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The Meme War is Real

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We were told that the Left’s concern over gay marriage was about wanting to expand specific, concrete benefits entailed by the marriage certificate to homosexuals. Foremost amongst these benefits, at least as far as rhetoric was concerned, was hospital visitation rights. In his 2008 Presidential acceptance speech, Obama said: “I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital . . .”

To be perfectly clear, I do sympathize with this concern. No matter how you feel about post-modern gay and lesbian subcultures, denying them the right to see each other in the hospital is pointlessly cruel. And it has happened.

Bu if that was the primary motivation behind the push to institutionalize gay marriage, then why did we not hear more about HB 2730, a bill passed in Virginia in 2007 which expanded hospital visitation rights to everyone, allowing patients to identify anyone they’d like as next of kin? It’s not just that HB 2730 revealed that marriage was an unnecessary means to achieve the ends gay marriage advocates claimed to be motivated by. HB 2730 not only helped many heterosexuals at the same time that it helped gays and lesbians, it helped gays and lesbians with respect to hospital visitation rights more than gay marriage has. Why do I say that?

First, because gays and lesbians are more likely to move away from unsupportive families or cities and thus have no “next of kin” living near them; second, because lesbians and especially gays are much less likely to marry than heterosexuals. Thus, many heterosexuals and homosexuals still cannot allow the only “family” they have to visit them in the hospital; gay marriage improved this issue for only about one fifth of three percent of the American population (or about 0.7%, the percentage that is both gay and married). So there are still countless heterosexuals and countless homosexuals who would benefit from laws like HB 2730, for exactly the same reasons married homosexuals were supposed to have benefited from legally recognized gay marriage.

Now, tell me: has anyone heard the Left continue expressing any concern about hospital visitation rights now that formally recognized gay marriage has solved it for a fraction of a fraction of the populations that suffer because of it?

I haven’t.

In fact, looking back, it is apparent that the ability to paint gay marriage as a necessary response to gays’ and lesbians’ inability to visit each other in hospitals was instrumental in pitching the idea to the American public.

And that makes me wonder: what if the left wasn’t interested in solving that issue, because it would take away one of gay marriage’s strongest selling points? If we solved the issue of hospital visitation, it would take away the left’s ability to portray gay marriage as a simple question of basic compassion and its critics as heartless. The justification for grandstanding moral posturing would disappear, and gay marriage would have even less popular appeal. What if the left was fine with allowing people to keep suffering in order to stop that from happening, to aid in the effort to push gay marriage through?

A whole hell of a lot of Leftist behavior suddenly makes a lot more sense if you assume that they are more interested in winning a perceptual war of symbols and imagery than they are in the issues they actually talk about.

Recall the Human Health Services mandate that required insurers to pay for birth control which took effect in 2012. All criticism of the policy was aggressively dismissed as “misogyny,” no matter how cogent or well-intended. For example, the Obama Administration claimed that by reducing unwanted pregnancies, the policy would lead to net budget savings — yet no one cared that not one of fifteen insurance companies polled agreed with that, while 40% did think that it would drive up costs by increasing pharmacy expenses. Never mind that women could already get a daily supply of birth control in the United States for less than $4 a month — and that by requiring that insurers pay full price for much more expensive name brand versions of the drugs, the contraceptive mandate actually represented a massive boon in profits for the pharmaceutical companies.

If you take away the theistic trappings behind it, the Natural Family Planning method of “contraception” advocated by Catholics is something any granola-crunching, patchouli-smelling sandal-wearer could have invented. It avoids toxic chemicals; it avoids tampering with the body’s endocrine system; it encourages getting in touch with, and following, the natural rhythms of the body. Since we now know how taking hormonal birth control can drastically affect long-term marital satisfaction by making women find unattractive men more attractive (until they stop taking it), moving women away from chemical and hormonal contraceptives would actually represent a significant improvement to womens’ health. But in 2012, fighting the efforts of a few religious organizations to defend their right to not be forced to pay for contraceptives that technically cause abortions (some of the contraceptives covered under the mandate worked by preventing fertilized embryos from implanting on the uterine wall) became one of the biggest, and loudest, domestic social issues of the year. Never mind that many of their employees would choose not to use these drugs in the first place; or that if the costs of hiring employees rose, as a 40% plurality of polled insurance companies expected, this would mean that many female employees would actually be thereby partially robbed of alternative forms of compensation for their labor which they might have preferred.

Besides all that, in 2015, Republicans even passed a bill that would increase womens’ access to cheap, over-the-counter birth control. And what was the Democrats’ response?


