September 21, 2019

Leftist bubbles during vulnerable phase of 15-year excitement cycle

You can already feel the air coming out of the current leftist bubble that goes back to around 2015. It coalesced around Bernie's campaign, but most of those people have already ditched him and gone back to their same ol' bullshit, cheerleading for a polarizing neoliberal culture warrior like Liz Warren.

It has reminded me so much of the early 2000s, when I was in the anti-globalization and anti-war movements in college. It's strange listening to political podcasts again, which I haven't done since then (back then it was streaming Democracy Now via Pacifica Radio on the RealAudio Player, downloading Noam Chomsky talks, Unwelcome Guests, and interviews / talks hosted by ZNet). It wasn't as developed as it is today, and the parasocial quality was lesser in degree, but it's hard for me not to notice the parallels to today.

That climate coalesced around Nader's 2000 campaign, generated a major protest during Bush's inauguration, and was undeterred by 9/11. There were massive protests against the war before it even began in 2003, and Fahrenheit 9/11 was a major hit at the box office in 2004 (#17 for the year). That mood was popular, not marginal.

Then by 2005, it had more or less evaporated. The late 2000s support for Obama had nothing to do with leftism -- just libs and even moderates getting pissed with 8 years of Bush, the recession, etc., wanting a change of pace but not a major change. Compared to the first half of the 2000s, they had now tuned politics out.

The early 2010s did not see a leftist bubble either. Occupy Wall Street was just a public space hang-out, a party in a carnivalesque atmosphere. It did not have widespread resonance, and did not even try to do anything specific (like blocking the FTAA, preventing the Iraq War, and so on, from the early 2000s). Most people were having too much fun, living too carefree of a lifestyle, to feel the need to pay attention to leftists.

As of 2015, though, it's come back big-time. The Bernie campaign, #MeToo, Trump Derangement Syndrome, Russiagate, imagining Nazis under every bed, joining the DSA, living a parasocial relationship with left-wing podcast hosts.

This rhythm suggests a reflection of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle (see an overview here). That is, it is the vulnerable phase, when people's energy levels have crashed into a refractory period, when they feel like they need to huddle in the leftist bubble for protection. It's not as if neoliberal austerity or imperial adventures just happened with Trump's election.

Rather, it's people's social-emotional states that have suddenly changed, causing them to react to external events in a different way, one suiting them to joining a leftist crowd. In a refractory state, all external stimuli feel painful, so you feel victimized by your environment -- not only your direct social environment, but the broader political current affairs.

Typically that leads to joining the left, although there is right-wing victim Olympics as well, so perhaps the phenomenon is more general -- politicizing the personal, and treating politics as therapy for your broken emotional state. Liberals temporarily become radical leftists, and conservatives temporarily become radical rightists.

During the following restless warm-up phase, people's energy levels have recovered to baseline, and they don't feel such a strong need for being shielded against painful stimuli (i.e., all external events). Having left their refractory period, they don't feel constantly victimized, and no longer in need of group therapy. So, bye-bye to the left bubble. This attitude prevailed during the second half of the 2000s, including the Obama campaign, by which time liberals had de-radicalized.

During the following manic invincible phase, their energy levels are spiking, and they really feel no pressing personal need for politics as group therapy. If they get involved politically at all, it will be to create a party for radicals (the kind where you have fun in public, not the kind that involves long meetings). This was the attitude during the early 2010s, epitomized by Occupy Wall Street, Slutwalk / Free the Nipple / No Pants Subway Ride, and so on and so forth. No strongly, broadly felt need to primary Obama "from the left" because everyone was in high spirits in 2012.

Before the early 2000s, the last time there was a leftist bubble was the late '80s with Jesse Jackson's primary campaign, anti-Apartheid, the date rape panic, etc., also during a vulnerable phase. It had popped by the early '90s, with the shift into the warm-up phase, and liberals de-radicalized into choosing a centrist like Bill Clinton. By the late '90s manic phase, there was no broad leftist zeitgeist at all -- no attempt to primary Clinton "from the left" since everyone was in such an upbeat manic mood.

Before the late '80s, the last leftist bubble was the early '70s -- the original leftist bubble, characterized by anti-Vietnam War protests, anti-capitalist organizations, second wave feminism (all heterosexual sex is rape), bombings, the Counter-culture, Watergate, the McGovern campaign, and the rest of it. That was a vulnerable phase.

Some of those topics were part of the late '60s manic-phase movements, but those were more upbeat and carefree -- the Summer of Love, Woodstock, student protests as an excuse to hang out in public spaces, and so on. And during '68-'69, they had not really radicalized into anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-sexist, anti-whatever. By the second half of the '70s, a warm-up phase, the Counter-culture was dead, and liberals de-radicalized into choosing Jimmy Carter. During the manic phase of the early '80s, there wasn't even a residue of the early '70s personal-is-political counter-culture.

