We are in a new era of colonization: cultural colonists have taken over our institutions, and the result is every bit as dramatic, if not yet as violent, as the colonial expansion into the New World that took place centuries ago. In this solo episode, I develop an extended analogy between the conflict of natives and settlers, and the current fight for ideological, and sometimes literal, dominance.
This episode elaborates on an analogy mentioned at the beginning of the interview with Katie Herzog. See Episode 10 of The Filter for that interview. Much of the material here is based on talk I gave about a year ago. Hope you enjoy.
- Radiolab Podcast – For Whom the Cowbell Tolls (Mar 2019)
- Useful Idiots Podcast – Matt Taibbi, Katie Halper, and Glenn Greenwald on Russiagate and Mainstream Media (Jan 2020)
- NY Times – “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Likens $10,000 Debate Offer by Conservative Columnist to Catcalling” (Aug 2018)
- National Post – “ABC has cancelled Roseanne after comedian’s racist tweet” (May 2018)
If you want to understand what’s happening in our society right now, you have to look back in time. I’m not the only one to suggest we are reliving some version of the past. Others are pointing to parallels with the rise of communism and struggle sessions, or the disintegration of U.S. into violet partisan hatred so strong it might lead to another civil war. I see value in these other parallels, however imperfect.
But if you want to understand what’s happening to our society, culture, and institutions I think you need to go back and look at what happened on the north American continent from the early colonial period to the triumph of manifest destiny.
What I’m going to present is, in effect, an extended analogy, or elaborate model for our current moment. There’s a famous saying that all models are wrong, but some of them are useful. In my view this particular model, whatever it’s simplifications and failings, does a better job than any other framework in explaining our current moment. Hopefully you’ll agree.
The theory came to me while listening to an episode of the Radio Lab podcast, titled “For Whom the Cowbell Tolls”. It tells the story of Nancy Holten, a Dutch woman who moves to a small Swiss village, and immediately begins complaining about the local style of life. Holten is annoyed by the morning church bells. She’s disgusted by all meat eating. She hates having to wear shoes. She even hates the cowbells, the very symbol of her new home in the Swiss countryside. She hates all these things so strongly, that she tries to get everyone around her to give them up.
Her new Swiss community, as might be expected, pushes back.
It turns out that in Switzerland, the community you settle in gets to vote on your citizenship. It’s a throwback to the country’s roots as a highly decentralized democracy.
In return for aggressively insulting her new community, her community votes No on her citizenship petition. Twice.
Holten’s story, as told by the highly capable team at Radiolab, is fascinating. More than fascinating, though, I think it’s revealing of something deeper about our present moment. While certainly not told in a one-sided way, reporter Kelly Prime clearly wants us to see Holten as the victim of closed-minded, xenophobic yokels. Holten a powerless immigrant, a barefooted, free-spirit minority who Swiss are cruelly trying to deny citizenship to.
But she’s not an immigrant. Not really.
She’s a colonist.
The analogy I want to make here, the thing that’s becoming clear, is that those who oppose the cultural left, those who resist the Resistance, are now in the position that Native Americans were in a couple hundred years ago.
This is my theory, and I understand that it may seem like a stretch, but hear me out.
Let’s start by recognizing that the dominant narrative, in almost every establishment media outlet, is that immigration is good, especially when it involves the movement of people from non-western cultures into the west. In these stories, we are meant to sympathize with those who want to come in, not those who want to keep out. And we are meant to sympathize with immigrants who wish to keep their culture in a new environment that’s hostile to the practices and languages they bring with them. The very framing of these conflicts makes the biases clear.
As an aside, but one that might help listeners understand the sometimes hidden moralism that’s pervasive in most journalistic accounts of interpersonal or group conflict, try replacing all of the references to one side as “The good guy”, and the other side with “The bad guy” and see if the story still reads the same. Then try swapping the sides. My guess is that one substitution will flow much better than the other, and that way will reveal who the journalist identifies with, and of course we should identify with that side too.
To the cultural elite, including almost every well known journalist, reporter, talking head, or politically active celebrity, globalism is good, nationalism is bad. And decentralization, especially the kind of decentralization that lets backwoods Swiss hicks try and block citizenship from an immigrant. That’s bad. Very bad.
