Brian, the condescending signaling — finding this or that amusing, somehow 
recalling something else, God forbid this and sorry about that,  horror! about 
something else, and most of all *assigning readings* — is a bad look. You 
should cut it out.

Nothing I said suggests that your interests or ideas are "illegitimate" or 
anything like that; on the contrary, I said "those considerations might be 
real, valid, or important." I believe that, and I learn a lot from you on this 
list. I also argued that we shouldn't accept at face value the 
quasi-transcendent pretensions of certain frames of reference or styles of 
thought. That's just skepticism 101.

Andre can speak for himself, but the only mention I made of conspiracies 
related specifically to the right, which clearly doesn't include you. I'm not 
sure why you'd focus on that rather than engage with a single thing I actually 
did say.

Here's an "assignment": go back and skim my mail for discussions that might 
*specifically* apply to you. Part of one paragraph, arguably a bit of another. 
The rest is about cops, courts, the feds, academia, the right, the UK. More 
than that, it's an effort to understand how (not *why*) so many leftists have 
gotten so tangled up in their theories that they end up actively endorsing 
Russian imperialist aggression. If that doesn't apply to you, great.


On 3 Mar 2023, at 15:55, Brian Holmes wrote:

> I find it very amusing that a thread devoted to Germany's relations to
> China is conceived as a conspiracy theory that aims at covering up the
> reality of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine.
> It seems to me rather *legitimate* to explore what might be happening
> between Germany, the US and China, at a time when the possibilities of a
> war between the US and China are being discussed in major news and
> international-relations publications across the world. God forbid, I even
> find it legitimate to explore what these tensions have to do with the
> Ukraine war, at a time the international relations experts are analyzing
> China's growing support for Russia, and worrying whether China might
> actually send arms to Russia, raising the spectre of - God forbid it again
> - something like a "proxy war." (Sorry, the word and the thought are taboo,
> I know.)
> Hmmm, I somehow recall saying very clearly in an earlier thread that I am
> in favor of NATO arming Ukraine, but simultaneously, I am wary of what
> comes next, the possibility of a larger conflict. Doesn't matter,
> conspiracy theorists always do that, it's not worth reading what they
> actually say.
> Speaking of reading, Andre and Ted, perhaps you guys have read the books by
> Bruno Macaes, "Belt and Road" and "The Dawn of Eurasia", and surely you
> have verified the conspirational nature of that kind of thinking? I guess
> you would have to throw in reams of articles in publications like Foreign
> Affairs and so on, the kind of stuff that I consult before writing, known
> conspiracy theorists all.
> Ted, when you've finished The Dawn of Eurasia - go ahead, it won prizes
> back in 2016, and rightly so, because it predicted the current era of
> inter-civilizational conflict between Russia, China and the US - well, when
> you've finished that, I am sure you will be convinced that Macaes, too, is
> a conspiracy theorist, and surely a "leftoid" to boot (after all, I think
> he mentions Aleksandr Dugin in there, and only leftoids do that). After a
> little study you will be able to better analyze and trash whatever I might
> come up with next.
> Just throw in Macaes' recent publications in The New Statesman, and it will
> give you a very accurate picture of the paralyzing lack of agency that you
> diagnose with such consummate precision. Go ahead, look at all that, take
> some time to put it all in the balance, and reconcile the results with your
> horror at anyone who attempts a 'why' explanation of complex world events.
> thoughtfully, Brian
> On Fri, Mar 3, 2023 at 9:10 AM Ted Byfield <> wrote:
>> Andre, you really nailed it.
>> As some may have noticed, the US in particular is suffering from, let's
>> say, a *maldistribution of agency*. It's mostly imaginary, but like all
>> imaginaries, it functions like a mass-magic spell: its very unreality
>> makes it that much more real.
>> The left — not a good name for it, but that's a discussion for another
>> time — has been consumed with efforts to "give agency to" or "empower"
>> its various grassroots constituencies for decades. I happen to support
