South Korea seizes Chinese ship that allegedly transferred oil to the North: Daily Bullshit, December 29-31, 2017

Updates

  1. Originally published, December 29, 9:49 am.
  2. December 29, 5:19 pm:
  3. December 30, 3:34 pm:
    • Russia is also accused of delivering oil to North Korea.[1]
    • Facebook is complying with U.S. and Israeli requests to censor activists.[2] Twitter is likely doing the same.[3] (Social networks)
  4. December 31, 4:20 pm:
    • Britain’s security minister threatened companies like Facebook with massive taxes unless they allow the government access to encrypted communication.[4] (Social networks)
    • Facebook is inconsistent in its application of rules limiting ‘hate’ speech.[5] (Social networks)
    • Iran is blocking access to some social networks as authorities seek to quell protests.[6] (Social networks)

North Korea

It’s worth remembering that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing the U.S. into World War II, partly in response to . . . wait for it . . . an oil embargo.

British Broadcasting Corporation, “North Korea: South seizes ship amid row over illegal oil transfer,” December 29, 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-42510783

Guy Faulconbridge, Jonathan Saul, and Polina Nikolskaya, “Russian tankers fueled North Korea via transfers at sea – sources,” Reuters, December 29, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/usthkorea-missiles-russia-oil-exclus/exclusive-russian-tankers-fueled-north-korea-via-transfers-at-sea-sources-idUSKBN1EN1OJ

Emily Rauhala, “Trump said China was caught ‘red handed’ selling oil to North Korea. Beijing denies it did anything wrong,” Washington Post, December 29, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/trump-said-china-was-caught-red-handed-selling-oil-toth-korea-beijing-denies-it-did-anything-wrong/2017/12/29/89bc3a22-ec73-11e7-891f-e7a3c60a93de_story.html


Fusionism

In my dissertation, I set out a taxonomy of conservative tendencies, which I warned could become obsolete at any time.[7] I also didn’t talk very much about fusionism, “the guiding ideology of the US political Right for the last half-century, fusing together social conservatives, pro-business factions, anti-statists, and national security hawks in a durable coalition,”[8] for a couple reasons: First, I was trying to identify what separates conservatives rather than what brings them together. Second, I saw it as a neoconservative project that seemed maybe a bit outdated. Here, we see a taxonomy with different—and fewer—labels but that is otherwise similar to my own[9] and an argument that ‘religious,’ that is, social and traditionalist conservatives (the missing labels), no longer figure.[10]

It’s possible that my view of traditionalist conservatism needs updating. I count Rod Dreher, one of the authors here, as traditionalist. But he publishes in the American Conservative, which I also count as traditionalist, but which identifies itself as ‘reform.’ At the time of my dissertation, I wasn’t seeing enough of a difference to accept ‘reform conservatism’ as a distinct tendency,[11] and I’m still not persuaded.

All of this is to say that the Religious Right — the so-called “values voters” — really don’t exist anymore as a discrete nationwide force. The two issues that have defined us politically — abortion and sexuality — don’t have the salience that they used to. We lost the sexuality argument, and continue to lose it. Though abortion continues to be a potent issue, and one in which we are not losing ground, I have my doubts as to how many people decide their votes based on it alone. I mean, I know personally lots of people who do, and I’d guess that a fair number of this blog’s readers do, but my sense is that it is not the make-or-break issue that it has been for most of my adult life. It’s not that abortion isn’t an important issue to conservative voters, but rather my sense that its power has declined relative to other issues. I still believe it would be hard to mount a successful GOP presidential primary campaign as a pro-choice Republican, but I think it would be a lot easier today than it once was. Trump proves that, not because he’s pro-choice (he says he is pro-life, and whether or not he means it, he’s going to govern that way), but because he has shown how little GOP post-Reagan orthodoxies matter.[12]

I’m definitely not ready to discard the social conservative label, for a tendency which includes evangelicals. Evangelicals are deeply split over Donald Trump and Roy Moore,[13] but that hardly means they have ceased to exist. Rather, I’m inclined to see this intramural fight as signifying that there is something very much alive to fight over. Indeed, Dreher’s essay drips with the very tendency he describes as no longer “exist[ing] anymore as a discrete nationwide force.”[14]

And if I were counting discrete nationwide forces, I might not have counted traditionalist conservatism either, which even then lacked a potent presence in the political arena.[15] Certainly the dirty deal that some evangelical leaders have made with the devil, that is, Donald Trump, undermines the legitimacy of their moral arguments.[16] But they’ve been around in more or less their present form since the reconstruction era, when they opposed efforts by middle and upper class white women to control their own fertility, almost certainly in an effort to preserve white male hegemony.[17] That was a dirty deal, too, and just as they in fact thrived as a result of that deal, I’m expecting they’ll survive this one.

