Wealth, Intellectualism, and Individualism, Part 15

As an example of contrarian journalism and the post-2013 mainstream backlash against democracy, an article by Vox.com, 3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake, went hugely viral and was shared on Facebook over forty thousand times. As recently as two decades ago, such a contrarian and potentially controversial article would not have appeared in a mainstream publication (instead of a niche publication), nor would it have gotten so much reception, most of which was in agreement. Either the article would have been ignored (either due to public apathy and indifference, or the general public not being smart or educated enough to understand the significance of it. The rise of intellectualism has made people more receptive to contrarian ideas) or repudiated (decades ago, people had more faith in democracy).

From the article:

Abolition in most of the British Empire occurred in 1834, following the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act. That left out India, but slavery was banned there, too, in 1843. In England itself, slavery was illegal at least going back to 1772. That’s decades earlier than the United States.

This alone is enough to make the case against the revolution. Decades less slavery is a massive humanitarian gain that almost certainly dominates whatever gains came to the colonists from independence.

This is a liberal argument against democracy, so anti-democracy is not limited to just the ‘right’. But this is also why Vox.com, despite its liberal bias, deserves praise for shining light on potentially controversial ideas that normally wouldn’t make it on The New York Times or The Washington Post, to a broad audience. For example, in 2016, Vox.com wrote an expose about the fledgling neoreactionary movement, with mentions of leading neoreactionary figures such as Moldbug and Nick Land. The article, which also went hugely viral, exposed neoreaction to thousands (maybe millions) of people who would have otherwise never heard about it. Although the article has some flaws, the author made some degree of an effort to be impartial.

As discussed earlier about millennials, the tendency to break taboos, social niceties, and conformity, in the pursuit of ‘truth and understanding’, is one of the defining characteristic of post-2013 intellectualism culture. Decades ago, youths that refused to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance or questioned the ‘goodness’ of the Revolutionary War, would have been scolded or ostracized. But now, especially online, contrarianism is welcomed with open arms…I see this all the times, figures once deemed ‘above reproach’ being cut down to size (especially in online discourse):

Martin Luther King: inveterate plagiarizer of speeches and academic papers; adulterer

Gandhi: pedophile

Lincoln: didn’t actually care about freeing the slaves; antipathy towards blacks

FDR: turned away Jewish refugees (MS St. Louis)

Debating economics online is another example of intellectualism culture – but more specifically, how economics has been thrust into the limelight, from being exclusively the domain of professors in the 80’s and 90’s to now being studied by internet amateurs all over and dominating the dinner table conversation and the news cycle. Economics is social science, and issues such as wealth inequality, automation, post scarcity, basic income, and anxiety over job loss and student loan debt, affect both the rich and poor, liberals and conservatives, which is why there is so much debate on Reddit and elsewhere, especially by millennials, about these topics. Although topics such as wealth inequality are not new, the difficult post-2008 economy magnified these issues, making average people, journalists more acutely aware of them.