I don't think you can go back before circa 1970, because that's when the New Left replaced the Old Left. Before 1970, there was no "personal is political" stuff, no politics as group therapy. It was materialist, seeking a higher standard of living and autonomy for working class people, mainly through labor unions. Certainly there was an awareness of problems that went beyond the individual to encompass entire groups -- The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, the Feminine Mystique, etc. -- but they were not politicized into a pseudo-political movement, did not have a political candidate to rally around, and did not lead to temporary radicalization followed quickly by de-radicalization.

The speed with which people go through these phases -- radicalized, de-radicalized, politics as partying in public -- suggests something other than external economic or political forces are at work. It looks more like mood swings over the course of an entire rollercoaster cycle. And what do you know, they overlap perfectly with the phases of the excitement cycle, in just the way you'd expect (with the vulnerable, refractory phase making people feel victimized and in need of politics as group therapy).

This dynamic needs to be taken into account for those who are planning on leftist politics after 2020. During that year itself, de-radicalization will already have begun, since 2019 is the last year of the current vulnerable phase, and then it's on to the warm-up phase. They will still be shrieking culture warriors, but they'll be supporting outright libs like Liz Warren and AOC, not Bernie Sanders. That emotional state will last into 2024 as well. Prepare for a party atmosphere during the late 2020s.

This is yet another reason why populists cannot rely on leftoids for change -- they're only in it for emotional reasons, and even those are fleetingly cyclical. Yesterday's Free the Nipple babe has become today's MeToo crusader, and tomorrow will be rid of her post-horny victim mindset, ready to revive Slutwalk the day after tomorrow.

Focusing on real material issues, with audiences who keep experiencing them no matter what emotional mood-swing they're in, is the only way to replace the failed status quo with something different.


  1. Other parts of the late '80s leftist bubble: ACT UP (whose narrative success has led most leftoids to think, to this day, that Reagan rather than gays themselves caused AIDS), and the Central American solidarity movement (begun in '83-'84, but did not go mainstream and launch national demonstrations, etc., until the second half of the '80s).

    See here for a history of Central American solidarity , section VI:

    Most of what I described in this old post about the left in the 1980s pertained to the late '80s rather than the early '80s (most of the dates in the magazine covers are late '80s):

    Then there was benefit concert wave of '85-'86 -- Live Aid, Farm Aid, and Hear 'n Aid. They were for famine relief in Africa, as well as small farmers in America.

  2. Bernie's 2016 campaign theme was late '80s: "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution" by Tracy Chapman (1988). Popular on multiple charts in the US and internationally when it came out. One vulnerable phase leftist bubble drawing on another for emotional resonance.

  3. Those radicalized from one cycle don't re-radicalize during the next cycle, necessarily.

    It'd be one thing if a person turned into a leftist radical during one vulnerable phase, then de-radicalized during the following warm-up and manic phases -- only to re-radicalize during the next vulnerable phase, all over again.

    A few months ago I wanted to check on a few of the old activist gang from college -- were they pro-Bernie now, or at least in 2016? The first one had a Twitter account -- silent on Bernie, enthusiastic for Kamala or other women / non-whites. With Kamala dead now, she's probably all-in on Warren.

    She was in the labor part of the activist ecosystem, too, not primarily a race / gender / gayness type. Now she's part of some worthless diversity org, built around getting more women of color into elite positions. Attending those retarded forums where women of color candidates and grifters speak to the women-of-color part of the NGO industrial complex.

    I stopped looking after her. I figured if even a labor type from the Nader days had turned into a total sell-out, don't bother looking up the others either.

    I'm sure some were / are Bernie supporters. The point is you can't rely on someone staying in a class leftist orientation if they got there by radicalization during a vulnerable phase. Maybe it was just their mood swing.

    All these clueless leftoids think they've got a lock on all the new DSA members, not realizing it's just a bubble based on emotional swings. Just as in the late 2000s, pretty soon most of those people will drop out, burn out, and otherwise de-radicalize back into not giving a fuck about politics.

    Again, only by focusing on an audience that has constant exposure to the garbage being dumped out by our failed system, can a populist or socialist movement get anything done. They're not going to have their interest piqued just because they've fallen into an emo phase, only to stop paying dues in 5 years because they're no longer an emo looking to politics for group therapy.

  4. Related to excitement cycle:

    Multiple psychological studies, some conducted as early as the 1920s, have shown that women wear shorter skirts when the economy is doing poorly:

    "Close to eight decades earlier, the economists George Taylor (1926) and Paul Nystrom (1928), and more recently Helmut Gaus (1992) had noted that hemlines fluctuated in accordance with economic indicators. Specifically, as the economy worsens, hemlines become shorter. Whereas several compelling causes have been proposed for these interesting links between products of beautification and economic indicators, they have typically been void of an evolutionary understanding of the processes that might be operative."

