Political Compass Tests Are Dumb, The End Of Afganistan, And More--Temporal Times #4

America’s “Forever” War

By Starling1269

Afghanistan will now officially be the new Vietnam, and by that, I mean a failure born of an unpopular and mismanaged war that will in the end never achieve anything close to a desirable result because the response to the mismanagement was to wash our hands of the situation. Which means throwing the people to the wolves. In 1975 this was the Viet Cong, and today it will be the Taliban. However, this comparison is very surface-level. The Taliban are and will be MUCH worse, and the Viet Cong were certainly no angels.

Now, I will not minimize American atrocities in Vietnam. Hundreds of civilians were deliberately targeted for slaughter and rape, and there was very little accountability or justice for these very real and very problematic atrocities. The fact that there was so little accountability, and the fact that coverups were attempted and people who spoke out against these were silenced and shamed shows that this was NOT merely insubordination on behalf of a few squadrons and soldiers but an actual systemic issue reflecting very real bigotry and corruption that went all the way up the chain of command and even into congress and the media. However, the atrocities committed by the Viet Cong must ALSO not be minimized and they were massive and numerous. Orders of magnitude greater in scope and spread than anything that came out of the US during the war, and this trend continued post-war and Vietnam to this day is not a place of liberty or rule of law. Even still, Vietnam is a functioning state that has foreign relations and trade and at least some modicum of normality behind the corrupt and tyrannical communist power structures. Afghanistan is under Taliban occupation, and I use this very deliberately instead of rule, because of just how ineptly decentralized and corrupt to the level of infunctionality on any real matter of governance beyond collecting protection money and enforcing sharia I can only see them as being.

The Taliban have shown little to no interest in building a nation-state or anything of the sort previously, though at least China seems to think that they can be domesticated. Within the next decade, I expect one of two things will happen: There will be a bloody civil war which makes genocide and atrocity a near certainty, with the most likely result being some enterprising Afghan (or as likely, foreign) warlord manages to hold territory from the Taliban long enough to fall into the Chinese orbit as a Chinese satellite debtor state in exchange for just barely enough security and infrastructure to establish some sort of order. OR, The Taliban show uncharacteristic restraint and pragmatism, and somehow manage to effectively govern and manages to provide enough security and stability to encourage Chinese investment and relations and Afghanistan falls into the Chinese orbit as a satellite debtor state. The only real other option I see is if this conflict is delayed long enough to see them become an Indian puppet as that country succeeds China as the Asian hegemon.

Regarding the future of relations with non-Chinese powers, Putin would certainly not touch this country with a ten-foot pole, having achieved his objective of driving America from the region. America for its part is almost certainly not going to involve itself in any conflicts no matter how unconscionable it might become. As I had predicted in my earlier piece on WWIII, see Temporal Times issue #2, America is becoming FAR more isolationist and nationalist. Joe Biden even echoed the rather Trumpian rhetoric of America First earlier this week, while explaining why he was withdrawing. The Chinese state media are having a field day with this burgeoning isolationism and have released statements that amount to a thinly veiled threat on Taiwan. In effect showing open dismissal of our capability and willingness to defend our allies. However, as I went into in that article I just mentioned, the four Asian tigers have very large strategic and economic interests to America. Even with this push toward isolationism, America can ill afford to pull out of Asia anytime soon. Militarily OR economically. I see this just as further wolf-warrior diplomacy posturing, which is born of Chinese insecurity over its future. If China starts something it will be with India or central Asia and not Taiwan, and you can quote me on that.

Now, I do NOT think withdrawal was the wrong course of action. I do however think it was too much, and too soon, and this really should have been done in stages. I think at the bare minimum, we should have aided the Afghan government in military logistics and governance. Certainly, I would find it unconscionable to not aid the people of Afghanistan who wish to flee persecution and tyranny in their safe retreat from the country. Resume activity of the airport that was shut down, and protect them from attack. Anything less is unacceptable in my opinion. Certainly, we shouldn’t be firing warning shots at frightened refugees, that is not how we should be acting. The utmost care should be taken that anyone in the country who wishes to flee is allowed to, and I would further urge Americans to allow these people in as refugees. I think, for practical reasons, neighboring safe countries should be preferred. However, I do think we have a moral obligation to take in refugees fleeing from the collapse of democracy in no small part due to our involvement. Even if for no other reason than it's the right thing to do because they need our help.

If it were up to me, then I would have utilized private security forces leased out to the Afghanistan government on the understanding that it will be paid back at a later date, which would also give us political leverage and pull the region more into our orbit in an organic and less overtly resented manner. I would allow the Afghans a good deal of sovereignty, but would insist on bare minimum human rights protections written into the law. As much as possible to assuage the people of the perception of the government of being American puppets. The ideal situation would have been stability, and some semblance of human rights if not actual democracy, while still remaining under American influence. In effect, what China will try to achieve with whatever Taliban government can be established.

