‘Liquid Modernity’ Cannot Embrace the Palestinian Cause
By Alastair Crooke
Biology no longer applies. Your gender is not what you thought: It is liquid, and can (and perhaps should) be changed.
People today live in what the late sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called ‘liquid modernity’. All the traits that were once assigned to you by your community are now being redefined by woke doctrine, according to how you look, and according to fixed categories, irrespective of your sense of your own self, your own ethics, your biological gender, your education, your human merits, and the place and ties associated with your historic belonging.
Wokeism radically challenges the system: “‘You’ have not succeeded by your own efforts or merits. You have succeeded by virtue of your visible identity alone. That identity reaches back hundreds of years and precisely rests on opportunities deliberately denied to others. Therefore any semblance of success you have had in life is illegitimate. It is not deserved. And it is right to take it from you. Wokeism is truly hostile to history, culture, and tradition. They don’t respect it – and they insist they are right. It is not up for debate.”
Biology no longer applies. Your gender is not what you thought: It is liquid, and can (and perhaps should) be changed. You are ‘white’ – therefore supremacist; you are ‘white’ – therefore racist; you are élite – therefore privileged.
On the face of it, this ideology should provide a perfect vehicle for the Palestinian cause. But it hasn’t. Yes, the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic party is notably more pro-Palestinian (albeit framed within strict limits), and increasingly young American university students no longer support “Israel”, as they did in the past. And yet … and yet, nothing really changes. The Establishment continues to lavish money and arms on “Israel”; the boycott movement is de-legitimized across many states; and Team Biden is clear: He will not spend any political capital he may still have on the Palestinian cause. Token support, but nothing more.
Well, one factor is oligarchic capitalism – the Élite’s control of assets and money is both the anvil and hammer on which western narratives of political ‘reality’ are forged. They ‘beat out’ each successive ‘reality’.
Speaking in early 2020, Steve Bannon asserted that the information age makes us less curious, and less willing to consider worldviews unlike our own. Digital content intentionally is served up to us, algorithmically, so that with the ensuing cascade of like-minded content, we ‘dig-in’, rather than ‘open up’. Anyone who wants to – of course – can find alternative viewpoints online, but very few do. This meant, in Bannon’s view, that the Trump campaign, and politics generally, henceforth must be centered around mobilization politics, rather than persuasion.
Because of this trait, the notion of politics by argument or consensus is almost entirely lost. And no matter what our political or cultural perspective, there is always someone creating content tailored to suit us. This – the magnetism of like-minded content – represented the psychic ‘quirk’ that turned the tech oligarchs into billionaires (Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, etc.).
At the same time, the Democrats reinvented their erstwhile ‘blue-collar’ constituency, as a party of the Liberal, creative, professional-managerial class: The party of the credentialed meritocracy; the party, above all, of the winners. So, yes, as a matter of course, the Democrats have been taught to be openly hostile to the non-Metro ‘Bobo’ (Bohemian Bourgeoisie) half of America: taught to see them as – bottom line here – losers with a big ‘L’.
“The liberals, the bien-pensants (as Thomas Frank has called them) — the ‘winners’, that is — who read The New York Times and The Washington Post and listen to NPR and watch MSNBC and CNN, who went to good colleges and got all kinds of professional credentials, are certainly well-informed enough to know that the future is all about global capitalism. And they know that, if they play by the rules, global capitalism has a place for them. Furthermore, they know (or could easily figure it out), that global capitalism does not have a place for life’s losers. But that’s just tough shit, isn’t it?”
Much of that coastal Metro-Élite is highly sympathetic to the Zionist narrative and sees Palestinians as ‘losers’, who if they cannot reconcile to the fact of Israeli decisive power, should get out of the way.
On the other side of the divide, the significance of the Tech Boom was different. It was more than just the Metro-Class suddenly becoming hugely wealthy. Rather, it was becoming obvious that persuasion and argument were not significant in shifting the allegiance of the marginal voter.
But what could shift it (this was Bannon’s key insight) was not to read meta-data for its trends (as advertisers did), but rather, to invert the whole process: To read up from the stratified data, to craft specially-conceived, like-minded messaging to readers that would trigger (i.e. ‘nudge’) an unconscious psychic response — one that potentially could be led in a particular political orientation.
This politics of crafted, credentialed meme-politics was here to stay – and now it is ‘everywhere’. It has crossed the divide. And the point here is that the mechanics of meme-mobilization is being projected abroad — into American ‘foreign policy’ (so-called) too.
