A virtual world of one’s own

Courtesy NPR

Following Trump’s demise, the question is this: Can some semblance of a shared political space be recreated in which civilized debate can be carried on, and appeal made to sources of evidence judged by common consent to be impartial?

Or does the rise of the worldwide web and social media, and the accompanying fall from grace of the mainstream media, the scientific community, and all forms of established authority in the West, condemn us to a new politics: a politics in which rival sides, each convinced they possess the absolute truth, scream abuse at the other, and trade conspiracy theories that prove the enemy has been comprehensively brainwashed? 

We have seen the trend toward the latter develop with the issues of climate change and Covid, where rival sides inhabit parallel self-contained virtual worlds. Appeal to reason, or to an authoritative body of evidence or factual data, has been replaced by appeal to multiple websites that promote the opinions one agrees with, that select the evidence that would confirm those opinions, and reinforce each other through elaborate cross-referencing. The loop is complete, the reasoning circular, the echoes pitch perfect.

Any evidence that might support a different opinion is dismissed as fabrication, the work of those brainwashed by sinister dark forces. Indeed, any opinion or belief can be verified by appeal to the corresponding virtual world of confirmatory websites: aliens on the Moon, the flat Earth, the Elders of Zion – you name it.  

But the phenomenon has reached a new level with the US election. What is startling is that there is no middle ground. Either you believe the election was stolen from Trump, who would otherwise have won a landslide, through systematic fraud masterminded by the Democrats, the liberal establishment, the mainstream media, Big Tech, and the Chinese (as thousands of websites testify); or you believe that it was basically a fair election, and that Trump’s diehard supporters are the deluded followers of a cult, who believe every word of their leader (as thousands of other websites testify). 

Now, no-one associated with the Salisbury Review is in any doubt about the threat posed to our cultural inheritance, to our liberties, and to free speech by the liberal establishment, the mainstream media, Big Tech, and the Chinese.

All contributors have written tirelessly on these subjects, as a momentary glance at past articles will testify. Indeed, so far as free speech is concerned, conservatives of all hues – Tory, liberal, and libertarian – are agreed.

Whatever one thinks of the liberal-leaning Spectator, its crusade for free speech has been admirable. Many of us will be members of Toby Young’s free speech union, set up to defend those victimised for exercising their legal right to voice an opinion.   

But the US election highlights as never before the specific problem of web-based virtual worlds, complete with self-contained, self-reinforcing bodies of evidence. Of course, one or other side might be right. Conspiracies, plots, and secret organisations have existed through history.

The problem, precisely because there is no shared ground, no common point of reference, is knowing which side. Or as Lionel Shriver writes in the Spectator this week, ‘How can you be sure which of us is living in [the] delusional, self-reinforcing bubble?’ 

We cannot appeal to the ballot box, or electoral officials, or impartial observers, or the judges, or mainstream news and opinion, because they are all implicated in the conspiracy. So, we must choose by other means: either find a convivial virtual world to inhabit – or trust that there is still some semblance of shared common ground, of political or democratic bedrock, that we can take our bearings from.   

There used to be two worlds: the everyday world of Plato’s cave, that is, the public world of shared experiences; and for the philosophers, an objective world of universal forms and truths outside the cave. Now it seems, there are not only multiple caves but multiple universes. Where do we go from here?  

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49 Comments on A virtual world of one’s own

  1. You need to do a lot more research on the US election. It was without any doubt stolen.
    There are two kinds of fraud, namely election fraud and voter fraud. The latter is the easier to understand, ballot stuffing etc. You have doubted this form of fraud but the evidence is overwhelming. Note the thousands of witness statements backed by affidavit.
    Not to mention video footage of suitcases being pulled from underneath tables (not held in the correct ballot containers) by unobserved staff in the middle of the night to be run through tabulators in a very clearly illegal operation.
    No, it is the ELECTION fraud which seals the case for Trump and to which you are either unaware for lack of research or being aware, have left it out of your articles because you suffer Trump derangement syndrome like the Marxists running the democratic party. The best example of election fraud is Article 2 section 1 clause 2 of the US constitution. Effectively, this means only the state legislature sets the election law. In case after case, going back years the democrats set about UNCONSTITUIONALLY getting around Art 2 S.1 Clause2 by changing the election law (mainly in swing states) through every means possible other than the legislature – including the judicial branch, state governors, election boards, secretaries of state etc.
    There are many examples of this but to illustrate the point, the acceptance of ballots after close of polls on the 3rd was allowed on the basis of a change of law which was unconstitutional. It’s no good saying the US supreme court rejected law suits claiming ballots illegal. The US supreme court said “no standing” and heard no cases on the merits. The fact the US supreme court was unable to do its job upholding the constitution is a tragedy.

