Keith Preston, The Tyranny of the Politically Correct: Totalitarianism in the Postmodern Age, Black House Publishing, 2016, 184 pp., $16.00.
Despite its title, only a few of the essays in this new collection by Keith Preston deal specifically with political correctness, an expression of an ideology that, as he puts it, “regards any limits on the pursuit of power in the name of equality and progress to be intolerable.” [p. 2] Mr. Preston is an academic, speaker, and writer, who runs the website attackthesystem.com. He calls himself an anarchist, but one quite different from Hans Hermann Hoppe, whose book Democracy: The God That Failed was reviewed in American Renaissance in January 2002. Mr. Preston is a left-wing anarchist, so race realists will tend to view him with suspicion, but he is well worth reading.
By “left-wing” I mean a kind of family resemblance. When Mr. Preston is addressing the Alt-Right or libertarians, he does so as an outsider; when he is addressing left-wing organizations, he is doing so as one of them. This is because they emphasize the same things. He sees the U.S. government as a major threat to worldwide peace and freedom, and his focus is always on the underclass and those the Left identifies as victims of state repression.
His heart, therefore, is with the Left, which in his many criticisms he is trying to rescue from its alliance with pro-state liberalism, which thinks government power is the key to solving social problems. In reading his critiques of liberals, I thought of an observation I once heard about the Christian instruction to love our neighbors and our enemies–possibly because they may be the same people.
Why is Mr. Preston of interest to us? As he explains on his website, he wants to forge a kind of pan-anarchist, pan-secessionist movement that includes virtually all of those who “fall prey to the repressive High apparatus of the state.” Of course, his coalition would include the usual groups favored by the Left (racial minorities, drug users, sex workers), but he also wants to bring in groups traditionally despised by the Left. His list is long, and includes racists (his term), gun enthusiasts, tax resisters, motorcycle clubs, neo-Confederates, home-schoolers, born-again Christians, racial nationalists (also his term), militia groups, and people he calls “refugees from middle America.”
Ultimately what he wants is a “separation of race and state,” that would allow people with common interests of all sorts, including paleoconservatives and racial and religious groups, to live in homogeneous communities. He understands that “severe and irreconcilable differences . . . will inevitably arise, and that such differences are best managed according to the principle ‘peace through separation.’ ” [p. 90]
Mr. Preston clearly believes in freedom of speech and freedom of association, so when he talks about political correctness, he sees it not as a device for keeping language “sensitive” or polite, but as a tool of oppression and a way to make people accept state force as legitimate. A recurring theme of the book is his lament that so many of his comrades and allies on the Left have joined with the forces of conventional liberalism–the liberal state–to oppress, or at least marginalize, those they regard as enemies. And he is very much aware that race realists are on their list of enemies.
Mr. Preston prefers the term “totalitarian humanism” over “political correctness,” though he explains it is not original to him. Its totalitarian nature is clear to anyone who, because of it, has had to face a threat to his job or a demand by a homeowners’ association to remove a Christmas tree, or certainly to anyone who has ever refused to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding. Race realists are fully aware of the dangers, and many therefore keep their opinions to themselves. Their frustration is the greater when they learn that acquaintances hold similar opinions, but also do not dare voice them openly.