One of the characteristics of traditionalist conservatism, however, is that it privileges what it sees as the stable over the transitory. This spills into its epistemology, trusting the ‘wise’ species over the ‘foolish’ individual, trusting the status quo over ‘social engineering.’ In this context, Dreher’s argument seems odd; he is responding to what is, at heart, a pragmatic political argument—what wins votes?[18]—which is all about the transitory. I would expect him to have a bit more faith.

All that said, “institutional conservatism” looks a lot like my functionalist conservatism; the “libertarian right” is capitalist libertarianism, except that capitalist libertarians nearly all see migrants as exploitable workers and therefore favor open borders; the “fusionist right” still looks neoconservative to me; and the “nationalist right” looks like authoritarian populism. This list omits paleoconservatism, social conservatism, and traditionalist conservatism. And paleoconservatism, often seen as the “alt right,” is very much alive.

Dan Scotto, “The Strange Death of Conservative Fusionism,” Ordinary Gentlemen, September 20, 2017, http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/2017/09/20/the-strange-death-of-conservative-fusionism/

Rod Dreher, “Fusionism Is Dead! Long Live … What?” American Conservative, December 29, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/fusionism-is-dead-long-live-what/


Social networks

It’s catching my attention—and I don’t know what to make of it—that all these articles seem to be surfacing at once. Individually, they’re separate stories. Collectively, they show a pattern of government intimidation to censor and suppress dissent on social networks.

After the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer, CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to step up monitoring of posts celebrating “hate crimes or acts of terrorism.” Yet some activists for civil rights and women’s rights end up in “Facebook jail,” while pages run by groups listed as hateful by the Southern Poverty Law Center are decked out with verification checkmarks and donation buttons.[19]

The simple fact, as open source advocates have been arguing for a while, is that you may not agree with the censorship that any centralized network may impose, whether of its own volition or under pressure from outside forces. And whatever authorities you respect for whatever reason, you may not agree with all the authorities that act on such a network. See, for example, Iran.[20] Centralization makes any network a target for authoritarian or criminal control.

The only answer is decentralization, preferably massive decentralization. But in my explorations of decentralized networks, I have consistently encountered problems that require more technical expertise than I possess to resolve. Which means that less skilled users must rely on people who have those skills, enabling the same power relationship, albeit on a smaller scale, that bedevils the centralized networks.

It strikes me that this may be an appropriate use for blockchain technology, better known for underlying the Bitcoin scam, but fundamentally, a massively distributed register meant to preserve a record of transactions. Such transactions can include social network posts and I see that there have been a few attempts to develop such social networks. These networks have yet to gain traction because of the “everybody’s on Facebook” problem.

But the one thing capitalist libertarians get right is that centralization pretty nearly inevitably means authoritarianism.[21] (The trouble is that they fail to object to economic power, even when it is centralized in the same way they object to with political power.) And stupid kids on the Left are only now figuring that out.

Ariana Tobin, Madeleine Varner, and Julia Angwin, “Facebook’s Uneven Enforcement of Hate Speech Rules Allows Vile Posts to Stay Up,” Pro Publica, December 28, 2017, https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-enforcement-hate-speech-rules-mistakes

Glenn Greenwald, “Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments,” Intercept, December 30, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/12/30/facebook-says-it-is-deleting-accounts-at-the-direction-of-the-u-s-and-israeli-governments/

Jerusalem Online, “Twitter said to have shut down Palestinian teen’s account over hate speech,” December 28, 2017, http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/in-israel/local/did-twitter-shut-down-palestinian-teens-account-33342

Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Rouhani acknowledges Iranian discontent as protests continue,” Guardian, December 31, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/31/protesters-who-spread-fear-and-violence-will-be-confronted-says-iran

Tim Shipman, “Facebook, Google and WhatsApp among tech titans told to join fight against terror or face tax blitz,” Times, December 31, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/facebook-google-and-whatsapp-among-tech-titans-told-to-join-fight-against-terror-or-face-tax-blitz-plv9778nv