    • ‘A lot more research’. You can read anything you want to hear by consulting the right websites. If you want to hear the election was stolen, then you can read that it was stolen, with evidence to match. Which is the whole point of my blog.

      But if you had consulted a different website on the ‘suitcases’ video footage, for example, you might have read this:

      Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, told Lead Stories during a phone call on December 3, 2020 that what can be seen on the video is normal procedure and nothing looks “bizarre or odd.” Election workers known as “cutters” because their job was to open absentee ballot envelopes and verify ballots for eventual scanning and counting were dismissed for the night sometime after 10 p.m. on November 3, 2020, because their work for the evening had been completed, he explained. Those workers who remained were responsible for conducting the scanning portion of the process, since ballots could not be left without being scanned overnight. He said: If you look at the video tape, the work you see is the work you would expect, which is you take the sealed suitcase looking things in, you place the ballots on the scanner in manageable batches and you scan them.

      Let me guess your response: ‘FAKE NEWS!’

      • Very interesting that you concentrated on the least compelling part of the case for Trump.
        Can I assume from your lack of commentary on the evidence from witness statements backed by affidavit that you accept this amounts to a strong case for fraud and similarly your lack of a response to the constitutional question (article 2 section 1 clause 2) indicates you approve of this argument in Trumps favour?
        Even more interesting than all of this is your apparent reluctance to accept the concept of “fake news”. It sounds to me like your Trump derangement syndrome is a very severe form of the disease. No doubt you will be able to give me all the indisputable evidence in the crossfire hurricane debacle? If not, then I shall continue to refer to it as fake news!

        • Is ‘least compelling’ your code for ‘obvious nonsense but I thought I would throw it in anyway’? I would have thought that if there were ballot stuffing going on, then this was highly compelling evidence of fraud!

          As for the rest, since I was not an eyewitness, and social media is polarised between the greatest steal in history (which incidentally was also applied by Trump to the 2016 election right up to the moment that he won it, when the election suddenly became ‘beautiful’) and deluded conspiracy theory, I go with the judges and election officials, if only on the balance of probabilities. Surely to God ONE of them would have spoken out if the election had been fraudulent/unconstitutional etc? Were they ALL bought/brainwashed/silenced/corrupted?

          PS Isn’t the ‘Anyone who disagrees with me must be suffering from serious mental illness/derangement’ attitude the hallmark of a conspiracy theorist? Of course, it is POSSIBLE that all who believe the US election was lost by Trump (Farage is another one) are deranged/deluded/suffering from false consciousness etc. – and therefore anything they say can be attributed to mental illness. But then no evidence to the contrary could EVER be considered because anyone who adduced it would, by definition, be deluded/deranged etc.

          • Article 2 Section 1 clause 2 – “each state shall appoint, in such manner as THE LEGISLATURE thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state might be entitled in the congress…” In the swing states election law was changed outside of the law making body contrary to article 2. The potential number of illegal ballots in each state was more than the margin of victory for Biden. But, I hear you say, the Supreme Court said… Actually, the supreme court said very little. Is that the same Supreme Court under Chief Justice Taney when interpreting “all men were created equal” said this part of the constitution does not apply to blacks? Historically, the Supreme Court has failed on many occasions so unfortunately it cannot be relied upon to uphold the constitution. What is clear is that the democrats did everything in their power to bypass article 2.
            So, that’s twice now I’ve cited article 2 as strong evidence of election irregularities amounting to a stolen election.
            How about, for the purposes of this discussion, I say nothing more about the tens of thousands of witness statements backed by affidavit, which you have also now ducked twice – if you promise to address article 2 section 1 clause2 ? Is that a deal?

