February 24, 2019

Right-wingers against the Venezuela coup, and coalitions based on feelings vs. outcomes

After the election of a Republican president who campaigned heavily on shrinking our military's global footprint -- including ending NATO, and leaving Japan and South Korea -- the anti-militarist Left has split into two camps.

One is relieved to see so many on the Right now calling for an end to imperial over-reach, and seek to ally with them across partisan lines toward a shared outcome -- less military adventurism by the Pentagon. This camp is represented by US Rep Ro Khanna, who responded favorably to an anti-imperial article by Tucker Carlson.

The other is panicked that anti-war sentiment no longer belongs exclusively to the Left. They may be nervous that a new group will give them competition for their material livelihood -- if they eke out a living on Patreon donations, and suddenly there's an interesting Right movement against imperialism, maybe Independents will drift toward that side with their donations.

But most folks on the Left don't make a living off of it. They are more worried about dirty outsiders corrupting the purity of their incestuous in-group. Because these people are not organized politically, it is more of a cultural lifestyle that they share with the other members. And so, they are defending their lifestyle turf from would-be invaders who would contaminate it with a different cultural lifestyle. It's akin to a small group of high schoolers who are fans of non-mainstream bands, who fear that their idols may make a hit song that would attract all sorts of normies, and try to police the borders of the fandom.

This camp is represented by the hosts of the Media Roots Radio podcast, Abby and Robbie Martin, who are desperate to prove that the anti-imperial Right does not really exist, perhaps outside a small band of libertarians. I draw attention to them because they're popular enough to get over 10,000 plays for a typical episode. They do good work covering current events per se, but veer way off course whenever it comes to their commonalities with the Right -- "Ewww, gross, no we're not, they have cooties, not like us!"

Tucker is their main target because he's by far the most outspoken on the need to realign the party system, particularly on war and empire, and has the largest platform and audience -- primetime Fox anchor with millions of viewers, not to mention scores of others who are a tier or so below in their following, who attach themselves to his brand ("I'm on the Tucker Right, not the neo-cons or Hannity bootlickers").

There's no dodge in that video -- he brings on a US Army colonel who explicitly says we should not intervene in Venezuela, regime change does not work, it'll just waste lots of our money, and the refugee flood will overwhelm our non-existent border. What other mainstream show has had a chyron that read, "America should not intervene militarily in Venezuela," quoting their guest?

Tucker does not push back, does not accuse the colonel of coddling dictators, does not fear-monger about the need to stop socialism / spread democracy, etc. Instead, the opening chyron is a dog-whistle against the neo-cons -- "Are we going to nation build in Venezuela?"

It's clear that Tucker is under orders from his Fox superiors, probably coordinating with the neo-con-hijacked White House, not to personally argue against the coup. But bringing on MacGregor, who he has hosted repeatedly in the context of not doing regime change or occupation, amounts to the same thing. He gives a primetime platform to the anti-interventionist colonel, and sets up softball questions about why the Fox audience should not want to see our military intervene in Venezuela.

This is obvious, and shows that Robbie Martin is lying by omission, in a desperate attempt to make it seem like Tucker is playing a long-game for the neo-cons.

Well, then, why doesn't Tucker just come out and say he's in favor of toppling Maduro? That would be the easiest thing in the world right now -- literally every other cable news host is doing so, along with just about every politician, and a good chunk of his viewers. He can say he's against interventions as a general rule, but an exception must be made in this case (because it's about socialism, it's too close to home, or whatever). He would enjoy immense signal-boosting from literally the entire political and media world, for allowing them to say, "Even the anti-interventionist Tucker Carlson supports overthrowing Maduro."

The fact that he has not done so, proves that he does not believe in that, and is not going to advocate for that. If he doesn't come out overtly against intervention, it shows that someone is keeping him from saying so overtly -- his superiors, and/or the Executive branch itself. So he broadcasts the case against intervention in Venezuela through his frequent guest, MacGregor -- BFD. That is just as personal of a decision, with the same effect on getting the message out there, as if he stared into the camera and said so himself.

Martin and his sister twisted themselves into knots on this topic during the most recent episode of Media Roots Radio, going so far as to call Tucker "pro-coup" despite him never advocating in favor of the coup.