Anti-globalists. Those who believe in local autonomy, they are the natives, the Indians in this analogy. There may still be a lot of these folks, but from the perspective of right-thinking colonists, their days are numbered. The cultural left is in the process of rolling over them with a relentless campaign of expansionism. So far this has mostly taken the form of a drive for cultural hegemony, but in the past couple months we’ve seen outright violence, and the hostile occupation of a few city blocks in Seattle.
Regardless of whether the literal land grabs continue, it’s clear that to the progressive left, if you belong to the native culture, you’re way of life is already dead. You’re on the wrong side of history, and it’s only a matter of time before manifest destiny wipes out your backwards culture. Every era has it’s demonized population, and right now, that’s you. You are the indigenous population, and you have to go.
Seem extreme? Do you think I’m exaggerating?
Consider the parallels. Assume with me, for the moment anyway, that your tribe is the indigenous population, and the culturally left globalists are the colonists.
What would that look like?
Among other things, we might see the following: Stories of bad things done by your tribe are amplified endlessly by the press, while stories of bad actions by the colonists are ignored. If an Indian kills a settler? That’s front page news for months! But if a hunting party of colonists “accidentally” shoots a couple of your kind, and then takes their land. The, so what?
It doesn’t even matter if the transgressions by your tribe even happened. How many high-profile hoaxes have there been in the past couple years? Hoaxes are a wonderful glimpse at the underlying narrative that the colonists want to tell. They are a reflection of their own dark feelings towards the natives. They are a perfect glimpse in how the colonists see you, and, importantly, how they want everyone else to see you too.
In the face of this asymmetry, there’s no point in pointing to countervailing data, because the data is irrelevant. There’s no point complaining about the biases in reporting, because complaining about bias doesn’t matter. As I’ve said before in the very first episode of The Filter, expecting fair reporting right now is like expecting the refs at a Harlem Globetrotters game to be neutral. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the game that’s begin played. The refs are there to make sure the good guys win, nothing else.
For you, as a cultural native, pointing out the unfairness of the situation doesn’t matter. Playing the victim card, like you see those colonists do over and over, that doesn’t matter either. The colonists don’t care because they *want* you to be the victim. Your victimization is their goal. They want your land, and they despise your way of life. You are a savage to be destroyed, not someone to be reasoned or argued with.
At best you appear to them as some kind of noble savage, like the modern left views those pitiful Appalachian coal miners and their simple minded ways, good for plucking the fiddle but we all know what happens if you stray too deep into deliverance territory.
In this analogy I’m making the left, the so called Resistance, is really engaged in a war of cultural conquest. In particular, they are attempting to colonize native populations and wipe out their idiosyncratic beliefs and practices. The weapons of this war are guilt, propaganda, language manipulation, and the return of honor culture. The soldiers are mainstream journalists, swarms of angry blue checkmarks on Twitter, and, most recently, mobs of violet protesters.
Direct grabs like the one in Seattle aside, they take over territory the same way American settlers did two hundred years ago, they move in, and they occupy it, crowding out, or directly pushing out, the decentralized groups who were already there. They’ve done this with higher education, they did it with every mainstream magazine and almost every news channel, they did it with Hollywood, and right now it’s being done with the physical migration of people.
Holten, the woman in the Radiolab story, she’s a colonist. Imbued with the god given right to move wherever she wants and begin imposing her views on the native population, because her views are unquestionably right. She’s on the right side of history, the locals are the backwards people who just happen to live in an idyllic rural paradise she wants to occupy, so long as they get rid of the church bells and the cow bells and the meat eating any anything else that bothers her sensibilities. Though her demands may bear no relation to those of the American colonists, her sensibility, and her intolerance of the native ways of being, would be instantly familiar to a colonial settlers upset by the practices of all those savage non Christians around them.
In this model, colonization is the end game. Subdue the natives and take over their land. Destroy their culture. Send their kids to residential schools taught by colonists.
To win this game, abstract principals, like democracy and home rule, are only supported to the extent that they can be used as weapons in service of the colonial agenda.