  2. What they are asking now: Will any future election have any consequence other than a victory by the Big State, as favoured and enabled by Big Tech, Big Media and Big Entertainment?

  3. Political journalism? Pursuit of what politicians and members of other institutions seek to hide? A white woman was shot to death by a black security officer at the Capitol. The black guard fired at and hit the woman’s head/neck. Video shows the white woman was offering no direct or immediate threat to the black policeman. No public announcement has been made by any official of Capitol Police, and no politician has asked any question about the shooting, publicly anyway. No journalist has reported on the shooting. All this suggests to me that the politicians and the public administration people and the police -and journalists- all deem that something must be hidden. Conjectures point in the direction of…that which cannot be said about certain matters of black lives, and whites who enforce affirmative action, and the political allegiance and ideological beliefs of the black shooter.

  4. Douglas Murray is a social conservative, tireless in fighting the liberal establishment, and often cited in blog comments here. This is what he, a Trump supporter who attended his rallies, writes in the Spectator this week about the U.S. election:

    To believe that Trump won the election you must by now believe that absolutely every body and institution in American public life is lying and corrupt and that the only honest man left in the world is Donald J. Trump, with some overspill honesty left for … [his] immediate family.

    Has Murray too been brainwashed by the dark forces of the establishment?

    Murray also reminds us what Trump said in the run up to the 1996 election: ‘The whole election is being rigged’. After he won, the election became a ‘beautiful’ one. Whether it had still been rigged, was ‘one big ugly lie’ (Trump in 1996), was unclear. But the charge was quickly dropped, and no further action taken to fix the problem.

    • As brilliant and productive as Murray is, he does not know everything, and at times, he emphasises the wrong things, and ignores important things. And while the Biden win might not have been fully manufactured, there are certainly many ballot irregularities that should not be ignored. Trump made mistakes -esp in the Georgia Senate run-off- but to divert attention from what was done by Dem state admins to massage the vote in favour of Biden is simply huge support for the obvious corruption engaged in by many Dems.

    • I’m not a fan of Douglas Murray, and find it ludicrous that you call him a social conservative. But even if I were a fan, you’d still be perpetrating an “argumentum ab auctoritate”. Don’t we deserve better?

      • “Argument from self-knowing” is now a common tactic of promoting anti-Reality in the cause of one’s self-righteousness, celebrity and ascent to social influence. Anti-logic and anti-empiricism, introduced as methods to build the self-esteem of those incapable or unwilling to deal with the Reality of their own inadequacies, have now become the chief modalities of public discourse -as practiced by most politicians, most journalists, most bloggers, and most denizens of the education and law industries.

  5. Ned, since you mention it, the origins of National Socialism are manifold, and one should examine the line of thought that runs from Kant to German Idealism to romantic nationalism to the Völkisch movement to National Socialism, as one should examine Nietzsche’s reaction to Schopenhauer’s pessimism, as one should examine the deep and spiritual desire among ordinary Germans for national honour. But none of those explains the functional specifics of National Socialism. I wonder what the odds are that such a complete and regular diet of political wants should correspond by accident so accurately and uncannily to those of Judaism. Long, I would think, wouldn’t you?

    • Reply to Guessedworker, 23 Jan.
      1. Hitler was well aware of Nietzsche’s positive remarks about Jews and negative remarks about German nationalists, notably antisemites among them.
      2. Like Nietzsche he believed in eugenic progress but saw the “Marxist” i.e.”Jewish” notion of equality as a deadly threat to this. He saw the Jewish goals as materialistic and this-wordly, lacking idealism. In early years he regarded the Jews as a unified endogamous unit, a “race”, but later along with his anthropologists realised they were a genetic mixture, not that this raised them in his estimation. The imagined contest between an improved Aryan Germany and an international Jewish “Satan”, with a variety of allegedly incorrigible misbehaviours, requiring segregation as a peacetime “solution”, and direct elimination in wartime, implied all too clearly by the official 1940 propaganda movie “Der ewige Jude”, is an ideological constant that undermines much of the so-called “Holocaust Denial” whatever is said about gas-chamber technics, inflated statitics or unreliable survivor stories. It is impossible to detach National Socialism from its Fuhrer, least of all over Judaism.