I do not blame Biden for this overmuch, he is merely responding to this post-Trump zeitgeist of isolationism and populism that has gripped America. I strongly disagree with the direction the country is going in, and I can only see this getting worse before it gets better. Again, though, the withdrawal was not a mistake, it was merely poorly executed and rushed in my opinion. This situation can be brought back under control, and the damages can be minimized. Still, too many lives were lost in the takeover and in the attempts at fleeing the country. I’m sure we all saw the people trying desperately to cling to airplanes as they took off, and if not seen at least heard mention of the people who fell off the planes in flight. This situation reminds me very strongly of the aftermath of the withdrawal from Vietnam, and the countless refugee lives lost.

I fear that many women and LGBT people will face brutality under Taliban occupation. I fear that many more people will lose their lives fleeing and fighting against tyranny, and as a result of the tyranny through no action of their own. I fear that the struggles and horrors experienced by the people of Afghanistan will be forgotten and ignored as our attention drifts elsewhere, and the media returns to its near-dead silence on the situation in Afghanistan, as it has nearly throughout the war. Above all, I fear the resentment and bigotry that may well start rearing its ugly head as we see more refugees and, soon enough, terror attacks from a resurgent Taliban.

The Othering

By Deviant Crow

Right-wing tactics are always a very interesting topic for me because it’s best to know thy enemy. The better you know your enemy the better you’ll know when to spot them. And there is no more commonly used far-right tactic than the othering. Right-wingers, whether they be simple republicans or right-wing neo-nazis, love to use fear of the other as a way to shape minds and opinions towards their favor. There is always a new scary boogeyman to worry about. From the Japanese to communists to black people to the LGBTQ+ community, there is always some massive threat to the FAMILIES OF AMERICA! And no matter how many times they do this shit, again and again, it keeps working, until it doesn't, kinda.  I wouldn’t say right-wingers don’t use race to fear monger anymore, it’s just a lot less common. STILL HAPPENS, just not the main one they wanna go with unless you are in the far-right circle, then it’s the only thing you really talk about.

More often nowadays the othering tactic they use is against Antifa, BLM, and the trans community that wants to turn every penis into a penwas! These are groups that have a common theme among them, they are very anti-right-wing. So of course these groups have to be targeted and fear mongered the most because they are a threat not to “families of America” but because they go against the very shitty values that right-wingers have. Black Lives Matter wants equal rights for people of color and that's a big problem because most people of color tend not to vote for right-wingers because of the long racist history of the right and the current racist history of the right. (“The spirit of Jefferson Davis lives in the 1984 Republican Platform,” said Trent Lott, a Senator from Mississippi who later became Senate Majority Leader before being forced to resign after saying “we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years,” if America had elected the segregationist Strom Thurmond during the 1948 Presidential Election.) Antifa is anti-fascist, and if you’re an idiot you may not see why right-wingers do not like seeing an inherently right-wing political belief be under attack. And they wanna attack trans people because most trans people tend to vote and advocate for left-leaning politicians and also fight for equal rights.

But the common reasoning for the othering tactic is to use the ignorance of these groups to scare people into voting for the right by simply saying “(insert right-wing punching bag of the week) is supported by those evil leftists, vote for us so we can protect you” This is the same reason they love talking about cancel culture non-stop, because it’s easy to pin it all on the left. The evil left is canceling people for opinions, just ignore the context or whether there was a cancellation to begin with. The ignorant people who are prey to republicans fear change, and cancel culture is a big chance because it advocates consequences for shitty behavior, or as the right tries to frame it as canceling for simply no worthwhile reason at all please ignore context.

Right-wingers love to paint themselves as saviors from a new scary world, use any misinformation at all to get to that goal. The best way to confront this strategy is by informing people about reality, but republicans always have a way around them. “Don’t listen to any leftist, they have evil motives, don’t list to them, I will not debunk their arguments, please continue to be very scared of minorities'' I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a good argument ignored and talked badly about simply because someone is left-leaning. Leftists should confront that reality more and point out the massive actual brainwashing the right does. 

A big problem I see with leftists is that they will try their hardest to argue and debate with these people that will believe the dumbest shit, when given little to no proof at all, as if reasoning with these people is possible. Sure, very rarely you will right-winger that goes “You know what, I was wrong about that” but sadly most of the time you just get a right-winger ignoring and making a million excuses, because this leftist must be wrong, they are a leftist and never be right, I was told that by daddy Tucker Carlson or some other dumbfuck. I used to get into a lot of debates with right-wingers online because I thought “Maybe they'll be prone to reason” and every time I was proved wrong until one day I realized it. If they are dumb enough to believe some of the utterly insane things they speak about, then logic very likely isn’t going to change their minds.

