Back in February the legacy media was gloating over the demise of Milo Yiannopoulos. Apparently the Left’s faux outrage machine had successfully smeared him over some unguarded comments he made about his sexual relationships as a young teenager. These were construed as “support for pedophilia,” which they decidedly were not as anyone can see who listens to what he actually said. No matter, Simon and Schuster cancelled his book deal, CPAC rescinded their speaking invitation, and even Breitbart caved, accepting his resignation as their technical editor. It would seem Milo’s enemies gloated too soon. He self-published his book, which currently sits at number two on the New York Times list of best sellers for combined ebook and print nonfiction.
What to make of Milo, his book, and the public reaction to it? When it comes to human behavior, the answer is always the same; go back to Darwin. Forget the futile game of arguing about who is “good” and who is “evil.” These categories exist only as subjective mental constructs, and are manifestations of emotions, not reason. In short, they are figments of our imaginations. Instead, look for the evolved emotional traits and predispositions that are driving the behavior.
For starters, it’s always a good idea to look at ingroups and their associated outgroups. They are a universal and fundamental aspect of human behavior, and they will always be there, along with all their associated loyalties and hatreds, as well as the dual system of morality human beings apply depending on whether they are speaking of one or the other. They are also one of the most “dysfunctional” aspects of human behavior. The innate traits responsible evolved at a time when the ingroup consisted of the relatively small group of hunter-gatherers to which one belonged, and the outgroup almost automatically became a similar group living in the next territory over. At that time ingroup/outgroup behavior obviously increased the odds that the responsible genes would survive and reproduce. However, our brains became bigger, and we began associating in ever larger groups. Our powers of imagination expanded with our brains, and we became capable of identifying our ingroups and outgroups based not merely on physical proximity, but on race, religion, class, ethnicity, ideology and a host of other criteria. There is no reason to believe that such “modified” versions of the behavior will accomplish the same thing now that they did then. In fact, there is good reason to believe they will accomplish exactly the opposite.
In this case, Milo makes it easy for us to identify the relevant ingroups. They are each identified in the title of a chapter of his book, and Milo has the honor of belonging squarely in the outgroup of every one of them. They include feminists (chapter 4), Black Lives Matter (chapter 5), Muslims (chapter 9), and so on. Many of them either overlap or have some affinity with the most significant of them all, the Progressive Left (chapter 1). The Progressive Left is an ingroup that defines itself according to ideology. In other words, the boundaries of its “territory” consist of a set of ideological shibboleths. As set forth by a member of this ingroup in a review of Dangerous, these shibboleths are supposed to promote a “fair, multicultural, egalitarian society.” A fundamental theme of Milo’s book is that, in fact, the Progressive Left is creating a profoundly unfair, divisive society that, far from being egalitarian, is based on a rigid hierarchy of identity groups. In his words,
We live in an age where one side of the political spectrum would like all debate, all challenge to their viewpoints, all diversity of thought to be snuffed out. Why? Because they’re scared. Scared that their political, social and cultural consensus, carefully constructed and nurtured over the past few years, with its secular religions of feminism, enforced diversity, multiculturalism, and casual hatred for straight, white men, is built on a foundation of sand.
The response of the Left to this assault on its ideology has been typical of ingroup responses that transcend species. They have made a furious rush to defend their ideologically defined territory, filled with rage towards this presumptuous outgrouper, for all the world like a pack of howler monkeys defending its turf. In a word, Milo is right. They do hate him. Leftist reviews of the book include such well-reasoned responses as,
America now faces greater problems than the mean-spirited shitposts of a preening hack.
Why any troll, racist, sexist, or teenager would pay for the version of Dangerous this draft presents when it exists on 4chan in endless supply is a mystery. At least the hatred there is more interesting.
He’s a clickbait grifter who has made a name for himself spewing hate speech.
Read them and you will find claims that the book is boring (it’s not), that it’s not selling (it sold out almost immediately on Amazon), that it discusses issues that are so yesterday (they aren’t yesterday for people who don’t happen to be obsessed with social media), and, of course, the de rigueur claims that the book is racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and so on. What you won’t find, or at least I haven’t found so far, are well-reasoned arguments against any of the major themes of the book. That’s not surprising. The Left has now controlled the media, the academy, and the arts for so long that its ability to engage in rational argument has begun to atrophy. Instead, it seeks to bully, vilify, and bludgeon its opponents into submission. Conscious of its power, it has become increasingly authoritarian. Hence its fury at the “deplorables” who dared to defy it in the recent election, and its determination to refuse legitimacy to the results of that defiance.
Allow me to provide a brief tutorial on how such a rational argument might actually look. In his book, Milo cites statistics according to which blacks are responsible for a disproportionate level of violence and crime in our society. A rational response would be that the statistics are wrong, and that levels of violence and crime among blacks are comparable to those among other ethnic groups. Concerning the gender pay gap Milo writes,
Study after study show the wage gap shrinks to nonexistence when relevant, non-sexist factors like chosen career paths, chosen work hours and chosen career discontinuity are taken into account. They key word is chosen… The wage gap is almost entirely explained by women’s choices. Men prefer technical jobs; women prefer people-oriented professions.
As Christina Hoff Sommers says, “Want to close the wage gap? Step one: Change your major from feminist dance therapy to electrical engineering.”
A rational response would be to cite studies that demonstrate a systematic pay gap between men and women in identical jobs, or evidence of verifiable attempts to discourage women from choosing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Regarding Islam, Milo writes,
Islam is not like other religions. It’s more inherently prescriptive and it’s much more political. That’s why I, a free speech fundamentalist, still support banning the burka and restricting Islamic immigration… Everywhere Islam exists you find political tyranny. Islam is as much a political ideology as a religion, which is why limits on it are perfectly compatible with religious freedom and the First Amendment… Every noble principle the Left claims to uphold, from rights for women to gay liberation, even diversity itself, dies on the altar of its sycophantic defense of Islam.