    Based on this, could we assume that economic indicators are tied to the excitement cycle? With the refractory stage during a period of economic prosperity, the warmup stage when the economy is declining, and the manic stage when the economy is doing poorly.

    How would this work? Well, the psychologists argue that women need to exploit their sexuality more when they have trouble making ends meet, since they need more financial support from men.

    Furthermore, people in general have to work harder during a period of economic decline, in order to pay the bills, etc. A period of exhaustion and restfulness implies less work and effort, which is more possible when times are prosperous and it is easy to make money.

  5. Here's one of the core studies, which looked at Vogue magazine covers from 1916-1999, seeing which periods were more likely to have short skirts vs. longer skirts:

    "If women pursue marriage as an economic strategy, female sexual advertisement should increase during periods of poor economic conditions when the number of high-quality male partners becomes a limited resource. To test this prediction, measures of skin display and clothing tightness were taken for clothes portrayed in UK Vogue magazine from 1916 to 1999"

  6. What do the late 70s, early 90s, and late 2000s all have in common? Well, we know them as periods of warmup phase. But there's something else - they are periods when recessions happened!

    Here's an article titled "The Economic Recessions of the Late 1970s and Early 1990s"

  7. There's no link b/w the excitement cycle and the business cycle.

    I've never seen a convincing / high-effect-size study linking economic conditions and fashion. Clothing / personal appearance is part of the social-cultural domain, not economic-political.

    The only link would be hyper-competitive vs. cooperative patterns among the elites, which tracks / causes inequality vs. egalitarian economic trends. I've actually got something in the pipeline on that, with facial hair.

  8. There was a recession in the early 2000s, when the tech bubble burst, and that was a vulnerable phase. There was a major double-dip recession during the early '80s, which was a manic phase.

    The late '70s recession was actually '73-'75 -- mostly a vulnerable phase.

    Like I said, no link one way or another. Economics and culture are largely separate / orthogonal.

    And recessions are the wrong economic thing to look at anyway -- too brief and anomalous for most people to respond to in a massive way in the social/cultural domain.

  9. The evo-psych "explanations" for non-existent recession-caused changes to appearance are just as clueless as the results are imaginary.

    Remember that most of evo-psych was a bunch of nerds theorizing about sex, and people with no extensive family rootedness theorizing about kinship. And projection was the default setting -- male nerds viewing women as atomized prostitutes transacting in a meat market for sugar daddies, and unmarried women with few/no children viewing men as evolutionarily superfluous (as mates and kin alike).

    So what would an autistic person theorize about women responding to harsh economic conditions? Well, beep boop, hyoo-mahns are all atomized individuals, and the females are all prostitutes. So naturally they'll dial up their prostitution factor, to get more resources when those are scarce.

    But throughout human evolution, women don't get resources by prostituting themselves. They work to produce stuff, and they consume stuff. When conditions get harsh, they work harder and consume less. It's simple. If they're married, their husband will do the same. If they're part of an extended-family household, all will do the same.

    A woman will ask for help from her blood relatives before she takes off her top for some rando with money. Or petition the church or other religious / charity / welfare organization.

    Autistic people are completely unaware that people take care of each other during hard times, in an intensely social species like homo sapiens. And asking for a handout from the charity group, or moving in with your family, doesn't require you to show more of your tits.

  10. Most evo-psych was just neoliberal economics with Darwinian branding / rationalizing, both of which are profoundly retarded in their individualism. Both are part of the neolib / individualist revolution of the mid-1970s, lasting through today, although I think most people sense how stale and wrong they are by now.

    For some insightful evo-psych on female appearance and economic conditions:

    Women have more tube-like waist-to-hip ratios in many parts of the world where women do a lot of the work to put food on the table. In large-scale agriculture, men and women contribute equally to food production, but even more so for tropical gardening (such easy work, a woman alone can do it).

    In other places, where men do more of that work (like pastoralism, where men herd the animals and women just milk them), women have a relatively easier work burden and take on an hourglass shape.

    The article uses the frame of economic stress, but it's not the fleeting stress like a recession or depression -- rather, the enduring pattern of "stress," where women have to labor a lot.

    That's also why women used to have coke-bottle bodies during the prosperous Midcentury, when the men alone earned enough for their household. Whereas in Dickensian conditions like we have now, women have to work a lot more, even if they're also getting support from a man. Women working need more male-typical hormone profiles, and that makes their shape more tubular.

    And why women whose genetic background is from a pastoralist population will have curvier bodies than those whose ancestors were tropical gardeners or large-scale farmers, controlling for their current economic conditions.

    So, Mongolians will be curvier than the Han Chinese, Celts will be curvier than Slavs (outside the Balkans, anyway), and so on.


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