A Q&A with psychologist, scholar and author Daniel Burston
"To be honest, I think in the short-term, right-wing authoritarians pose a much greater threat to American democracy than their left-wing counterparts do because they’re much better funded, they’re much better organized, better armed, and better trained than their left-wing counterparts. In fact, many of them are ex-military men with extensive combat experience who espouse white supremacy, or Christian nationalism, or some combination of the two. Left-wing authoritarianism poses a less potent and immediate threat to democracy, but it remains a serious long-term problem because it’s infiltrated our universities."
And with this comment Daniel Burston lost all credibility. Never trust anything that begins a sentence "to be honest"... because it entertains the point that the source would consider not being honest.
The truth is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE. Right-wing authoritarians are few and weak and unorganized. Left-wing authoritarians infest academia, the media and most major corporations. They are very well funded and very well organized. I am really dumbfounded that he would say this.
The other point is that right-wing today is classic liberal and intent on individual rights and liberties. Critical theory or critical race theory, they are the stuff of fake scholarship that academics tend to invent for continued feelings of big brain relevancy. Theories are invented and then die on the vine because they have no useful practical application... except in this case the practitioners have noted the money-making opportunities. They want to be the next Al Gore if they don't make a Smollett mistake.
This was another outstanding piece, and Daniel's comments were highly informative. However, I disagree with his final point regarding the relevance of the trucker protests in Canada. Unless one is blind, Canada is presently experiencing an unprecedented period of left-wing authoritarianism. This has seriously weakened Canadian democracy and unity. If we hope to defend democracy internationally, we must first successfully defend it at home. The truckers protests were a loud and visceral wake-up call. Unfortunately, many Canadians failed to hear it.
Tara, interesting read but quickly relegated to "bunk".
It's an articulate and insightful critique of what is essentially a contemporary version of the perennial left versus right ideology. But I would only add that post-modernist is attractive to Black people because it's perceived as an attack upon White European culture, history and people. And they just love that?! It gives them ammunition.
I wrote this on a friends FB page a few weeks back denoting the idea that the left, comprised of and empowered by so much postmodern-intellectual-elitism, is so far removed from the working middle class, that it constantly alienates itself and everybody else... anyway... my post:
"Although polarizing and ultimately misguided, the focal point of the convoy wasn't laterally positioned on the ever growing gap between the left and right, but facing vertically towards power and our governments neo liberal politics. It became a movement that held an accessible open door policy across social classes, vacuuming a surprisingly large segment of the working class, without the constraints of needing many different ideological alignments for people to come together.... The left has become more and more inaccessible, outwardly focused on a myriad of academic language, identity, and socio-cultural issues ultimately requiring some level of education to understand. I think it's alienating to a lot of people and reflective of the PMC ethos.
IMHO, when X postulates Y, and Z postulates ~Y, essentially the implicit assumption is that reality is discrete, i.e. left vs right, capitalism vs communism, democracy vs authoritarianism. Even the terms listed above are treated as canon, but as the American New Left argued in the 1960's, reality is analog in that personal allegiances and individual motivations are aligned to the end of political spectrum that best serves their interest. Individuals who function as senior managers in corporation are more likely to adopt the world view of those higher in the food chain. An assembly line worker often will support the goals of unions than those who walk the plant floor wearing a tie. If one factors out communism from Marx's theories, what is left is the substance of the debate being fought today. Most people fall somewhere in between being an owner or a floor sweeper. A technical lead in an IT shop may identify more with the social forces that make vertical mobility a positive force in society, whereas the CFO of an IT company will fixate on social factors that favor economic growth, i.e. lower consumption costs, salaries and market access.
Historical materialism is based on understanding the interplay between the economic engine of societies vs the ideological superstructures that surpluses allow to exist. Sometimes, an ideological superstructure does shape the modes of productions, and sometimes they are parasitic. What would the "west" look like if the Protestant Reformation had not happened. And at the other extreme, conspicuous consumption is disguised as being an index of a healthy society, e.g. cell phones.
My personal theory is that the west has become habituated too much into believing that the need for corporate profitability equates with national interest. Note, during the trucker protest how quickly the Canadian federal government acted once the Ambassador Bridge became blocked, and even more quickly when Ford and Toyota threaten to permanently shut down their plants. I argue invoking the Emergency Act will have long term effects in Canada. Just like what happened prior to the Reformation, when the elites once they realized the dirty masses were starting to not take their Church sanctioned words for what was best, the orifices of officialdom became suspect. 600 years ago it was the Priest, and now it is mass media. Mass media is about generating profits, and the last couple of years have shown how quickly critical thinking is attacked when profits are involved. Would not have the national interest of the U.S. been better served if the cable new channels had not exposed themselves to conflict of interests accusations, and hyperbola, when they continue to get paid millions of dollars a day for airing pharma commercials. Has any news outlet in Canada reported the cost in lost earnings to those who were forced to close their business, or who were forced to quit their jobs.