If not, they are challenged, disparaged, deprecated as relics of a naive past.
Witness the transition, the whiplash inducing ideological switch, that colonists made three years ago when they went from attacking Trump for questioning the purity of the electoral process, back when they thought he would lose, to questioning the legitimacy of the election, and electoral process itself, the moment he won.
Or witness the protracted attempt to keep Great Britain in the EU after their citizens voted the “wrong” way on Brexit.
Or witness, as we are told in the RadioLab episode, how Holten was able to appeal her citizenship decision to the central government, nullifying the local autonomy of her village for making the mistake of voting the “wrong” way on citizenship for her.
I want to take a step back and be careful about some things here, with this theory. It’s easy to personify a group of people, then attack their motives as if they were all one single large devious group with all the same beliefs. It’s easy to try and find a Soros or Mano Negra behind everything.
I want to be clear that this isn’t what I’m arguing. That’s not the theory. I believe the colonists of the cultural left are doing what they are doing out of a conviction that they are (metaphorically or literally) doing God’s work. It’s manifestly clear (to them) that they are good people, and the natives, no mater how noble, are savages under the surface. Their college professors told them this. The mainstream media told them this. The evidence is all around us. How could you miss it?
Just take a moment to play the mainstream media’s favourite sport, “spot the savage” and you’ll see it. Everyone outside the frontier gates is some form of deplorable. Look hard enough, and sooner or later you’ll see it.
Perhaps we let these savages into the city briefly to trade with us, but never forget their true nature, and never hesitate to string them up if they exhibit any of that savagery on our territory. Like we did with that racist Rosanne, when she exposed her true nature with that tweet. Scratch hard enough, and you can expose every Indian as a savage.
This unmasking is often presented as a key moment in the narrative. Listen for the moment in the Radiolab episode, when reporter Kelly Prime, after ever so carefully introducing us to both sides in the conflict, clutches her pearls in horror as she, oh so regrettably, spots the savage saying something that has the distinct whiff of xenophobia.
Once you start looking for the colonists playing spot the savage, you’ll see it everywhere. On feminist podcasts that dissect everything the opposition says looking for evidence of sexism. In mainstream press headlines that continually bash the opposition as dumb. In the the coverage of those locals who have the gall ask for their jobs back when everyone knows that protesting the lockdowns is something that only savages who want to kill grandma would do.
More than any other other theory I know, this one explains the colonist’s detachment from the traditional enlightenment virtues of logic and persuasion. For the cultural left, accusations of racism and sexism are tools to dehumanize the enemy. To “expose” them as savages.
And if your enemies are savages, and it’s your manifest destiny to take over their lands, then the means you use to achieve those ends are largely irrelevant. So what if you bend language to stuff anyone who opposes you into a category of despised people. So what if you use the extreme tools of honor culture, like guilt by association, reputational contagion, and rules of purity that excommunicate anyone who strays in any way from the orthodox colonial view. So what if you turn the legal system into a proxy for your own mob actions? So what if you lie? So what if you steal?
So what, if you murder.
Historically, war is held in check not just by the opposition’s guns, but by internal tribal norms. Young men are always up for a raiding party to capture some of the enemies cattle or women. What holds them in check, generally speaking, isn’t the fear of getting killed, it’s internal norms.
It’s the old folks who’ve learned the wisdom of keeping these passions suppressed, along with teachers who instruct us that attacks need more moral justification than a desire to take what someone else has. Human civilization has avoided the state of constant tribal warfare because even warriors learn that if they strike out against another tribe by themselves, even if this attack is a success, they’ll come back to disapproval or punishment. Their own tribe will be ashamed of them.
For the new colonists, internal enforcement of traditional western norms of dialogue with the opposition, like rules of honesty and moderation of response, are largely absent. Even worse, tribe members who attempt to enforce them are, themselves, scorned.
Witnesses the intra-tribe hatred directed towards Matt Taibi and Glenn Greenwald, both left leaning journalists who joined the opposition in criticizing the Russia Collusion myth, and the members of their own tribe who pushed that hoax.
In daring to criticize their own, Taibi and Greenwald located themselves outside the colonial walls, with the enemy!