  1. [1]Guy Faulconbridge, Jonathan Saul, and Polina Nikolskaya, “Russian tankers fueled North Korea via transfers at sea – sources,” Reuters, December 29, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/usthkorea-missiles-russia-oil-exclus/exclusive-russian-tankers-fueled-north-korea-via-transfers-at-sea-sources-idUSKBN1EN1OJ
  2. [2]Glenn Greenwald, “Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments,” Intercept, December 30, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/12/30/facebook-says-it-is-deleting-accounts-at-the-direction-of-the-u-s-and-israeli-governments/
  3. [3]Jerusalem Online, “Twitter said to have shut down Palestinian teen’s account over hate speech,” December 28, 2017, http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/in-israel/local/did-twitter-shut-down-palestinian-teens-account-33342
  4. [4]Tim Shipman, “Facebook, Google and WhatsApp among tech titans told to join fight against terror or face tax blitz,” Times, December 31, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/facebook-google-and-whatsapp-among-tech-titans-told-to-join-fight-against-terror-or-face-tax-blitz-plv9778nv
  5. [5]Ariana Tobin, Madeleine Varner, and Julia Angwin, “Facebook’s Uneven Enforcement of Hate Speech Rules Allows Vile Posts to Stay Up,” Pro Publica, December 28, 2017, https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-enforcement-hate-speech-rules-mistakes
  6. [6]Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Rouhani acknowledges Iranian discontent as protests continue,” Guardian, December 31, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/31/protesters-who-spread-fear-and-violence-will-be-confronted-says-iran
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  8. [8]Rod Dreher, “Fusionism Is Dead! Long Live … What?” American Conservative, December 29, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/fusionism-is-dead-long-live-what/
  9. [9]Dan Scotto, “The Strange Death of Conservative Fusionism,” Ordinary Gentlemen, September 20, 2017, http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/2017/09/20/the-strange-death-of-conservative-fusionism/
  10. [10]Rod Dreher, “Fusionism Is Dead! Long Live … What?” American Conservative, December 29, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/fusionism-is-dead-long-live-what/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  12. [12]Rod Dreher, “Fusionism Is Dead! Long Live … What?” American Conservative, December 29, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/fusionism-is-dead-long-live-what/
  13. [13]Rod Dreher, “An Evangelical Crack-Up?” American Conservative, December 15, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/an-evangelical-crack-up/; Mark Galli, “The Biggest Loser in the Alabama Election,” Christianity Today, December 12, 2017, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/december-web-only/roy-moore-doug-jones-alabama-editorial.htm; Sarah Jones, “What Roy Moore Did to the Pro-Life Movement,” New Republic, December 13, 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/146274/roy-moore-pro-life-movement; Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Baile, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” Washington Post, December 14, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/after-trump-and-moore-some-evangelicals-are-finding-their-own-label-too-toxic-to-use/2017/12/14/b034034c-e020-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html
  14. [14]Rod Dreher, “Fusionism Is Dead! Long Live … What?” American Conservative, December 29, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/fusionism-is-dead-long-live-what/
  15. [15]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  16. [16]Rod Dreher, “An Evangelical Crack-Up?” American Conservative, December 15, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/an-evangelical-crack-up/; Mark Galli, “The Biggest Loser in the Alabama Election,” Christianity Today, December 12, 2017, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/december-web-only/roy-moore-doug-jones-alabama-editorial.htm; Sarah Jones, “What Roy Moore Did to the Pro-Life Movement,” New Republic, December 13, 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/146274/roy-moore-pro-life-movement; Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Baile, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” Washington Post, December 14, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/after-trump-and-moore-some-evangelicals-are-finding-their-own-label-too-toxic-to-use/2017/12/14/b034034c-e020-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html
  17. [17]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  18. [18]Rod Dreher, “Fusionism Is Dead! Long Live … What?” American Conservative, December 29, 2017, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/fusionism-is-dead-long-live-what/
  19. [19]Ariana Tobin, Madeleine Varner, and Julia Angwin, “Facebook’s Uneven Enforcement of Hate Speech Rules Allows Vile Posts to Stay Up,” Pro Publica, December 28, 2017, https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-enforcement-hate-speech-rules-mistakes
  20. [20]Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Rouhani acknowledges Iranian discontent as protests continue,” Guardian, December 31, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/31/protesters-who-spread-fear-and-violence-will-be-confronted-says-iran
  21. [21]F. A. Hayek, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, ed. Bruce Caldwell, vol. 2, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents; The Definitive Edition (1944; repr., Chicago: University of Chicago, 2007).

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