The Ukraine situation is another example of where western leaders have become too habituated into equating national interests with corporate interests. One day Poland is going to give Ukraine jets, the next day it is vetoed. The whole discussion of the jets was miss-handled by those who focused on manipulating public symbols as a way of displaying leadership, whereas the people of Ukraine are showing the world what freedom really means. It isn't about capitalism, socialism, communism, it is about what is best and innate about our species. The defeatism that permeates the news is essentially a reflection of a society where its leaders see everything as a cost/benefit analysis.
I too am "left" but where I differ from the points made in the article is that the source of the growing authorianism at both end of the spectrums is because representative democracies excuse too many people from having to think critically and that fact serves not liberals or conservatives but those who desire either wealth or power. Many of the arguments exposed in the anti-Federalist papers are just as valid today as they were back in the 1770's except the assumption was that people back then would not be able to make informed decisions if they were traveling by horse several hundred miles at a time to vote. In a way Marx was right about his modes of production theory in that we live in an information age, and according to historical materialism there should be some interplay between the economic infrastructure and the ideological superstructure, yet like what happened during the trucker protest, more and more people are getting more desperate to be heard and taking matters into their own hands.
Love what you're doing Tara. Thank you! This piece however was far too academic to be socially relevant. Burston is one among many academics who is busy forging a reputation by nit-picking: it's basic academic training, and forgive my directness here: it's what leads to academic blindness and stupidity. He was very weak on the subject of postmodernism in the interview, which may be neither here nor there. But he actually did not make any historical point there. What is most relevant vis-a-vis Marxism and its perspective is the idea of class struggle, and socially speaking how this perspective inspires social jealousy and material envy. In other words, the various forms of Marxism make their adherents miserable without any possibility for emancipation from that psychological and spiritual state. In short, postmodernism has more in common with Marxism than it has differences. As for his assessment of the right being worse or more dangerous than the left: that's just his political bias, and has nothing to do with reality, considering how we are already living under leftist dictatorship by any standard measure. I agree that both left and right are morally repugnant, something we are witnessing with the Ukraine crisis: the war mongering is coming from both sides, without an iota of peacemaking rhetoric emerging from either political end of the spectrum. . . . And then of course Burston demonstrates his academic irrelevance and his white shoe blindness as he misses entirely what has happened with the trucker convoy. Those events have radically changed Canadians and their attitudes. What the Liberals perpetrated will smoulder and eventually burn because it polarised Canadians and has strengthened the more radical elements among the working class. Working class Canadians are angry beyond measure, but how is an academic supposed to know that? Canada is presently a banana republic and that is all owing to leftism. No one in their right mind trusts the government or the banks in this country. So it's just a matter of time...
To be honest, these theories seem like intellectualizing with no clear purpose other than perhaps tantilizing the intellectual. Is it possible that what individuals and society really need are good principles and values. Here are the guiding principles of one Alberta company (imagine a government adopting and living these values - what fraction of problems would remain?) ; We Have the Courage and Conviction to Do What is Right: We achieve our results with courage, wisdom and integrity – being ethical in all our endeavours, principled in our decisions and accountable for our actions. We Interact with Care, Honesty and Respect: We uphold the dignity and worth of our colleagues and everyone we interact within our communities. We Value Diversity in Our Workforce and Communities: We are an inclusive organization which respects and values diverse backgrounds, characteristics, experience and perspectives. We Realize Our Potential: We create an environment where everyone fully develops and engages in our business by applying their skills and abilities. We continuously improve: We actively seek out and apply new ideas and learnings so we can continuously improve every aspect of the business. We Value Competence and Contribution: We value and recognize sound judgment, initiative and commitment as key components of performance and development. We are a Participative Organization: We are involved in the design of our work, actively seeking input and collaboration from others while understanding the decisions that affect us. We Create Our Own Future We learn from the past, anticipate future needs, and implement strategies that are sustainable over the long-term.
This interview was so interesting that I wrote an extended reply article:
Burston is mostly right, but he overestimates the power of the "far right", and utterly fails to diagnose the origins of wokeness, which I try to do in my reply article. Like most big things, it comes from fundamental economic and technological changes over the last generation or so.
"...the reasons why postmodernism seems so sexy to many people in academia still eludes me. I really don’t know why. I really don’t."
I don't think it's that mysterious. Queer Theory, more than any other articulation of what (to forward Burston's point) is called "critical theory" these days, is of the essence for understanding the social- and individual-psychological imperatives that drive post-structuralism. Does it come down to a deep need to affirm that prolapse worship, vore, and the whole spectrum of other perversions are, to adopt a stupid epithet, "valid"? It may.