None of this makes a damn bit of sense if you assume that liberals are truly motivated by concerns about womens’ health and access to contraception and peoples’ ability to get the care they need in hospitals. But it suddenly makes perfect sense if you interpret the left as engaging in a war — not to concretely improve peoples’ lives in the real world — but over public control of symbols and imagery. “Gay marriage” was important to the left not as a means to the end of improving hospital visitations, but because formally recognizing the term “gay marriage” in federal law (“domestic partnership” wouldn’t have done it) was a victory over symbols and public perception — and talking about hospital visitation was just a means to the end of accomplishing that. Outrage was expressed over Republicans attempting to increase womens’ access to over-the-counter birth control not because of any supposed harms that would have come from doing so, but because Republicans couldn’t be seen doing something like this — it would have weakened the disingenuous “war on women” narrative that was so much more audible at the time.

It seems that we’re at it again with the fight over a so-called “transgender bathroom law” in North Carolina. As has been the case with many incidents of this type in recent years, symbol has overtaken reality to the point that very few people actually understand even the most basic dynamics behind these bills. First of all, it is not even correct to say that the original non-discrimination ordinance passed on February 22 in Charlotte was a “transgender” bathroom bill. What the actual text of the amendment said was this: “It shall be unlawful to deny a person, because of sex, the full and equal enjoyment of the . . . accommodations of a restaurant, hotel, or motel.” What this actually amounts to is in fact a mandate that all bathrooms in all public businesses be rendered 100% sex-neutral. This does not say that a man who now identifies as a woman should be allowed to enter the womens’ restroom, which is the picture most people seem to have in mind. It literally made it illegal to have a “womens’ restroom” or a “mens’ restroom” at all. And it made this demand on privately owned businesses.

In contrast, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bill that was passed by the state of North Carolina to override this ordinance allowed private business owners to make up their own minds and set whatever bathroom policies they wish, while for state bathrooms it actually did provide allowances for transgender individuals — for in state institutions, the bill requires one to enter the bathroom that corresponds to the sex listed on their ID, not the sex of their birth. That means a man who is anatomically, hormonally, and legally male would thus belong in the mens’ bathroom; but a man who had had surgery or hormone replacement therapy and legally changed his sex to female and therefore qualified as an actual “transwoman” would in fact belong in the womens’ bathroom. Few of the critics of the bill have paused long enough to even notice that point. Instead, they’re making videos that mock the idea that anyone would have to “show (their) ID to pee” . . .

But as an attempt at mockery of HB2, this really just shows how hysterical and histrionic these people truly are. Because we don’t put guards to check IDs outside of restrooms. In fact, that goes right to the crux of the whole issue: the critics of HB2 cannot point to a single incident of a transgender individual being thrown out of a bathroom, anywhere. The original ordinance passed in Charlotte to make public restrooms gender-neutral was not proposed as a response to so much as a single transgender person getting thrown out of one bathroom.

The critics of the bill have mocked and ridiculed the advocates’ concern that men could abuse women if allowed into womens’ restrooms, but whatever else you might say about this, there is objectively far more evidence that men abuse women in gender neutral bathrooms than there is for any epidemic of transgender individuals getting thrown out of bathrooms. The idea that people are policing bathrooms for transgender individuals is simply a complete and total hallucination. But in Chicago, a 33-year-old man choked an 8-year-old girl and attempted to molest her (luckily, witnesses stopped him); in Toronto, a male sexual predator claimed to be transgender in order to gain access to womens’ shelters, where he abused several women in a row; in Virginia, a man gained entry to womens’ bathrooms by dressing in drag, at which point he filmed two women and a five-year-old child; a similar incident took place in Los Angeles; and even if I stop at just these four examples, that’s already four more examples than any liberal will be able to find of any transgender individuals getting thrown out of any bathrooms by any businesses. Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen and Maroon 5 canceled tours in North Carolina in protest — but kept Russia on their lists of appearances. Again, we can only interpret hypocrisies like these as coincidences for so long before patterns start to emerge that reveal what truly underlies and causes those hypocrisies to emerge.

By trying to make a major social issue out of “access” to restrooms when it is quite literally the case that no transgender people are being denied “access” to any restrooms in the first place in the same election season in which Donald Trump is gaining steam and surprising every mainstream observer — the Left has obviously overplayed their hand this time.

But we still have much to learn from their previous success. We can sperg out and say, “Here are the facts that show why the dominant narrative is false” all day long, but with that approach we’ll never capture more than the tiny percent of people who are high enough on need for cognition to be reachable by that method. Until we learn how to capture the public’s emotions and engage their imagination with our philosophy, we’ll never have a fighting chance, because other people will do a better job of engaging it with theirs. The meme war is a zero-sum game — and what we really need, far more than abstract refutations of dominant narratives, are counter-narratives that engage the same deep psychological needs.