Mr. Preston calls it a form of “humanism” because, unlike an earlier humanism, which emphasized the value and importance of the individual, this humanism focuses on humanity generally:
Often one will even find alleged humanists who insist that the views, aspirations and basic happiness of indigenous Europeans are of no importance. Instead, these Humanists say, indigenous Europeans should bow down and forget about their own wants and desires for the greater good of Humanity. The greater good of Humanity usually seems to take no interest in Europe’s cultural heritage and its integration into a grey, world-wide, uniform “globalization” . . . . Totalitarian humanism . . . loves an abstract and universal “humanity” so much that its proponents don’t care what has to be done to individual human beings or particular human cultures in order to advance their ideals. [pp.13-14]
A few of the essays in the book deal with the historical development and origins of this totalitarianism humanism. Mr. Preston takes the reader through an analysis of the Frankfurt School and in particular the writings of Herbert Marcuse, though he recognizes that political correctness contains elements derived from Maoism. “Notice the similarities,” he writes, “between a Maoist self-criticism session and the self-flagellation common among adherents of PC.” [p. 55]
It is through Marcuse that the expectation of a kind of neutral tolerance for conflicting ideas was rejected and became “liberated.” Free speech was to be denied to anyone whose speech could conceivably be construed as an incitement to massacre–though the massacres Marcuse envisaged were exclusively to be perpetrated by Nazis and Fascists. Therefore, writing of the United States in 1965 in an essay called Repressive Tolerance, Marcuse explains what is necessary:
the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed [emphasis added], at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs. [p. 24]
And from whom must tolerance of speech and assembly be withdrawn?
. . . from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of social services, social security, medical care, etc. [p. 26]
Readers may remember the repeated cancellations of American Renaissance conferences because hotel managements were threatened with demonstrations and even violence. This is why American Renaissance conferences now take place in government-owned facilities. Mr. Preston also remembers. In a speech to an NPI conference he noted:
The fact that this gathering itself is being held in a public facility under police protection . . . is by itself testimony to the creeping totalitarianism we find all around us today. In recent times, previous efforts to hold conferences with themes very similar to this one have been prevented either by the efforts of self-appointed vigilantes using threats of extra-legal violence while the state looked the other way or by use of behind-the-scenes political pressure exercised by public officials. Such incidents are chilling examples of soft totalitarianism, or perhaps of what the late Sam Francis referred to as “anarcho-tyranny.” [p. 70]
Mr. Preston unequivocally rejects this view of “tolerance.” He says that “a genuine anarchist movement must realize that there is no issue that is so taboo that it should be taken off the table as a fitting subject for discussion and debate.” [p. 26] He also recognizes that the Southern Poverty Law Center is a “state-connected, crony-capitalist, cop-friendly, ‘private’ espionage and surveillance agency.” [p. 83]
Mr. Preston is often criticized by his fellow lefties for spending too much time talking to the Right, but he is unrepentant. His primary critique is aimed at U.S. imperialism, and he says that the Left has lost its way because it allowed itself to be infiltrated by Marxism. It “shares the same fundamental ideological and cultural presumptions as neo-liberalism . . . . The ‘far right’ is the only place where my own anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, ‘anti-American,’ and anti-totalitarian humanist perspective can be heard at the present time.” [p. 154] He refers to the Left as the “useful idiots” of the liberal establishment, and to Communism as an aberration.
Elsewhere he explains that:
The bottom line is that the task of revolutionary struggle against the state, the global plutocratic super class, and the Empire is far too important and too challenging to be placed in the hands of recycled Commies and over privileged undergraduates hiding away in their “safe spaces” with their crayons and coloring books, desperately seeking to avoid being “triggered,” and crying over this or that “microaggression.” [p. 148]
Mr. Preston explains that his objection to “American imperialism” is rooted in the way that Europe and other parts of the world are losing their identities to American consumerism. American imperialism recognizes only three kinds of identity: the consumer, the taxpayer, and the professional or worker.
No other form of identity is acceptable within the context of this particular paradigm. Not ethnicity, not nationality, not race, not culture, not religion, not history, not tradition, not community, not ancestry, not family, and apparently not even gender. Instead the ambition is to create masses of helots that function merely as deracinated, working, consuming, tax-paying, obedient drones without any connection to the past, no regard for the future, no folklore, no distinctiveness, and no serious aspirations. [p. 80]
Mr. Preston also recognizes that current orthodoxy ignores and destroys crucial human distinctions.