A rational response would be to demonstrate that the Muslim religion doesn’t inject itself into politics, that the states in which it prevails tend to be secular democracies, that Muslim theocracies are tolerant of gays, and they promote equal rights for women. I have seen no such responses in any of the many attacks on Yiannopoulos and his book. Instead, they tend to confirm his claim that,
The practitioners of the new political correctness are not equipped for a world in which individuals can disagree with what is deemed appropriate thought. They rely on silencing the opposition with hysterics, instead of winning with superior ideas… Purposefully or unwittingly, a generation of Americans now exists that is terrified of critical thinking.
In other words, the Progressive Left seldom meets the arguments of Yiannopoulos or anyone else head on. Instead they rely on the illusion that they occupy the moral high ground, and seek to vilify and anathematize their opponents. Unfortunately, outside of the subjective consciousness of individuals, there is no such thing as a moral high ground. Claims to moral superiority can never be objectively legitimate. They exist in a realm of fantasy where good and evil exist as independent things.
In spite of the Left’s anathemas, Dangerous is well worth reading. Yiannopoulos is a very intelligent man, and his book reflects the fact. He is well aware of the role of innate emotions and predispositions as drivers of human behavior. In particular, he is aware of the fundamental importance of ingroup/outgroup behavior, or what Robert Ardrey called the “Amity/Enmity Complex.” As he writes in Dangerous,
Since the 1970s, social psychologists have been aware that emphasizing differences between groups leads to mistrust and hostility. In a series of landmark experiments, the psychologist Henri Tajfel found that even wearing different-colored shirts was enough for groups to begin displaying signs of mistrust. So guess what happens when you tell everyone that their worth, their ability, their right to speak on certain subjects and – shudder – their “privilege” is, like original sin, based on what they were born with, rather than any choices they’ve made or who they are?
Like the men’s health gap, the black murder gap is very real, and simply isn’t discussed by black activists. I suspect it’s a matter of tribalism, or ingroup/outgroup psychology, a common occurrence in politics. Like feminists who blame their everyday grievances on an invisible “patriarchy,” or Wi-Fi enabled Waffen-SS wannabes who think Jews are responsible for everything bad, or Democrats who blame the Russians for Hillary losing the election to Daddy. It’s very easy to dodge responsibility if you have a boogeyman to lump the blame on.
These quotes reflect a level of awareness that most leftists never reach. They also allude to the reason that the utopias they are in the habit of concocting for us have never worked. An ingroup can be as egalitarian as it pleases, but the assumption that the identity groups they invite to inhabit their multicultural world will necessarily be similarly altruistic is delusional. Ingroups and outgroups will always exist, and they will always hate each other, as demonstrated by the bitter hatreds leftists themselves tend to wear on their sleeves. Until the innate behavioral traits responsible for ingroup/outgroup behavior and the dual morality inevitably associated with it are understood, accepted, and a way is found to effectively control them, they will continue to be as dangerous as ever.
The book is an interesting read for many other reasons. Its detractors dismiss discussions of such controversies as Gamergate as water under the bridge, but they should be of interest to readers who aren’t obsessed with the very latest twists and turns in the culture wars. Such readers may also have heard little or nothing of the many contemporary thinkers mentioned in the book who, like Yiannopoulos, are challenging the dogmas of his opponents. Their work is seldom found in newspaper columns, and the book is a useful guide on where to look for them in contemporary social media. Other than that it includes some thought provoking comments on Andrew Breitbart’s dictum that “politics is downstream from culture,” the reasons for the counterintuitive nexus between the Progressive Left and radical Islam, the remarkable cultural similarity between current “conservative” and “liberal” elites outside of superficial political differences revealed to the surprise of many in the recent election, the many contradictions between the avowed ideals of the Progressive Left and the other “haters” called out in the book and the various forms of racism, sexism and bigotry they practice in the real world, and so on.
Perhaps the greatest weakness of the book is something it has in common with virtually every other similar work you’re likely to find, whether it comes from the left or the right of the political spectrum. It tries to counter claims of moral superiority with claims of its own moral superiority. One can “win” such a contest by being more effective at manipulating moral emotions than ones opponents, but in the end it is an irrational, dangerous, and futile game. Consider what is actually being manipulated – innate emotions and predispositions that have no intrinsic purpose or function, but exist merely because they happened to improve the odds that certain genes would survive and reproduce. There is certainly no guarantee that they will even accomplish the same thing in an environment so radically different from the one in which they evolved as the one we live in today. On top of that, those who seek to manipulate them often do so in pursuit of goals that have little if any connection to the reasons they exist to begin with.
The only way our species will ever manage to get off of this merry-go-round is by finally learning to understand the fundamental drivers of behavior, moral and otherwise. An individual who is fully conscious of the nature of the emotions that are the motivators for all the goals and aspirations he sets for himself in life will also be an individual who is capable of discarding the illusion of objective moral laws as a rationalization for those goals and aspirations. I don’t oppose the Progressive Left because it’s immoral. In the end, I oppose it for the same reasons that are actually motivating Milo. I don’t like to be bullied by people who assume they have some imaginary “moral authority” to tell me how I should behave and think. We could “win” by beating the leftists at their own game, and seizing the “moral high ground.” It would be a hollow victory, though. As has happened so often in the past, we would end up by becoming clones of the monster we had just slain. We need to stop playing the game. There has to be a better way.