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  1. OregonBlues
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    This happened to me in Oregon in 2008. I was living with and looking after my pregnant wife (to all intents and purposes married, but not legally married) who fortunately had health insurance. But was I able to sign on to her plan and get a group rate? No way!! Okay, those are the rules. But the rub was, if we were a homosexual couple, even though we couldn’t get legally married, they still had the political clout to get a civil partnership law that enabled one partner to get on the health plan of the other partner. Well, I don’t begrudge them that, but it’s galling to be doing the socially responsible thing (from the state’s point of view, obviously my motivation was different) and be denied what has been granted to a specially preferred minority. They’ve gone from having no rights to having more rights.

    Anyway, the issue is a bit moot with Obamacare.

    Well written article; whether it is a battle over signs and symbols or they just get off rubbing our noses in it I lean to the latter. Nearly every case like you describe with the transgender bathroom or rights accruing to civil partnerships could have been settled without smashing the normative (=heterosexual marriage for the procreation of children) meaning of marriage.

  2. Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s a “zero-sum” situation. Counter-Currents is mostly aimed at cognition-needy types, and the more of us involved with various issues, the more chance we have of getting something punchy into general circulation. “Cuckservative” was brilliant. The parentheses thing is hilarious. But I don’t think I can come up with something equally effective before supper time. Anyway, excellent article. It satisfied my need for cognition, at least for this afternoon. Now I can go home and listen to some pop music on the radio.

  3. Charles J
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Some of us at least must strive to become entertainers. Romanticize real facts, load some with pathos (say, sobbing testimonies by Whites who were assaulted by negroes, became poor, open Leftist hate, smiling White babies on our side…), strike the emotional chords. Leftists did that on bunkum; why couldn’t we do that based on truth?

  4. Claude
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The struggle is real on every plane: material, symbolic, metaphysical. Objective metaphysical conditions do exist, outside the realm of the material and beyond that of the symbolic. These conditions express themselves materially as a natural order, and are not contingent on belief or desire. The enemy cannot overturn that, but it can affect a rupture between the material and metaphysical at the level of the symbolic, separating man from those objective metaphysical conditions, and turning him away from the natural order.

    That is why they began by deconstructing our art. It was the strongest, purest, most direct modern-day link from the material to the metaphysical (or, if you prefer, divine).

    Meme on, little frogs. Your fight may be the most heroic of all.

  5. Posted June 23, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    ‘It’s a no-brainer that [homosexuals] should be allowed to marry, but I also think equally that the institution of marriage should not exist. …fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there – because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. The institution of marriage is going to change and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist.’ — Jewish LGBT activist Masha Gessen

  6. Posted June 23, 2016 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    What do leftists believe? On the surface leftists believe in two principles:

    Leftist Principle One: You are responsible for the deeds of your ancestors because you cannot evade history.

    However, when you point out that white invented medicine and sanitation have doubled lifespans worldwide and then ask whether whites deserve credit, you are reminded of principle two:

    Leftist Principle Two: You are not responsible for the deeds of their ancestors because you didn’t do anything.

    Thus leftists believe that people both are and are not responsible for the deeds of their ancestors. This can’t be right. So what do they really believe?

    Answer: Leftists believe neither one nor the other. What they really believe is that principles, ideals and ideologies are merely instruments of manipulation that are to be used to deceive people in furtherance of a higher goal. This higher goal is utopia, a future without racism. It is to be achieved by means of the demographic eradication of whites.

    The problem here is us, not them. We are the ones who take principles seriously instead of recognizing them for the cattlefeed they are. For as long as we do this we are literally begging them to manipulate and use us.

    They have only one morality: the demographic eradication of whites is good.

    We should have only one morality as well: the demographic eradication of whites is bad.

    Three principles:
    1. Resisting demographic eradication is the only morality.
    2. There is no other morality except resistance to demographic eradication.
    3. Everything is legitimate when resisting demographic eradication.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      I don’t want to endorse the wholesale reduction of all principles down to just these, but on this point:

      “The problem here is us, not them. We are the ones who take principles seriously instead of recognizing them for the cattlefeed they are. For as long as we do this we are literally begging them to manipulate and use us.”

      I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Jaego
      Posted June 25, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      You see the problem very clearly, but I don’t care for your solution. Why should we become less than we are? But in relation to our enemies – yes, give them exactly what they deserve, namely a taste of their own medicine. I think Jefferson said it best: Survival is the first morality. All other moralities and moral problems are for people who solved the first problem. Obviously we have ignored and inverted this for a long time.