The academic waded into the full pool of those looking at the Left/Right paradigm as Alex Jones once called it. But that paradigm is meant to polarize society, not inform it. Whether before the end of the Cold War or after it ended, the one topic never discussed in the USSR or the West was the basics of the financial system. There was no ideological divide there, because that is the one topic that should be discussed to bring us all out of the political morass. None of our countries should have a national debt (having all paid back multiple times what they 'borrowed'), yet they all conveniently are in hock to people who drive the agenda.
The US State Dept, CIA and the US military industrial complex who for 30 yrs (since the fall of the Soviet Union) have indulged themselves to expand NATO at all costs, forcing all former Soviet republics to submit themselves with the threat of coups and toppling their Democratically elected governments at will. The latest one being Kazakhstan this January. Earlier in 2014, it was Ukraine. Before that in Georgia. Next on the list is Belarus and second time in Kazakhstan.
CIA overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian Yanukovich Govt back in 2014 in order to install a US puppet govt that would want to join NATO and keep US nuclear missiles and US/NATO soldiers on Ukrainian soil. That's when the crisis started for Ukraine.
Poroshenko and Zelensky (now) threw all their political opponents and journalists in jail. Zelensky orchestrated the Ukrainian neo-nazis 'Azov Battalion' and others in killing Russian speaking civilians in Donbass region. Zelensky shutoff the water supply to Crimean region leading to severe drought over 3 yrs. Helped the US to install atleast 26 biological weapons laboratories (banned under UN biological weapons charter) in Ukraine close to the Russian border. Zelensky was the Israeli/US puppet installed to help get US nukes to be deployed in Ukraine after NATO/EU membership.
While Ukraine is suffering the consequences of US territorial ambition, the US/UK war profits (selling US/UK weapons) and US gas profits (selling US gas at higher price to Europe) while making Putin/Russia the bad guy and crippling their economy with sanctions and killing the Russian pipeline gas supply to Europe.
All in the hopes to encircle Russia, place nukes close to Moscow to counter Russian hyper-sonic delivery capabilities and neutralize Russia military superiority in that region.
Unless US/NATO expansion is halted eastward and Russia's security concerns are taken seriously and not dismissed with the usual US arrogance, things will only escalate. US war establishment will keep constantly poking the Russians to enrich their coffers.
Putin's rational and measured actions pertain to the Donbass region where the CIA trained (arms supplied) Ukrainian neo-nazi militia are committing genocide against Russian speaking civilians in that region of Ukraine. For 8 yrs, Russia has been pleading with Ukraine to abide by Minsk agreements and no attention was paid to it by Ukrainian puppet government installed by US/Israel and flanked by NATO vassals.
Now exhausting all options, Putin has finally drawn a red line and took action to secure the lives of ethnic Russians in the Donbass region.
For any concerns regarding unilateral actions by Russia, read the US 'Monroe doctrine' on how it set the stage. Imagine Russia and China start placing their military assets in Cuba and other Latin American countries. What would the US response be ? We all saw what happened during the 'Cuban missile crisis' as the US called it when it finds itself cornered by others in its own backyard.
The US does everything unilaterally, whenever it pleases and wherever it wants. Does Yugoslavia ring a bell and creating a Kosovo out of thin air? How about Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and other places around the world? Didn't we watch the brutal 'peaceful wars' that US/NATO conducted against countries and their 'tyrants' (who were former US puppets themselves) that weren't complying with the US foreign policy goals on CNN and western state media outlets nonstop 24/7 ?
It will make sense why Russia is always on guard with the constant US expansionism impulse under any pretext.
You can fool the western public using misinformation, disinformation, fake news and decades of carefully choreographed Hollywood propaganda from childhood. But facts are facts and it rings louder eventually...
US establishment with its usual media propaganda and on the ground CIA operations wanted to make sure that Russia gets dragged into Ukraine and other wars in order to effectively place sanctions on it and cripple the Russian economy so that a weakened Russia can be brought into submission and allow NATO to expand to their borders and eventually into Russia itself to oust Putin, their penultimate enemy before taking on China.
While the US global dominance declines rapidly, it will get more and more reckless and desperate to create conflicts everywhere to present itself as the solution. The US petro dollar hegemony is cracking immensely with colossal debts as a result of US FED printing trillions out of thin air and exporting the inflation to the rest of the world.
The other big powers are getting ready to take action at the appropriate time to ditch the US dollar based economy in favor of multi-currency pool/digital currency base.
Until then, the US war mongers at the State Dept/CIA will engineer as many new conflicts as possible with its global peers while the situation at home gets worse and worse as the quality of life for ordinary Americans goes down significantly.
Though its normal to pick sides based on biased information that one receives and fashionable to resort to virtue-signalling, it makes enormous sense to think rationally, logically and comprehensively on all issues that would guarantee a better path and better future for individuals and all peoples.
"Because if democracies in Europe, the Anglosphere and non-Western countries like India, Japan, Taiwan, and so forth, if they can withstand the all but inevitable assaults they’re facing, and we are facing from Russia and China"