Monday, January 30, 2017

Why It Isn't OK to Punch Richard Spencer

Being black I don't exactly make a habit of defending white nationalists.

But I feel this needs to be said.

For those who don’t know, Richard Spencer is the president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization. He attained some notoriety after Trump’s election victory when members of his organization were caught on camera doing Nazi salutes. Spencer gave an incredibly lame excuse for the salutes, and does not identify as a Nazi, but for the purpose of this writing it is not really relevant one way or the other. What’s important is that he disavows violence and has consistently advocated his group’s position peacefully.

At the inauguration of Trump, while Spencer was doing a street interview, someone ran up to him and punched him in the face. The incident was caught on camera and quickly spread across the internet. It turned into a meme and a number of left-leaning sites applauded his assailant. At the recent SAG awards David Harbour explicitly endorsed the assault to thunderous applause.

There are three reasons why we need to condemn the punching of Richard Spencer

1. It is Stupid

Punching Spencer makes him sympathetic. Disaffected whites see an incident like this and wonder why people are so scared of him. They then check out his site and read his arguments about preserving white culture and they do not understand why it is so scary. Leftists have yet to realize that for most white people, the idea that whites ought to collectively look out for their own interests is not an extraordinarily controversial position. Trump won the election in part because whites are voting more and more as a bloc. Putting Spencer in the news as a victim of violence for the sin of caring about white people helps his cause far more than it hurts it.

2. It is Ugly

Punching Nazis is not an ‘American Tradition’ contrary to what you may hear. Violence against politically unpopular opinions is. People forget how quickly social fashions change. Today you say it is OK to physically assault someone because you are offended by white nationalism. In the past it was OK to beat up a man for being a homosexual, supporting communism, or dating someone of a different race. They had the same excuses too. People were genuinely offended by 'commies', 'fags', and 'race-mixers'. So when you defend someone for sucker punching Richard Spencer, you are supporting every ugly act of violence committed against minorities throughout history. Congrats.

3. It is Dangerous

Normalizing political violence can not lead anywhere good. Using violence toward Spencer and his supporters sends a very clear message: You people have no free speech rights. You have no right to assemble, petition, and seek redress for your grievances. Therefore your only recourse is to use force.

Violence begets violence. Initiating it against white nationalists makes them morally justified in returning it. How would leftists react to some masked thug running up to John Stewart and cracking one of his ribs with an elbow to the chest? They would have no moral authority to complain; their opponents met the call for violence by responding in kind. Progressives assumed that the white supremacists would just roll over and accept a new normal where they need to be scared and intimidated physically when they go out in public.

What if the white supremacists don’t accept this? What if they start planning to use violence in response? It might start relatively tame. Stink bombing feminist rallies, sabotaging left wing speaking events, etc. But what if it goes back and forth and escalates? What if people start getting targeted and jumped by gangs? Buildings start getting burned. Someone decides to throw a cup of acid at someone’s face. A group of the most extreme decide to load up with some AR-15’s, head down to an opposition rally, and give us a day we’ll never forget.

This is the road we go down when we laugh about a guy getting beaten because his opinions are unpopular. We need to be better than this. We need to focus on fighting our enemies intellectually, not physically. The minimum standard of political discourse is something we teach 1st graders: “No hitting.” If we can’t meet a standard we apply to seven year olds then we are truly lost.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Some Thoughts on Racism in Japan

I have been commenting in various places on the subject of racism lately and it seems a good time to mention some of my observations about life in Japan.

I went to my first Mensa Japan meetup a few months ago. It was an interesting experience. Not only was I the only black guy, I was the only non-Asian person (I think it was all Japanese natives but it is possible there were Korean or Chinese people there). I got a few surprised looks, sure, but otherwise the people were great. I met company presidents, software engineers, doctors, artists, and various other interesting people. It was about 90% men. The few ladies I spoke to were very friendly though.

The experience reinforced my sense that Japan is generally a very welcoming country for foreigners. I think this is largely because there are so few of them. With a comfortable 99% majority, native Japanese in their day to day lives do not have to think much about gaijin. Because it is such a safe and wealthy country, foreigners largely go out of their way to adopt Japanese norms. Most foreigners do not demand that Japan change itself to accommodate them. There are not enough foreigners to effectively agitate for such changes anyway.


 Tatemae and Honne

However this does not mean that most Japanese people have zero racial bias. The thing is, race is considered a taboo subject, so people will not speak about it much openly. There is in Japan the concept of honne (本音) and tatemae (建前). The former is people's honest opinion while the latter is a person's 'front' - their polite, politically correct view. On delicate social subjects, most of the time Japanese people will only give you their tatemae. This is why Youtube videos where they go around asking Japanese people about race are kind of silly. Very few Japanese people are willing to criticize other races on camera.

Learn their language fluently, make some close friends, and get drunk with a few. Then you can get their honne about other races. In particular the negative feeling toward other Asians will become clear. Even long before World War 2, there had been generations of bad blood between Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and other Southeast Asians. Simply put, Japanese people do not consider these other Asians to be the same race as themselves. While there is a feeling of 'akogare' (admiration) toward whites and Europeans, the attitude toward Africans and Hispanics is not so charitable.

Tourists do not notice the casual racism in Japan because the people are so polite. They don't notice stores with 'Japanese Only' signs. They don't go through trying to rent an apartment and being told that their prospective landlord does not accept Africans or Brazilians. Since they don't know the language, they never understand the comments made about them on Subways by old ladies and salarymen.