    • Hitler had no need of philosophers. He just needed to quote Martin Luther:

      First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulfur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire. That would demonstrate to God our serious resolve and be evidence to all the world that it was in ignorance that we tolerated such houses, in which the Jews have reviled God, our dear Creator and Father, and his Son most shamefully up till now but that we have now given them their due reward.

      • Whatever the truth of things past, including Luther and his views on the Jews, let us apply our efforts to defeat the Big Statists and anti-Westernists, here and now, and as long as is necessary.

  6. “What is startling is that there is no middle ground.”

    It’s not only startling, it’s also frightening. If people disagree about X, the fact that they agree about Y and Z (and A to W) ceases to matter to them. The Judean Liberation Front doesn’t hate the Romans as much as it hates the Liberation Front of Judea. What used to be true only of left-wing extremists is now true of everybody. We are all turning into potentially violent fanatics.

    We conservatives need to control our feelings and resume thinking rationally – not only in isolation but also as a coalition.

    • One feature of rationality: There are natural competitions in which no Win-Win is feasible -it is simply a fight and one party will lose. But the truth of natural competitions went out of fashion after 1945, and was fully buried by the anti-Reality that triumphed in the 1960’s.

      • I increasingly suspect that the competition of 1939-1945 was a Lose-Lose competition.

        Anti-Reality was merely adumbrated in the 1960s (with roots in the 1840s, or 1780s, or perhaps much much earlier) and has only been fully imposed in very recent times, with new laws that criminalise any opinion that our grandparents might have agreed with.

  7. Sometimes conspiracy “theories” work in elements of fact, but put an added spin on them. The “classic” case is the plausible but dangerously mistaken confusion between the demonstrable and quote explicable attraction of Jews to communism between 1917 to 1950 and the Nazi notion of communism as a specifically Jew-directed ethnic world plot. Another good test-case for objective and thorough forensic analysis is the assassination of JFK. Nevertheless, conspiracies happen – life, and history, is full of them.

    There are other malign impacts of online technology on human life and civilization. How to overcome them is the great issue of our time. Just “conservative” moaning and defeatism are not enough.

    • A conspiracy of Jews was Revolutionary Internationalism (the movement which generated the German Soviets, of which all German politicals, not just the National Socialists, were acutely aware). THE Jewish “world-conspiracy” for National Socialists, however, was really Judaism, which we can certainly recognise today as a racial nationalism in faith form.

      Not that National Socialists were averse to world conspiracies themselves. In its bid to generate a competitive model to Judaism, National Socialism borrowed heavily from it. It took Judaism’s Messiah principle and re-presented it as the Fuhrer Principle. It took Chosen-ness and re-presented it as the Master Race. It took Olam Ha-ba and re-presented it as the Thousand Year Reich. It took Zionism and re-presented it as Lebensraum. It took the Talmudic prescription for the gentile and re-presented it as the enslaved Jew. And so on. How consciously this was done, it is difficult to know. But the parallels are perhaps too great and too particular to have been accidental.

      • Not the time and place to comment extensively on the actual origins of German National Socialism or Jewish-Conspiracy “theories”. Parallels are not necessarily signs of common origin, any more than correlation is necessarily causation. It is true that Judaism is in certain respects an ethnic faith (despite the variations of Ashkenazim, Sephardism, &c), as also – though in different ways – are Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Rastafarianism, &c), but it is also the case that the main communist leaders were not only not observant but also attacked religion, including Judaism, along with Zionism. The literature on this from diverse angles is vast, and the subject is at once sensitive and (post-1945) incendiary, but here below are some minimal author suggestions for further research more balanced than (say) the “Radical Capitalist” or “Occidental Observer” websites, or David Duke’s (plagiarised) “Secret Behind Communism”. (There is a lot of rubbish in the dump, such as Stalin’s original surname meaning “Jewish son”.)

