As The Current YearTM — the year of the Alt-Right, as Richard Spencer calls it — comes to a close, fellow thinker, friend, and author, Brett Stevens (editor of Amerikaand author of Nihilism: A Philosophy Based in Nothingness and Eternity — a book I reviewed here), and I decided to fire a couple dozen emails back and forth discussing everything from what the Alt-Right is to multiculturalism and Anti-Semitism (along with other scapegoating tactics) to metaphysics and morality in the coming decades. Our discussions, as Brett has noted, have been “all over the place,” but thanks to his tireless work, some of our back and forth has been edited down into an easily digestible conversation format.
The first entry in what we hope will be a series of discussions, “A Conversation Between Peter Heft and Brett Stevens,” has been published on Right On. In this dialogue, Peter and Brett sit down with warm drinks and good food to discuss the rising Alt-Right, multiculturalism, the implications of anti-Semitism and similar scapegoating, and the historical legacy of a liberal society.
So please, do check out the dialogue, share your thoughts, and don’t hesitate to contact either of us.
Thank you all for your readership and I hope you have a happy New Year!
The New York Times recently reported Russian buildup of unconventional weapons: inflatables. Specifically, the Times notes that following increased tensions between the United States and Russia over Syria, the Russian army has been buying and moving inflatable weapons systems — tanks, anti-aircraft guns, MiGs, etc. — to make their military seem stronger than it really is (a tactic called maskirovka).1)Andrew Kramer, “A New Weapon in Russia’s Arsenal, and It’s Inflatable,” New York Times, published 10/12/16, accessed 10/13/16, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/13/world/europe/russia-decoy-weapon.html?%5C%5C&_r=1.
This move is obviously interesting on a number of different levels; is the Russian military weakening? Are nuclear weapons less of a deterrent than they used to be? And so on. The question I want to examine, however, is a starkly different one. The tanks, MiGs, and anti-air guns are obviously ‘fake,’ but does that really matter? Further, as we live in a world filled with simulacra, is there any legitimate difference between a MiG made of aluminium and jet fuel and one made of canvas and hot air? I’m not convinced that there is.
About a month ago I attended the 2016 International Žižek Studies Conference and had the privileged of meeting some fantastic people. Additionally, and of more relevance to any readers of this post, I was awash in new ideas and new things to think about; some of which I am still processing to this day. This post, however, attempts to deal with an issue that was brought up in passing during a Q and A session during a panel. For context: I was in a panel where Dr. Gregor Campbell of the University of Guelph was presenting a paper and we finished before the allotted time ended (due largely to the other participant’s absence) allowing for an extensive Q and A session and discussion. During our conversation, Campbell said, in passing, something that caught my attention and which I am indebted to him for thinking of. Campbell mentioned how people who deny climate change (climate deniers) serve to motivate climate scientists to work harder to prove their theories. While this comment lasted all of maybe 30 seconds, I would like to briefly unpack it and see what implications it has, if true.
A photo of me at the conference. My phone’s camera flipped the image, but the card I’m holding says “Zizek.”
In the following post,1)Originally part of a research paper that I have since revised and made web-friendly. I will utilize the works of Jean Baudrillard (Baudrillard 1994; Baudrillard 1995), Nasser Hussain (Hussain 2013), and others (Dorrian 2014; Introna 2002; Meijer 2013) to make the case that the United States’ strategy of dealing with terrorists in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East via the usage of unoccupied aerial vehicles (drones)2)Drones are officially called “unmanned aerial vehicles,” but I have opted to change the gendered language and use the term “unoccupied” as opposed to “unmanned.” represents a profound shift in the way that war is, and is not conducted. Specifically, I will be arguing that the usage of drones has transformed war for all parties involved in a few ways. First, the usage of surveillance and weaponized drones has abstracted warfare far beyond what could be predicted after the First Gulf War by shifting conflict and conflict zones from the Real to the Hyperreal via the mediation of images from the drone. And second, conflict has become touted as “clean” and “surgical” while iconographies of war have been removed leading to not only a desensitization of war, but also a lack of ethical engagement with the Other (Baudrillard 1995, 32, 40, 62; Introna 2002)
On this glorious 4/20 (Hitler/Stoner Day), two of my articles have been published around the web. While I normally don’t do this, since it’s hard to promote two different ones in the same day, I have aggregated them here as well. Check them out!
The Moral Conservative’s Case Against Torture (Right On)
It is not uncommon to see image macros online (particularly amongst mainstream conservative circles) that display a picture of a wounded solider with the caption, “This is why I don’t care how we interrogate terrorists.” If one buys the often touted conservative claim of “Western morality is the best system of values to follow,” however, then we as a society ought to eschew the practice of torturing suspected terrorists. As a society, we ought to refrain from torture as a method of information gathering, not because the methods used are ineffective, but rather because claims to the superiority of Western morality rest upon a meta-moral high ground that must be maintained.