This is NOT to say that the colonists have no norms. They have lots of them. Just that when it comes to engaging the enemy, not even the moral equivalent of slipping them smallpox infested blankets is condemned by the fellow colonists as a whole.
Only when a cultural colonist goes so far as to suggest a teenager be literally fed to a wood chipper, for wearing a MAGA hat and smirking at someone. Only then does this colonist face some measure of condemnation from his own tribe. Enough, at least, to compel the colonist to take down a tweet and apologize.
It’s telling that on a liberal campuses you can get the well indoctrinated colonists to agree with the statement that Trump supporters should be put involuntarily in re-education camps.
If all this cultural-colonialism talk seems to extreme to believe, look at how well it explains the dynamics of the skirmishes we see.
Look at what happened when religious conservative Ben Shapiro challenged cultural Marxist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to a debate about socialism.
Her response was to decline the invitation by saying she didn’t need to reply to every cattle call. For the right, this looked like an admission that she was afraid to debate. But for Ocasio-Cortez, and her fellow colonists, her response was perfect: You’re a savage, I don’t respond to savages.
In the model I’m presenting, the natives are fighting with the tools of enlightenment, whereas the colonists are using newer, much more potent weapons. Identity politics. Victimhood theology. And linguistic shenanigans, like significance stuffing and the normative-normative two step, tools I’ll describe in more detail in future episodes.
These tools work because they are backed up by aggressive emotional appeals and an internal logic so twisted, that arguing against it is like debating a flat-earther. Try for a moment to argue with someone who claims they lack privilege, and point out how strange it is that they feel entitled to yell at people they disagree with to Sit Down and Shut Up! It’s a strange lack of privilege that empowers you to shriek at others without fear of reprisal.
If you are a native, if you oppose the colonists, then your own speech is called hate speech and banned. Your tweets and posts are censored or hidden. Your arguments are considered so dangerous that the colonists needs safe spaces to hide away from them, and can’t tolerate allowing anyone to make them on their campuses.
The great fear of a colonist is that their members will defect and go join up with a native tribe. This explains why colonists invest so much energy stigmatizing the others. It’s why they excommunicate friends who vote red. It’s why they beat up so many people for wearing red hats. It’s why they try and label anyone who doesn’t agree with them with the vilest slurs they can imagine. They aren’t trying to win over the natives, there trying to destroy them, and prevent any of their own tribe members from going native, by raising the social costs of dissent.
Getting red pilled is the new version of going native.
Lately the natives have begun to realize that the tools of the enlightenment are failing them in this war.
The natives have developed their own form of guerrilla warfare. The main new weapon used to fight back against the cultural colonists, is Memes. If calling memes a weapon seems like a silly claim, it didn’t seem silly to Hilly Clinton in 2016, when she spent a significant amount of energy going after a cartoon frog.
Because people like to take things out of context, or assume things that aren’t said just because they’re not disclaimed, I want to be as clear as possible about something.
The theory I’m presenting is NOT meant to be a defense of any indigenous group or their beliefs. It’s NOT to say that every complaint of the cultural colonialists against the natives is unfounded. And it’s most certainly not to claim that the peoples being colonized are saints. This is not a defense of any specific culture or ism.
There are, you might say, bad people on both sides of the frontier walls.
I just don’t find the story of woke culture warriors bringing enlightenment to the savages persuasive. To me it looks similar to a group of unbathed, disease ridden American colonials lecturing indigenous populations about purity. I can think of lots of ways the modern cultural colonists could improve themselves, instead of pointing their fingers at the natives.
Perhaps you can too.
At the close of the Radiolab episode, reporter Kelly Prime makes a big deal of noting that once Holten got the federal government of Switzerland to override the local vote, and grant her citizenship, she was willing to put shoes on her previously bare feet.
One way to view this act is as an overture to assimilation. Once she’s forced the local population to accept her presence, she moderates her behavior as a show of respect to theirs.
But I have a hard time seeing it that way. To me, it looks like a colonist, secure in her domination of the indigenous population, hanging up one of those dream catchers from her window as a talisman, a reminder of some romanticized vision of the vanquished.
Audio production by Steven Toepell of Bohemian Passport Inc.