seems evident that the most crucial factor in understanding them is the culture wars.  There are people who breathe modern trends and internet culture, and there are people who don’t understand it.  Of course, the reasons people voted one way or the other are much more nuanced than that, but I would argue that that is a disproportionately large factor.

Basically, the left is “cool.”  Today’s young people lack the context behind socialism that was provided to earlier generations who grew up during the Cold War.  More people than ever are going to college or university, and most of them are women.  And then there is the internet, where people can effortlessly surround themselves with like-minded people and block out anyone with a different viewpoint, equally as effortlessly.  Views on policy are shaped more by celebrities like Stephen Colbert and Lena Dunham than they are by experience or reason.  If you happen not to pay attention to these people, then you won’t understand what’s “in.”

In a lot of ways, leftism seems more like a fashion statement than anything else.  Leftism is in fashion, and therefore those on the left are the cool kids.  Those on the right are the squares: nerds who don’t have the insider knowledge that allows one to be cool without looking like a poser.  Either that, or being on the right makes one a sociopath.  The cool opinion to have regarding universal healthcare, for example, is that it is “lit” or something (see, I have no idea if I’m using that word correctly).  Or maybe it’s “woke.”  Does one of those things mean it’s good?  Whichever one means good.  If you’re opposed to universal healthcare, you clearly want poor people to die alone in the streets, their flesh rotting away in the cardboard box they called home.  It’s black and white; there is no possibility that better healthcare might be provided to everyone using a free-market system or something else.  The only acceptible position regarding universal healthcare is unquestioning support.  You need not analyze the issue in the slightest.  It’s a fashion statement.

It’s also generally assumed, at least in pop culture, that the default position on any issue is the “progressive” one.  I see that word used a lot, with an invariably positive connotation.  Even in cases where it would normally be considered inappropriate to insert politics.  Of course, though, a political statement may not be the intention; absent any connotation, a lot of people on the right would describe their views as progressive, because, to them, they represent progress.  For example, proponents of capitalism believe it is the best way to minimize poverty.  Clearly progressive.  But given the apparently universal acceptance of the left being the default position, it’s not clearly evident that describing something as “progressive” is not a political statement.  Take, for example, Cracked.com.  While nominally a comedy site, it usually tries to be impartial.  If there’s a political post, more often than not, both sides will be attacked equally.  It’s not always successful in that, but very rarely will it be explicitly one-sided.  And yet, it’s been nothing but critical of Trump.  The vast majority of writers and commenters alike are clearly anti-Trump.  That itself is not overly surprising, since it’s not unfair to conclude some of the things Trump has done or said have been beyond the pale.  That’s less a matter of opinion and more a factual statement (unless you’re delusional).  What is a bit more surprising is this article, written by Cracked.com’s executive editor, David Wong.  While it does offer a fair analysis of the Trump victory, concluding that Trump supporters are not nazis, for example, it doesn’t even pretend to be impartial.  It explicitly caters to its left-leaning readership (even though there are plenty of conservatives who frequent the side, often posting well-received comments) and assumes that the leftist viewpoint on any given issue is the correct one.

Another confounding article was this one posted in Scientific American, a well respected magazine on scientific topics.  And yet, it’s posting articles that betray the very nature of science.  Science is ideally impartial.  Science isn’t useful in determining which major political ideology is superior, because it’s not concerned with such things.  Science is used to understand nature objectively; your political views are far from objective.  I’d even go so far as to say science is impartial towards something as clearly evil as white supremacy; the judgement that white supremacy is bad is a moral one.  Sure, science can be used to refute white supremacists’ claims that white people are genetically superior and things like that, but the claim that white supremacy is morally bad has no scientific basis whatsoever.  Not that that makes that claim any less correct.  With that said, it’s inappropriate for an ostensibly science-related magazine to have an article like that, that takes for granted that the audience will agree the word “progressive” is a positive descriptor and that donating to NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU are all good things.  I don’t disagree with a lot of the conclusions he draws about Trump, but nonetheless, this shows the extent to which the “left=default position” mindset has infected pop culture (which, being a magazine, Scientific American is part of).  Even ostensibly apolitical realms of pop culture aren’t immune.* **

In summary, the left is obsessed with making appeals to coolness.  Here’s an article that seamlessly weaves cool status and viewpoints or policies generally agreed to be “progressive,” with reference to Canada’s global popularity, especially since we elected our hip celebrity Prime Minister (h/t Stephen Taylor).***  As someone who despises Justin Trudeau about as much as Trump, reading this sort of uncritical slobbering over him makes me sort of understand why some people voted Trump, even if his presidency might be disastrous.  When it comes down to it, leftists are essentially a bunch of crazed teenage girls, obsessing over whatever celebrity is currently popular, and generally excluding the geeks who don’t follow such trends.  With the state of politics, it’s like we’re back in high school, so it’s not the least bit surprising that someone as juvenile as Donald Trump was elected president.  In response to the juvenile left, most everyone else has responded with equal juvenility.****

*Of course, science itself has become trendy.  But if you go around wearing a shirt that says “I fucking love science” or something to that effect, I assure you you look more a bonehead than scientifically literate.  That’s a very lazy way to try to make yourself look smart.  I mean, if you love science so much, go to university and get a degree (a degree in science, not gender studies or dance or whatever).

**This also doesn’t mean publications like Scientific American should shy away from legitimately scientific subjects that have become politicized, such as climate change.  However, it should be cautious when talking about such things; it should avoid picking a side (both sides are wrong on this issue, if you ask me, because politicians and most political activists have a rudimentary understanding of science at best, and their own personal biases or interests will almost always take precedent over scientific accuracy) and it should avoid policy prescriptions, which are outside the realm of science (a scientific article might be able to say what actions people, in bulk, could take to counteract anthropogenic climate change, but it cannot say what the government can do to get people to take those actions.  That is the realm of social science, which is a separate set of fields).

***I also want to comment on the patriotic tone of that piece.  I’ve never really understood patriotism, especially Canadian patriotism.  Sure, it’s a great country, but for someone who grew up in the far west (not only that, but also in a small town eight hours away from the closest sizeable city), I’ve always felt disconnected from the country, the core of which is formed by Ontario and Quebec and otherwise has a largely urban population.  Where I grew up is very different from Ontario or even Vancouver, so the notion of Canadian patriotism has always been more alienating than anything.

****I’m sure this sort of thing has been true about politics in other eras.  The left has certainly been juvenile for as long as I can remember, but has juvenility ever had this degree of influence?  I should also note that I make a lot of generalizations about the left here, which are obviously not applicable to every individual, or even a majority, on the left.

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