  7. c
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Enjoyed this and, with reservations, agree with your succinct final paragraph.

    In terms of counter-narratives, the ‘generation gap’ has been exploited masterfully over the last 50 years. I see potential to reverse this. Millennials have a strange mix of inflated self-esteem and a belief that all of their problems are someone else’s doing.

    We went from ‘the Greatest Generation’ to ‘the worst generation’ (Boomers) in no time at all. Can we encourage millennials to restore the memory of their grandparents, rather than merely burning down the legacy of their liberal parents by voting Communist.

    Can we get rebellious youths to lash out at their own parents, not for being ‘squares’ and ‘downers’, but for being ‘ingrates’ and ‘prodigals’? For ‘selling out’? Diverting ‘generational politics’ towards something healthier.

    I would be interested to hear thoughts on this, and similar strategies.

    • Jasper Been
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I would be interested in hearing why you think the WWII generation was so great.

      • c
        Posted June 24, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        To Jasper:
        I don’t. This is was the title of a successful, nostalgic American book. But they DID have virtues that are lacking today, and it is easier not to make up these narratives ‘out of whole cloth’. It’s not uncommon for people to sympathize with their grandparents when they resent their parents, and I believe that youths today are encouraged to resent their parents.

        • c
          Posted June 26, 2016 at 4:44 am | Permalink

          Will add: this is exactly how Brexit has been covered. After the doom and gloom financial reports, they’ve moved to the culture war.
          Young people selected to appear on TV saying “The oldies have ruined our glorious future. Can’t they die already?” etc.
          This is poisonous and needs to be replaced with something healthier.

    • Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      I recently had the experience of meeting a former Marine who is now part of my extended family, and being excited to talk to him about the topics of some of my writing, only to hear that the first political sentence out of his mouth involved the words “democratize” and “Russia” in a tone that was obviously endeared to the former and condemning of the latter. That was… jarring. I don’t have any particular point to make by bringing it up—your comment just brought it to mind.

      In general, I think a lot of what happens in the political sphere is frankly people rationalizing their attraction to “alpha” masculine personalities. Just take a look at the rapper, Immortal Technique. Leftists make a social issue out of “manspreading”, but here’s someone who raps lines like “I’ll bust off on her face, and right after this segment, she’ll probably rub it in her pussy trying to get herself pregnant” and “I’ll cut your face off, and wear it while I’m fucking your mother.”

      And as his social punishment amongst the Left for this kind of violent misogyny, he was wanted by no less than Jill Stein of the Green Party to join her as her running mate (source). That’s a womanwho graduated from Harvard, almost became governor of Massachusetts, could be your 66–year–old grandmother, and bases her platform off of wanting to keep your food and water clean.

      When I was a kid, I’ll just go ahead and admit it: I went through a phase where I liked his music. But over the same period of time, I also kept Jack Donovan around as a friend on Facebook even through some of my most absurd periods of Leftism, and it stung a little when he noticed I was a naive leftist young punk and suddenly unfriended me.

      The moral of this part of the story is this: I think people are attracted to displays of confidence and strength, and I think they’ll rationalize their way into tolerating almost anything that comes from someone confident and strong enough. The young leftist Aedon tolerated Jack Donovan’s blatant “racism” even during the same period of time in which he creates a group called “ARSENAL” (anti–racist studies something blah blah blah); Jill Stein, along with a huge portion of the left, tolerates incredibly violent rape imagery from the likes of Immortal Technique.

      Put the same words in the mouth of a less alpha personality, and I don’t think either of them would get the same kind of “pass” that they generally have received. So, my personal experience leads me to think that one thing we need more than anything is the translation of rightist themes and messages into forms that would sound natural in the voice of an “alpha”.

      • c
        Posted June 24, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        To Aedon:

        Alpha males must actually win (glory, women, etc). Mouthing off only goes so far. Even good looks and wealth don’t suffice. Problem: the old alpha males – war heroes, athletes, film and music stars – are now paid very well not to deviate from the official script.

        My question: can one create/commandeer a contest and fill it with our people and try to grow it? Dr Johnson has already begun to do this with the Lovecraft award, but I mean something even more accessible. Hijack an obscure martial art or sport? Begin a new school of painting or music composition?

        People are fascinated with champions of any sort, and many popular sports began as schoolboy games. I’m quite sure that certain athletes/sports or artists/styles have been deliberately promoted for what they represent, not out of inherent interest, e.g. Ronda Rousey/Women’s MMA.

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