My Impression

My sense is that the average Japanese person does indeed harbor various racial biases. This does not bother me though for a few reasons. For one, the vast majority of Japanese people are great about treating everyone as individuals. It is rare that someone will openly insult or mistreat you merely because of your race, especially once they see you speak their language. Secondly, I did not move to Japan with any expectation that the people held the same American liberal egalitarian view of race. The thing is, if we define racism to mean simply "a belief in meaningful differences between ethnic groups," then racism is actually the default position for most of humanity. The wiser cultures (including Japan) are just better about not letting these beliefs taint their interactions with individuals of other races.

White westerners often forget that most of the world is racist. Go to Asia, the Middle East, South America, or Africa, and most of the people you meet will have racist opinions. It is only the majority white societies - Europe, Canada, Australia, USA - that have aggressively disavowed racism. And even among the white western nations I would argue that a large percentage of people, deep down, hold racist views. They cannot help it. Reality simply offers too much evidence to support them. The western world spent a lot of energy condemning racism, but never got around to debunking it. If we want racism to go the way of phrenology or geocentrism, we need to prove that it is false. Unfortunately, there is a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that it is not false. What's more, Brexit and Trump, are signs that the progressive narrative on race is breaking down, as whites are less and less scared of being branded racist.

So ultimately, yes, I think Japan is in some ways a racist society. You need look no further than their immigration policies for evidence. Sure, they admit lot of tourists and are making it easier to apply for permanent residency. However if you look at the data on the number of foreigners granted citizenship or long-term residency, it becomes obvious that Japan could take in far more people if they wanted to do so.

The fact is that Japan is one of the world's most peaceful and prosperous societies. Many tens of millions of people around the world would move there in a heartbeat were the borders truly open. This would inevitably result in the native population becoming gradually displaced, as we already see in many nations around the world. Even with the low birthrate Japan has still not opted for mass immigration as a solution for longterm stability (though this could gradually change as Prime Minister Abe is clearly trying to attract more skilled workers for certain industries).

Ultimately I respect Japan's right to maintain its borders and preserve its culture. After all, I moved to Japan because it is Japanese. If I wanted a multicultural society, I would have stayed in New York. I accept that as an immigrant, I am an outsider. I will never be fully accepted as a Japanese, even if I master the culture and become a citizen.

Furthermore, I have suffered discrimination, and I do not downplay the experience. I have been turned away from small quaint nightspots with a, "Sorry, no African please. Only Japanese. Try Roppongi." And it does sting. "Oh, you are affluent, smart, and speak our language fluently? Fuck off. You're still just a nigger." It genuinely hurts.

Yet still I am libertarian enough to respect the right of voluntary association. I think many libertarians want to believe that giving businesses the right to discriminate is not a problem because the free market will punish them. However Japan shows that this is not true. Here, the free market often rewards discrimination. Japanese people often prefer going to places where they don't have to deal with foreigners.

And again, I'm fine with that. I accept that Japanese people put their own culture and people first. They have every right to do so. If that is what is necessary to preserve the things that drew me here in the first place, then I am willing to tolerate it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trump, Meryl Streep, and Trolling

It is so amazing to me that these celebrities still have not caught on to the fact that denouncing Trump like this plays right into his hands.

Streep criticizes Trump. Not one person who supports Trump is convinced to switch sides. In fact it energizes his supporters more than progressives. This is because people emotionally respond more to negative feelings such as outrage. You see this on Twitter all the time. Progressives feel a small boost when someone like Streep speaks out against Trump. Trump supporters, by contrast, are outraged – they rally immediately, they're all over Facebook, Youtube, everywhere, all ready to respond to a perceived attack.

While Streep is preaching to a choir in a church that is losing members, Trump gets to play the embattled underdog. Trump, a billionaire and the most powerful man on the planet, still plays politics like he's got a chip on his shoulder – always responding, always angry. It is the same thing that makes Tom Brady great (and I hate saying that as New Yorker and a Jets fan). Four Superbowl rings and the guy still plays angry – still has that hunger to prove everyone wrong about his late round drafting. Trump is the same way. It is him against the world. The outsider taking on 'The System'. Moderates and independents love that narrative. When they see someone getting dogpiled on, they feel an urge to give the guy a chance. Even some liberals soften toward him. So Trump gets two benefits from being attacked by Streep; his base is energized and he wins over more centrists and undecideds. Meanwhile Streep and the Hollywood left think they are actually hurting Trump somehow.

Trump just sits back and laughs. Another out of touch Hollywood liberal wagging their finger at America. It plays right into his narrative. He could just watch and enjoy it, but no, he pours gasoline on it. He calls Meryl Streep overrated. Meryl Streep, Hollywood royalty, a woman with more awards and nominations than anyone can count, a woman Trump himself has complimented in the past – he calls her overrated. If you know anything about trolling you would recognize this as obvious bait. But other celebrities like George Clooney fall for it. They all have to react, on Twitter, in TV interviews, everywhere.

It's awards season. One tweet from Trump and we are guaranteed months of wealthy celebrities in fancy clothes lecturing America from some Hollywood podium about how evil Trump is. It should work about as well as all those celebrity Youtube videos, first telling people to vote for Hillary Clinton, then telling the electoral college to disregard the will of their constituents, and finally, demanding congress resist the president elect. Breitbart and the alt-right crowd will have tons of material to play the 'out of touch coastal bubble elitists' card to convert normies who are becoming less and less scared of openly supporting Trump.

I just don't understand how they can't see what is going on. All these Hollywood leftists and journalists with this vision of Trump as a bungling, thin-skinned clown are completely out of their depth. This idea that he's just on the toilet rifling off tweets thoughtlessly is absurd. I guarantee you every single tweet he puts out is vetted by advisors like Steve Bannon for maximum strategic effect. It is classic 4D chess. This is how Trump, the joke candidate, outmaneuvered the richest and most powerful American political dynasty in history, while simultaneously battling a heavily biased media and his own party.

And they still underestimate him.