We need to stop trying to get right-wingers on our side, it’s a stupid meaningless effort that doesn’t work. Leftists need to target centrists, and I mean actual centrists, not self-proclaimed ones that weirdly mostly spit out right-wing rhetoric, I’m talking about people that don’t care about politics that much, they need to be given reasons to care. We also need to further motivate leftists that feel like nothing can be done. We need to stop trying to reach out the right, we need to learn the most important lesson from the Obama era that dumb fucks like never learned, bipartisanship will not work with an opposite party that is constantly framing you as the enemy of the people.

The Woes of the Political Compass: Who would have thought that a simple internet quiz would destroy popular political discourse?

By Monstromax

It says something about the ubiquity of the Political Compass that I’m not sure exactly when I first became aware of it. Like any successful meme, it has percolated its way from relative obscurity into practically every area of online discourse (exceptions, of course, include Silent Generation Facebook pages and the comment sections of those weird, procedurally-generated YouTube kids’ videos).

My first exposure to the four-quadrant political compass might have happened in 2015 or so, on some forum where a political discussion was happening. My thoughts on it at the time were “Oh, interesting.” Little did I know how much influence this simple graph would have over the Very Online in the next few years.

For the two people in the world who don’t know (thank you both for reading my columns, by the way), the Political Compass is a quiz that presents several propositions. Depending on how much a user agrees or disagrees with each statement, the quiz assigns that person a point on a graph with two axes: left/right and authoritarian/libertarian. The compass was first developed in 2001 by Pace News Ltd., making it ancient by online meme standards.

When I first started seeing it, I thought it was a new and interesting way to visualize where one’s politics lean. The left and right spectrum was familiar, and the authoritarian/libertarian axis added a way to think about the various tendencies and attitudes that exist on the political spectrum but aren’t always captured clearly by degrees of “left or right.” After all, a paleoconservative and a card-carrying Objectivist are both right-wing, but express significantly different on issues such as taxation and what should be considered a crime. On the other side, a Marxist-Leninist and an anarchist are both against capitalism, but will support different ways of organizing to establish a worker-controlled society. Adding a y-axis gives us a way to express these differences quickly.

Of course, I knew the Compass had its flaws. The quiz may have a slight left-leaning bias in its weightings, the developers’ assertion that belief in fate is linked to authoritarianism is a bit questionable and could benefit from some evidence, and so on. But most things are imperfect, so at first, I thought of it as just another quirky political thought experiment and put it aside.

Then something terrible happened.

Reddit and various other forums found out about the Political Compass and started doing two things:

  1. Making endless memes about it

  2. Taking the format too seriously when discussing politics

Some will see that I’m criticizing Political Compass Memes and accuse me of being humorless, because “they’re just jokes stop taking them so seriously.” So, first of all, yes memes about the Political Compass can often be funny, especially when they subvert the format or otherwise don’t take it too seriously. The problem with Political Compass Memes began when online communities formed specifically to post and discuss this type of meme.

As memes are remixed and remade over time, their elements typically become more simplified and stereotyped. In a word, they become Flanderized.

This isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, but when this kind of meme’ing happens in a place where people attempt to have political discussions, the space tends to attract people with increasingly fringe or extreme views, or cause people to express more extreme views. Such is the fate of the subreddit /r/PoliticalCompassMemes, a space that is supposedly for people of all political affiliations but has been filled with edgelords, fascists, and other assorted /pol/ posters. The same trend has happened in several online platforms, including /pol/ itself, producing the kind of alt-right political compasses you might expect.

Oh, what a terrible time to have eyes.

But why should any of this matter? Internet forums attracting reactionaries, fascists and shit-disturbers is nothing new. Really, if the problem with the Political Compass was only to do with Political Compass Memes, I would just write PCM off as another online community that took a turn for the worse.

What is more concerning is the tendency I have noticed among some online groups to take this oversimplified concept of the Political Compass and make it their entire political identity. Many of these people treat Political Compass test results as astrological signs, discussing traits of various alignments on the chart and the compatibilities and incompatibilities of different quadrants. Putting aside the limitations and potential biases of the original quiz, these types of alignment discussions often lead to supposedly political conversations that have very little to do with actual political matters. People may spend considerable time debating how far into the bottom left quadrant a person is, but never discuss how someone of that persuasion might, for example, advocate for immigrant rights. In these cases, the Political Compass becomes a four-way team sport and not a point of political analysis.

My point in all of this is that, if you are someone who likes Political Compasses, it is important to remember that the Compass is a representation of politics – not political action itself. Don’t oversimplify what a chart alignment could mean and don’t take a position on the chart as gospel for what someone believes or is. Instead, try using the chart as a jumping-off point, a way to think more deeply about what you believe and learn more about why you may believe it. This will help you and others have more thoughtful conversations about politics.

In other words, I recommend taking Political Compass memes about as seriously as horoscopes.