Tucker may be under immense career pressure to not speak out against it from a first-person perspective, but the rest of the anti-regime change Right is not. I'll limit this survey to just Twitter people with at least 10,000 followers, to show that the same people who freaked out over Trump sending thousands of Americans to occupy Syria are staying consistent now that the focus is Venezuela. There may be others who are selective, saying stay out of Syria but do intervene against socialism in our backyard. But that is not representative of Right-wingers who are against our regime change wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

These people may be paleocons, generic dissident Rightists, Alt-Right, Alt-Lite, all the way up to white nationalists. But across this broad array, they would all affiliate with Tucker over any other cable news figures, would have already spoken out against our intervention in Syria, and do not consider themselves Leftists.

One of the earliest and most forceful opponents has been Jack Posobiec, someone who leftoids would dismiss as a MAGA grifter, and who gets called out repeatedly on Media Roots Radio as someone not to be worked with on anti-war issues. Search his tweets for Venezuela, and he was opposed early on, drew parallels to our failures in arming proxies in the Middle East, the failure to oust Qaddafi and put anything better in his place, highlighting Elliot Abrams' role in Iran-Contra, calling the effort "neo-conning," slamming Rubio over and over by name, and upbraiding a fellow Alt-Lite guy for wanting to invade Venezuela without volunteering for the army himself.

That's just what I found poking around various corners of the Right, and not dwelling too long. If I lowered the threshold to people with at least 1,000 followers, there would be tons more.

So, contra the desperate turf-defending claim about how the so-called anti-war Right is MIA during the Venezuela coup, they are just as visible and vocal as they were during our invasion of Syria, and in talking about the failures of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But, they don't use the same motives or rationales as the Leftists in order to arrive at the same policy decisions. And in our depoliticized climate of hyper-competitive moralism, that is what truly matters.

The likes of Abby and Robbie Martin do not want to cooperate with those who share real-world outcomes like staying out of a coup, withdrawing forces from some country, shrinking the military budget, etc. Rather, they want to cooperate with those who share an emotional moral impetus -- to save the world, to help Third Worlders, to tear down anyone who could have been a jock in high school and shoved them into a locker (the troops), and so on.

In their view, it's bad enough if your motives for the same goal are different from theirs -- but truly untenable if your motives are evil, i.e. racist, bigoted, xenophobic, etc. So if you "don't give a rat's ass" what's happening to the Venezuelan people, one way or another, and that's the basis of your objection to regime change -- sorry, can't work with you. Your moral motives are tainted, and any policy you reach would reflect that poisonous origin.

But then how could that outcome be bad, just because it came from what you consider evil origins? Isn't it the same outcome you're seeking, albeit for motives that you consider just? How can the exact same outcome be both morally tainted and morally pure, stemming from two separate motives? It's a contradiction, and that causes cognitive dissonance -- either the people you thought were evil are actually good, or you thought you were good but you're actually evil.

To resolve this cognitive dissonance, they deny that the evil side is in fact pursuing the same outcome as they are -- that means the two sides do not share goals, and therefore the two sets of motives are leading to two separate outcomes, and my motives and outcome remains pure, while their motives and outcome remains tainted, just as I was hoping.

Facts don't care about your feelings, though. It's time to grow up and accept that people can arrive at the same desired outcome by coming from distinct motivations.

Assuming the larger goal is to achieve a certain real-world outcome, then the practical thing to do is form a political coalition with those who share that outcome, no matter their reasons, in order to wield enough power to change the world. That's why they say politics makes strange bedfellows. That is what one camp of the Left is doing -- Ro Khanna, Zaid Jilani, Angela Nagle, Michael Tracey, Anna Khachiyan, and others.

The other camp takes the opposite step -- to refuse any coalition that could actually win (i.e., needing both sides of the aisle), and to distance themselves from their own fellow Leftists of the coalition-building camp. That choice proves that their larger goal is not to achieve a certain real-world outcome like the end of a war, reduction in deployments, redirecting military dollars to healthcare, or whatever. It is something else: building emotional support groups based on shared moralistic motivations, and signaling these values to one another (and against the values of out-groups). In-group cohesion is formed around their feelings, not their goals for changing the world.