>> those liberationist struggles, *and* I can also see the myriad ways
>> those cultural activities are inextricably intertwined with the left's
>> plainly obvious inability to effectively occupy governmental entities
>> and functions at *any* level. The right, which has been supremely
>> effective at subsuming government functions — whether by simply taking
>> them over or by rewriting the laws and media that construct them — is
>> consumed with growing imaginary allegations of excessive agency:
>> conspiracies, "the gubmint," "globalists," various insidious "agendas,"
>> "cancellations," "false flags" (i.e., misattributed agency), and
>> ridiculous "lizard people"–style nonsense (i.e., allegations of infinite
>> agency to entities that look like they don't have agency *because they
>> look like us*), etc, etc
>> More: US police forces are increasingly consumed by their sense of
>> helplessness and even fragility, even as their numbers skyrocket, their
>> budgets and powers expand uncontrollably, and the quantity and "quality"
>> of their weaponry — as well as their willingness to use it on the
>> slightest pretext — has metastasized.
>> US courts have become little more than a forum for rightists to
>> adjudicate ways to destroy ideas and facts developed by the left. But
>> the courts can't *do* anything directly — all they can do is direct
>> other branches not do or not do this or that. So they too are acutely
>> aware of their lack of agency and power, even as they grow by the day.
>> And the US federal government, with almost undisputed military and
>> financial power, is suffering from some sort of collective aphasia,
>> unable to effectively *name* the abuses tearing people's lives to
>> pieces: "insurrection" and "coup," the "mass murder" of gun violence,
>> "criminal negligence" (like public beta tests of allegedly self-driving
>> cars on the public at large), mass "disenfranchisement" through
>> gerrymandering and worse, the "indentured servitude" of student debt and
>> the "slavery" of so much employment, the "price-gouging" and
>> "profiteering" of corporations, large-scale "fraud" and "theft" by
>> networks of grifters. The state's undisputed power to *name* things is
>> dissolving into endless scholastic debates and procedural formalisms,
>> resulting in inexplicable paralysis. It's a prime example of how *seeing
>> like a state* — which is more about naming than seeing — both works and
>> doesn't work: if you can't name it you can't do anything about it, so if
>> you don't want to do anything about just don't name it.
>> I could go on with this list, but there's no need because they're all
>> variations on the same paradoxical misapprehension of agency. People,
>> institutions, forces see it where it isn't, can't see it where it is,
>> imagine they have none and others have it all.
>> No realistic or effective analysis of agency or power can come from this
>> mess.
>> The funny-not-funny thing about this is that the left has the conceptual
>> tools it needs to sort this out this, but (wait for it...) can't seem to
>> use them. For example, if someone were to apply theories of
>> intersectionality — a staple of leftist thinking that comes from (cue
>> the horror-movie soundtrack) CRT and therefore for domestic use only —
>> to Ukraine and its people, lo and behold, their struggle could be seen
>> in both/and rather than either/or terms: as part of a cynical
>> geopolitical strategy *and* a legitimate struggle for autonomy, as
>> politically problematic *and* morally right, as terrifyingly risky *and*
>> worth the risk, etc. But acknowledging that might mean supporting their
>> struggle, however awful the consequences.
>> And that support would violate Rule #1: it would be *inconsistent*.
>> Inconsistent, that is, with other stances and beliefs - pacifism or
>> commitment to nonviolence, say. And so we can see that one major
>> obstacle to support often has little or nothing to do with actual
>> Ukrainians, their actual lives, their actual country. Instead, it stems
>> from a reluctance to make exceptions on whatever grounds, to hold
>> incompatible beliefs, to recommend one thing in one context and its
>> opposite in another. To do that, to take the personal authority of
>> believing things that don't fit together easily or clearly, is a
>> sovereign act: it asserts priority over the systems of thought that
>> constrain agency.
>> Doing that, being inconsistent, doesn't go well these days, because much
