Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Knights Who Say "Ni": The Left As Big Business

This post-Super Bowl tweet by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called conservative Twitter's attention to a paradigm-shifting reality: once the loudest voice crying out against the depredations of Big Business, the Left now is Big Business. The Occupy Wall Street movement, framed as a protest against a cruel present, would have been more accurately rendered in the past tense. The massive American multinationals targeted for Leftist abuse, e.g. the storefronts ransacked in the Battle for Seattle, now almost uniformly push the Left's cultural platform.

This is not an entirely new or unexpected development. It was partially prophesied almost 50 years ago by French political scientist Jean-Fran├žois Revel in his book Ni Marx Ni Jesus (directly translated as Neither Marx Nor Jesus). Written at the zenith of New Left agitation at the onset of the 1970s, Revel boldly broke with the fashionable designation of capitalist USA as a reactionary superpower, seeing instead its unmatched potential as an instrument of global revolution. Diverging from the old poor vs. rich dichotomy that animated most Leftist would-be revolutionaries, Revel describes a "centrifugal gyration" in America. Free speech, a free press and free enterprise create opportunities for a whole new revolutionary program that pulls the ideological struggle out of stale class-based antagonisms to create a unique new constellation of social alliances.

The leaders that emerge from Revel's revolutionary centrifuge are the Knights Who Say "Ni" to Marx and Jesus. They reject both the economic strictures of Marxist dogma, with its grim fixation on the working class overthrowing the landed class, and the moral injunctions Christianity, especially its patriarchy, sexual mores and anti-materialist bent. They see commercialized technology not as corrupting but as the ultimate solution to the world's problems, particularly when divested from smelly, pollutant industry. Most importantly to Revel's thesis, they see revolution not as a demolition but a renovation. They've moved on from the political violence of their ideological predecessors, but not from their revolutionary aims. The societal institutions of yore are not to be destroyed, but absorbed and weaponized for culture war.

This revolutionary absorption is evident, indeed blatantly obvious, across the corporate landscape. Consider the huge northwestern multinationals targeted by the (recently resurgent) Black Bloc at the Battle for Seattle in 1999. Starbucks, already a veteran of Leftist causes, announced plans to hire 10,000 refugees in a blatant stab at the Trump's refugee pause. Nike CEO Mark Parker followed suit with an unsolicited condemnation of Trump over the same issue. Nordstrom issued an internal memo panning Trump's policies, almost immediately followed up by dumping Ivanka Trump's fashion line.

This is by no means restrained to the northwest. Silicon Valley and corporate Hollywood have been excelled by none in their zeal for Leftist social causes, with examples ranging from Google's annual outpouring of Lefty Riefenstahl propaganda to the militant posturing of star actors and producers at Hollywood industry parties. This synergy is best exemplified by TJ Miller, the star of Hollywood's eponymous tribute to Silicon Valley, getting arrested for assaulting his Trump-supporting Uber driver on his way between awards shows (he would host another awards show 2 days after his arrest). Completing the comedy of terrors, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick just bowed to Silicon Valley peer pressure and stepped down from Trump's business advisory council.

Not to be outshone, The Big Apple, the financial heart and media nervous system of Big Business, is just as open in its Leftism. Manhattan voted almost 10-1 for Hillary over native son Trump, with hedge fund managers in particular racking up a massive donation imbalance in her favor. NYC-based sports behemoth the NBA has emerged as a leading enforcer of the Left's platform in red states, taking the pressure tactics Apple used to great effect on Indiana after their Religious Freedom Restoration Act triggered LGBT fury and applying them to North Carolina for their transgender bathroom bill. The NYC-based NFL's tacit endorsement of Colin Kaepernick's Leftist agitation, even at significant cost in ratings, is yet another example. The leftward tack of red state dependent industries like sports is likely heavily influenced by the pressure of LA/NY media conglomerates, especially Disney/ABC.

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Knights Who Say "Ni!" waylay travelers and assault them with sacred nonsense words until the travelers cower and give in to their absurd demands (sound familiar?). Eventually their victims turn around and use the same techniques on others even lower on the totem pole. And by the time the extorted goods are delivered, the Knights have moved on to new sacred nonsense with even more absurd demands  - "you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest... with a herring!"

The leaders of today's corporate multinationals have organized themselves into a fraternal organization worthy of Monty Python and their medieval inspiration, combining the high-pitched histrionics and escalating demands of the Knights Who Say "Ni!" with the global financial muscle and sacred commission of the Order of the Knights Templar, the West's first multinational corporation.  Fortunately, like their counterparts in Monty Python and the Templars, this new breed of Ni-sayers has only a tenuous grasp on soft power, bullying largely by the consent of the bullied. Monty Python's knights fell to pathetic cringing when their own tactics were applied against them. The Knights Templar were annihilated by their own vengeful client. Such ignoble fates likely await the multinationals who continue to mistake their consumers for subjects.