The anti-imperial Right understands this distinction, and does not mind mixing it up with people from different motivations, as long as the goal is the same. They will re-tweet Left-wingers, even those like Abby Martin who don't want anything to do with them.

The Right is not a place that people drift to in order to find emotional support -- not that there's no element of that in Right-wing circles, but it's not the main reason. They principally get involved in order to achieve certain outcomes, and they don't care who they have to work with to do that. The Left attracts those who have been so damaged that they seek out emotional support groups, and then they try to edify this as though it were building a political movement capable of changing the world, which it never has been nor will ever be.

In the near-term, the pragmatic Right and the non-hysterical Left will continue to put out feelers over shared outcomes, and will keep building the newborn coalition to wind down America's over-stretched and crumbling empire.


  1. Ann Coulter (2+ mln followers) against the coup: "Venezuela (a country that's not ours) voted for a socialist, virulently anti-American govt. So naturally, we're going to pour taxpayer dollars into Venezuela (a country that's not ours), rather than fund a border wall."


    The hysterical Left will reject this alliance b/c her motives are prioritizing the homeland rather than foreign adventures, which to the woke mind smacks of chauvinism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, etc.

    But that's something that the non-hysterical Left (Michael Tracey et al) can get on board with.

  2. Peter Turchin says there will be an uptick in violence in 2020. W
    How will that affect the presidential election?

  3. The confidence bubble in Trump finally burst this week. Looking forward to your take on the #YangGang.

    I had the chance to see Andrew Yang’s Q&A session tonight firsthand. Came away from it very impressed. All the qualities that I think you wrongly and wishfully projected onto Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - the genuine economic populism, the crossover appeal, the pleasant personality, the abstinence from culture warring - Andrew Yang actually possesses them.

    We managed to field him a question on big tech censorship and deplatforming, which he gave us the right answer to: regulating them as a public utility. This is what we’ve been bombarding every bigshot with a blue checkmark with for months trying to get them to advocate, and they’ve all blown us off. Yang needed no convincing, not even any steering.

    Also one of my friends brought some printouts of pro-Yang Pepe memes and he signed them for her afterwards. #YangGang2020!

  4. I'm waiting to write about #YangGang until it seems stable enough to have a coherent take on. It's still forming itself together.

    I soured on Ocasio-Cortez once she started indulging in idpol after taking office. When I listened to that interview with The Intercept, where she says she won't be campaigning for Bernie, and how white people are going to feel painful as they re-wire their brains to intersectional norms -- that was it.

    I hope she'll at least sign on to Medicare For All, raising taxes, etc., when the Democrat realigner takes office in 2025. But she keeps getting worse and worse with being an online wokescold.

    Ilhan Omar is better among the new DSA / Justice Dems congressladies, but she too said she won't campaign for Bernie.

    Tulsi remains the coolest / sexiest Democrat in Congress.

  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/opinion/bernie-sanders-socialism-reagan-.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

    wow did NYT rip from agnostic?

  6. Doubtful, Douthat links to Corey Robin's post, which has been shared more widely than my comments.

    The mark of someone reading me on disjunctive presidents would be citing the full list of such presidents, instead of just Carter, zero-ing in on Franklin Pierce as Trump's closest parallel (b/c the opposition is split, and partisan polarization has not been this insane since the lead-up to the Civil War, unlike the non-partisan zeitgeist circa 1980), opening up the possibility of 2 back-to-back disjunctive terms by separate individuals (James Buchanan being whoever the GOP nominates in 2020, which will not be Trump), and talking about disjunctive phases or administrations rather than just the individual in the presidency.

  7. There's a unifying principle that explains the behavior of these leftists, apart from sheer emotional affinity: they are third-worldists. Anything that benefits America (or civilization more broadly) is bad. Interventionism is bad where it seeks to advance first world interests; anti-interventionism is bad when it conserves first world interests. This also explains why they hate Tulsi Gabbard, who has a credible leftist record on key issues important to them (gays, socialized medicine, abortion) but whose anti-intervenionism is unapologetically nationalistic.


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