Just as in the domestic arena, where the notion of politics by suasion is being lost, so the notion of foreign policy managed through argument, or diplomacy, is being lost too.
The foreign policy then becomes less about geo-strategy, but rather, about ‘big issues’ such as China, Russia, or Iran, that are given an emotional ‘charge’ to mobilize certain ‘troops’ in this US domestic cultural war, so as to ‘nudge’ domestic American psyches (and those of their allies) to be mobilized behind some issue (such as more protectionism for business against Chinese competition), or alternatively, imagined darkly – in order to delegitimize an opposition or to justify failures.
This is a highly risky game, for it forces a resistance stance on those targeted states – whether they seek it, or not. It underlines that politics is no more about considered strategy: It is about being willing for the US to lose strategically (even militarily), in order to win politically. This is to say gaining an ephemeral win of having prompted a favorable unconscious psychic response amongst American voters.
This shift to seeing foreign states in this psychic-propagandist mode has forced targeted states to respond. Russia, China, Iran are but ‘images’ prized mainly for their potential for being loaded with ‘nudge’ emotional charge in this western cultural war, of which these states are no part. The result is that they become antagonists to the American presumption to define global ‘rules of the road’ for all to adhere to. They stand jointly, steadfast, and warn against trespass beyond their explicit ‘red lines’. This, they have done.
But will the US practitioners of meme-politics absorb and comprehend that this stance by Russia-China – in riposte – is not some same-ilk counter-mobilization and that ‘red lines’ may be ‘red lines’… literally?
Where does this leave the Palestinians? When this political ‘New Normal’ was unveiled, millions of people were already living a reality in which facts no longer mattered at all; where things that never happened officially, happened. And other things that obviously happened never happened: not officially, that is. Or, were “far-right extremist conspiracy theories,” “fake news,” or “disinformation,” or whatever, despite the fact that people knew that they weren’t.
Palestinians then, brandishing the daily facts of their occupation, face a reality in which European and US élites are heading in the opposite direction to epistemological purity – and well-founded argument. That is, the new normal is about generating a lot of contradictory realities, not just contradictory ideologies, but actual mutually-exclusive realities, which could not possibly simultaneously exist … which are intended to bemuse people out.
This then becomes the mental ‘blank page’ on which the deliberately fluid realities of cosmopolitan gender, and self-defining identities, might be written. The Oligarchic Elect now seek to ‘unvalue’ all remaining national values, untether national cohesion — for their logical objective is not to author a new ideology (it doesn’t need that), but rather to impose a single global, mercantilist order through first, the monetization of every possible ‘thing’, and then its ‘capitalization’ into fresh financial ‘assets’.
Of course, every Re-set needs its ‘narrative’. But the point here, of narrative – any Establishment narrative – is to draw a Maginot line, a defensive ideological boundary, between ‘the truth’ as defined by the ruling classes, and with that of any other ‘truth’ that contradicts their narrative.
The credentialed ‘managerial classes’ (such as the one run by Brussels), know that their success is in large part made possible by their enthusiasm for official narratives. And their collective hope is that the correct ‘narrative’ provides them with an enduring safe space. On one side of the Maginot Line then, is ‘normal’ society, gainful employment, career advancement, and all the other considerable benefits of cooperating with the ruling classes. Beyond the Maginot Line are disadvantage, anxiety, social and professional stigmatization, and various other forms of suffering.
“Which side of the wall do you want to be on? Every day, in countless ways, each of us is asked and has to answer this question. Conform, and there’s a place for you inside. Refuse, and … well, good luck out there.”
Nevertheless, a globalist world, for the few who aspire to grow immensely wealthy in it, is still understood to be a veritable cornucopia of uncountable material satisfactions — a magic carpet they would be loath to abandon.
Many contemporary European liberals clearly are well-intentioned in their desire to see social justice for Palestinians. But ultimately, it is of the nature of cultural-meme war that ultimately the content to cultural struggle becomes little more than a rhetorical shell, lacking sincerity at its core, and which serves only as a decoration to a ‘higher order’ project — the preservation by the élites of global ‘rules of the road’, framed around US interests.
“Israel” is projecting the narrative of a nation-state of ‘start-ups’, actively pursuing Davos’ Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and Re-Set. The Palestinian Authority’s narrative is as a victim, which to the Oligarchic Elect sounds a lot like losers, with a capital ‘L’. Sad and unjust.