The ideology of totalitarian humanism insists that profound human differences regarding matters of culture, nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, or language are simply of no significance. Differences of these kinds that have been generated by thousands of years of human social evolution and have produced many magnificent variations of human culture that have existed since ancient times are dismissed by the proponents of totalitarian humanism as mere surface-level social constructs that contain no essence or intrinsic value. Some proponents of this worldview have gone even further and insisted that the variations to be found among human populations are merely interchangeable commodities. [p. 68]
By denying the “innate and profound differences” among people, totalitarian humanists are brought finally to egalitarianism in which all inequalities are thought to be “unnatural, artificial, or arbitrary.” Mr. Preston takes “innate and profound differences” seriously; he even has a chapter on the possibility of black or Hispanic insurrection in the United States.
Mr. Preston argues that “mass immigration is the primary weapon being utilized by the proponents of the totalitarian humanist worldview,” and it involves “a de facto alliance between the forces of the radical cultural left on the one hand and big business and supercapitalism on the other hand.” [p. 71] The Left is oblivious to the fact that support for mass immigration is incompatible with other causes that have ostensibly been dear to it–such things as homosexual and women’s rights–and that it harms American workers. “Nor is it immediately clear,” he writes, “how the importation of Arabs, Muslims, and other Third World immigrants into the West serves the long term interests of the West’s historic Jewish minority population.” [p. 73]
Mr. Preston sees in mass immigration the most serious issue Western civilization faces because other problems of politics and culture can be corrected:
But mass immigration is the one policy that, once it reaches a certain tipping point, cannot be undone. If mass immigration continues and even expands, eventually our civilization will reach the point of no return, and thousands of years of cultural evolution will be lost as a result of demographic overrun. [pp. 73-74]
Mr. Preston also fears that the Left’s implicit alliance with the state menaces the future of the country. In a chapter addressed primarily to libertarians he warns that:
we will soon have in the United States . . . a multiethnic, multicultural, secular, feminized and gayized political class presiding over a crumbling imperialist empire and decaying corporatist economy. This ruling class will have at its disposal a massive police state apparatus that has been built up in recent decades under the guise of the wars on drugs, crime and terrorism. [p. 40]
At the same time, he recognizes that the way totalitarianism will operate in the United States is different from how it has operated in other countries:
The state may not murder you or put you in prison for decades without trial, but you may lose your job, have your professional licenses revoked or the social service authorities threaten to remove your children from your home or be subject to significant but brief harassment by legal authorities . . . . [T]he state will increasingly look the other way as the use of extra-legal violence by leftist and other pro-system thugs is employed against dissenters. [p. 53]
Mr. Preston covers a lot of ground. He is as at home with Joe Sobran, Paul Gottfried, and Max Stirner as he is with Emma Goldman, Dorothy Day, and Noam Chomsky. However, almost half of the book is given over to reprints of interviews with Mr. Preston and to essays in which he reproduces criticisms of his writings along with his replies. Some of these may take the reader into internecine quarrels among lefties of which he may have no knowledge and little interest. Here one learns of Mr. Preston’s run-ins with anti-fa groups, whom he says he might take seriously if their anti-communism ever became as virulent as their “anti-fascism.”
Some of the essays, especially when Preston is replying to his critics, contain a fair amount of vulgarity, even obscenity. I suppose we have to live with that on the internet, but I like to see higher standards in books. An index would also be helpful. But I came away from this book with considerable respect for Mr. Preston.
I have been a free-market anarchist my entire adult life, and in all that time I have never met a left-wing anarchist whom I could trust not to start making excuses for state coercion at some point. Neither have I met or read a left-libertarian’s apologies for leftist activism that did not ultimately slither away into dishonesty or just pretend that the thuggish violence that typifies so much of the Left’s “activism” really doesn’t happen. They’re like P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster says about his aunts: “At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.”
Keith Preston seems to be that startling exception: a leftist anarchist who really has no use for the state or for left-wing hooliganism. And he’s ready to work with anyone on almost any issue. All groups that have faced the wrath of the state, or that have been marginalized by it, silenced by it, or harassed by it are potential allies, and he has something worth saying to them–including race realists and white advocates.