CultureTop Section

Sarah Jeong and the Only Direction

There’s a joke about a tourist who gets lost on a bad detour in an Irish fog. He reaches a village and asks an old local how to get to Dublin. The Irishman thinks for a minute, and then replies, “I wouldn’t start here if I were you.”

The adolescence of the social-media age is a confusing place to start when looking for a unifying principle of the media. We’ve wandered a long way from the ABC-NBC-CBS concern for neutrality and respectability to the racial eliminationist rhetoric of Sarah Jeong receiving tacit support from The New York Times. What that fiasco has made apparent is that left-wing radicalism is mainstream and expected in America’s newsrooms. But trying to ask why this is the case is a lot like reading a sheep’s liver.

“#cancelwhitepeople” is one tweet that Jeong made. “White people have stopped breeding. you’ll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along” is another. Is your inner Dinesh D’Souza fuming?

As you might predict, though, the usual suspects claiming that the Democrats are the Real Racists did not stop every journalist from circling the wagons around Jeong. The conservative-media response is one of asking where the ref is — there is supposed to be a neutral referee that makes both teams play by the same rules. Forced to play the bigoted jester, conservatives are always raring for an opportunity to share their perennial humiliation with progressives. It never works; the transcendent arbiter somehow always misses the call. Sarah Jeong didn’t get the same treatment from the Times as Quinn Norton or Razib Khan, two other hires who had tangential associations with people who had made racist remarks against non-whites. Both were fired on their first day. Wagon-circling is based on tribe, after all. Have you ever seen them break into formation to protect Indians?

A brand-new demonstration of inconsistency is the banning of Alex Jones. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Spotify all brought the hammer down on the radio host in early August, days after the Jeong controversy ignited. Their combined market cap approaches three trillion. I ain’t no conspiracy theorist, so I’m not sure what to call four separate companies banning the same guy at the same time.

At first glance, it’s weird that left-liberals support the corporate technological panopticon that has captured the public square from “democratic” accountability. But the mystery evaporates when you realize that, in this instance, leftism is used as a vehicle for power. Jeong’s camp might be both liberal and leftist, but it’s not exactly important that they are. They are as leftist as possible — without actually getting too far into the whole “redistribution” thing) because liberalism isn’t memetically equipped to do away with neutral principles by itself. As opposed to leftism, it’s too neutral to guarantee power. Liberalism endows the opposition with the same procedural principles as those in power. If racial hatred is impermissible against one group, it’s impermissible against another. Liberalism doesn’t provide a satisfactory justification when someone asks themselves, “why do we get special rules?”

Within this operationalization, liberalism and leftism form a complementary motte-and-bailey system. When one can confidently express their radicalism, they can say that the bad guys on the other team need to be punished. When such rhetoric is indefensible, the drawbridge is pulled back and the unmistakably liberal ethos of privacy-from-politics is emphasized; the rights of capital to include or exclude anyone from a platform are invoked. The public’s square’s gradual annexation by private interests isn’t a problem when those private interests act for the benefit of the tribe. Our ruling tribe happens to be stoked about racial Dekulakization.

Even after notions of a neutral referee are dispelled, there remains a Pavlovian ugliness when what Jeong said about white people is said about another race. In the Platonic troposphere there floats the justification for this apparent contradiction, a gentle prototype to “fuck you, Middle-American cracker. I went to Columbia and I control the means of representation.” The explanation is that this is about power: white people are morally compromised because they have all of it. And so people without power, such as Harvard graduates who work at The New York Times, are allowed to make the rules.

Power — you’ll come across the word often if you read the defenses of Jeong, its invocations having an unmistakable Marxist pedigree. It’s just as we feared: beneath the smiling, civility-minded liberal is a demonic red beast, but one that is difficult to paint with the blood-crimson brush of Bolshevism. The characterizations of neo-Marxism or cultural Marxism, brought by more erudite conservatives, aren’t really correct, either. Identifiably Marxist modes of praxis are absent. Pieces of such things have been taken and subordinated to an elite that has a neuroses about its own power and needs to sanitize it. Talking about “phasing out” white people is cool, but to liberate the working class from a capitalist mode of production? That’s weird and old-fashioned, and also not very appealing to the folks on top.

Brooklyn left-neoliberalism is absorbing what it needs to secure the status of its adherents. This post-Marxism[1] is becoming the religion of the elites, kind of like how Episcopalianism was a century ago. Alarm about white males “claiming to be oppressed” when no such claim was made, as strong as ever during the Jeong controversy, is the perfect illustration of why this ideology is so useful to the powerful. That such a specific phantasm is automatically generated by our shitty aristocrats tells us it’s something that they are worried about: white males having a claim to oppression is a threat. Nominal oppression is jealously guarded because it’s understood to be the gate and key to legitimate social domination. By limiting the vocabulary of social injury to this word, any grievance that doesn’t fit into the category of “oppression” as delineated by the intelligentsia is rendered illegitimate. The greater lesson might be that the best strategy for social change is to convince elites that adopting a new ideology is in the interest of maintaining their elite position. It’s no mystery why the Sarah Jeongs of the world subscribed to an ideology where they factually cannot lose.

I’d bet that bona fide communists have an anxiety about the Times hiring someone like Jeong, one that they wouldn’t admit to having. Combining that with the news about Alex Jones, no class analysis could have made it out of this past week unscathed. Her beliefs are adjacent to those of history’s most violently extreme leftists, Maoist-Third Worldists, who more or less believe that white people need to be murdered so that communism can be built in the Third World. At first glance, her hiring, and the concomitant propaganda immune-response, would be a victory for the hard left. But seeing that there is no position too far to the left for Google, Facebook, or the Times must impart a feeling of  hopelessness in any Marxist worth their salt. Their ideas have been absorbed and subordinated to the point of impotence. Anything that might be too left-wing for the Times, something a notch beyond Jeong’s beliefs, looks suspiciously like a category that’s so extreme that it’s meant to includes nobody. Compare this to an alcoholic-in-denial who characterizes alcoholism as a terrible malady where one drinks literally nothing except alcohol, not even water. That’s a caricature meant to disqualify actually existing instances of a problem.

Criticizing Jeong’s race-murder pathology requires starting from a place where such a sentiment isn’t a grisly surgical procedure uniting supposed principles and diet-radicalism. Here’s hoping for more Sarah Jeongs. You need to have moved elsewhere before anything else can start. That direction is the one that privatized the public square, the one that lets us see what journalists actually think, the one that brought us here. It’s the only direction, and it’s forward.

Robert Mariani is co-founder of Jacobite. Follow him on Twitter.

[1] The post-Marxism codified by Hegemony and Socialist Strategy is a refoundation of left-wing thought away from traditional Marxism, purporting that radical social analysis can and should exist without class analysis. The neo-Marxism of Gramsci and Lukacs did not claim this, and therefore less accurately describes the radicalism endemic to journalists than post-Marxism.