>> of our mediated landscape — and therefore much of our conversational
>> landscape, at every level — is devoted to "holding people accountable"
>> for being, saying, or doing inconsistent things. Your career prospects
>> will tank, your credit score will plummet, and your insurance rates will
>> skyrocket. Your puritanically consistent friends will (as we've seen
>> here) denounce you as hypnotized by the "media" or "propaganda," or just
>> a "troll," or some will suspect you must've taken some colored pill —
>> red, blue, black, it doesn't matter which, as long as it can explain
>> away your sense of agency. Academia, consumed by nonsense about
>> ever-narrower job titles, consistent patterns of consistent publication,
>> application of consistent "methodologies," will banish you. And if
>> anyone pays too much attention, the media will treat you variously as
>> "mavericky," a "personality," or part of — that is, consistent with —
>> some subculture organized around either (a) the assertion of raw
>> privilege that consists entirely and only of being completely
>> incoherent, or (b) some boutique model of hyper-consistency applied to
>> anything without regard for others' humanity — for example, incels on
>> the one hand, long-termists on the other.
>> And so it's no surprise to see, basically, white male leftists receding
>> into the ether of world-systems theory — again, consumed with dreams of
>> finding some consistency. That is, taking a view (which implies
>> occupying a position, however imaginary) whose theoretical
>> sophistication and breadth of considerations are matched only by a
>> complete lack of engagement with the simple truth: one country — which
>> as you say, has a broken political environment — ruthlessly invaded
>> another country and has rained total destruction on it for a year now.
>> So, again as you say, we imagine Ukrainians are, or at least should be,
>> *like us*: NPCs — that is, no agency. And the recommendation is that
>> they should accept *being like us* by submitting to an inexorable and
>> incoherent system of power. If they'd just do that, everything would be
>> fine. For us. But they won't, so we should stop helping them to be
>> different from us.
>> The solipsism you point out is really astonishing. And it certainly
>> affects the UK, but someone else who knows more would have to make that
>> argument. But, clearly, the UK suffers from dynamics that are all too
>> similar: a lunatic series of Tory governments that have systematically
>> plundered all things public and rewritten the fabric of everyday life at
>> every level — all so they could, in their own way, *be like us*, and not
>> like those awful people on the continent who don't suffer quite so much
>> from problems of agency.
>> If people want to object specifically and concretely to support for
>> Ukraine's fight for independence, that's a conversation worth having.
>> But grounding opposition in imaginary terrains whose defining qualities
>> are abstraction — systemic, theoretical, historical — that negates what
>> anyone with eyes and ears can see, no. Those considerations might be
>> real, valid, or important, but if weighing them *necessarily* results in
>> paralysis — a lack of agency that seeks to deny others' agency — that's
>> not a conversation worth having, because it's not really a conversation.
>> Cheers,
>> Ted
>> On 1 Mar 2023, at 5:37, Andre Rebentisch wrote:
>>> An interesting pattern - also in conspiracy theory type imagination - is
>> to imagine your own government as a capable, acting party that in a way
>> starts or controls developments. Basically one ensures that the
>>> main narration is its capability to lead action, good or evil.
>>> Here we have a uthless invader of Ukraine and a broken political
>>> environment in Russia, but instead one talks about the West. and
>>> Ukraine supposedly did something wrong but not on its own but as a
>>> proxy that distracts Europe from its smarter geopolitical choices,
>>> whatever they are, something Chinese, Tianxia.
>>> You know, like there is no Vietnamese perspective in the Vietnam war
>> narrative complex, all are NPC. It is all about US faults, suffering,
>>> politicians, soldiers, veterans, protests.
>>> One does not leave it to Russia to do wrong and for Ukraine to suffer
>> and others to react, the initiative needs to be claimed for "us" who
>> allegedly orchestrate it to go wrong.
>>> -- A
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