        1. Paul Lendvai. 2. Cesare G. De Michelis. 3. Dan Diner. 4. Robert Service. 5. Julius Carlebach. 6. Andre Gerrits. 7. Alexander Solzhenitsyn. 8. Ilya Somin. 9, Richard Weikart. 10. John Lukacs. 11. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. 12.Christopher Hutton.

        “The expansion of Bolshevism was stopped in the Polish-Soviet War…not only an intellectual idea, but a real threat….Jewish intellectuals and politicians…were proportionately over-represented in prominent positions…Once these ingredients – stab-in-the-back, the ‘Jewish factor’, and war-guilt are combined, one can begin to see the recipe for Hitler’s ideology…the British blockade [had caused] 424,000 deaths….” – Dr Matthias Strohn, RMAS, “1918” (2018) pp.34-35.

        There is a great deal of material on European antisemitism during the 18th-20th centuries; in Hitler’s personal case I suspect there was a additional sexual factor.

    • We are now beset by “post-journalism” -which is based on the twin ideas that objectivity, empirisicism, and logic comprise an oppressive white power tactic and that whites -except for the very woke-est of whites- must exit the scene, immediately.

  8. “Can some semblance of a shared political space be recreated in which civilized debate can be carried on, and appeal made to sources of evidence judged by common consent to be impartial?”

    The hindrance to recreating civilized debate based in evidence, impartiality, facts, rational thinking, reasoned argument, logic, scientific findings and so on, is that the woke-progressives regard all these as part of the philosophical tradition that has delivered the modes of thought and action supposed to have created ‘white supremacy’, and put whitey on top, with every other race down below.

    For that reason, all these methods of conducting civilized debate and arriving at reasoned conclusions will come to be condemned and eschewed by woke-progressives. In their view, these are the ‘white man’s’ way of conducting inquiry and conclusion, and are therefore designed not to get to the best answer, but to keep coloured people and minorities under his thumb.

    The alternative is of course demagoguery, the mob, the incendiarist, and the bullet. This, as we have seen recently is much approved by the left progressives and wokes. They see themselves as the biggest mob, with the loudest megaphones and the most practised demagogues, and will happily abandon reason and civilized debate if these hinder them on their journey to power.

  9. More ya- boo! The more you point out to bubble dwellers the faults on both sides the more they become entrenched in their illusions. The origins of war are always to be found among parliaments of fools

  10. Shriver asks how we might be sure which side lives in the delusional bubble. The answer is simple: ask who is doing all the silencing, sneering, bullying and de-platforming. They are the leftists or politically-correct, the ones with something to hide, afraid of being dethroned from their privileged position over the dumb plebs. As Dennis Prager informs us, there is no historical example of a leftist regime which, on gaining power, did not seek to limit or end free speech, its greatest enemy.

  11. How many times have I being taken aside by fanatics of various religions to be told virtually (pardon the pun) the same thing? All Protestants /Catholics/ Shia/Sunni/Buddhist/Hindu have got it so wrong they must know it and are doing it because they are very wicked. The phrase you may be in need of is confirmation bias. Usually ends in war and millions dead until everybody comes to their senses

    • In terms of killing the innocent, Atheists like Hitler, Stalin and Mao make those of most other faiths look like beginners.

      • Wikipedia: The French Wars of Religion were a prolonged period of war and popular unrest between Catholics and Huguenots (Reformed/Calvinist Protestants) in the Kingdom of France between 1562 and 1598. It is estimated that three million people perished in this period from violence, famine, or disease in what is considered the second deadliest religious war in European history (surpassed only by the Thirty Years’ War, which took eight million lives).[1].
        Also The Crusades? Catholic Spain

  12. Claiming that ‘rival sides’ are ‘each convinced they possess the absolute truth’ is a caricature. Critics of climate ‘crisis’, or the theory that climate change is dangerous and only caused by humans, are not absolutists, just sceptical that the alarmists have absolute truth. The same is true with sceptics of government policy on covid. It is the government that adopts an absolute position, impervious to all critical feedback, and thus incapable of science and progress. Note that the critics rather than the absolutists get deplatformed and intimidated by the absolutists, never the reverse.

    A Play in one act of Treason.

    Nationalist Lodger: I see, Alistair, that the council has prevailed upon you to shelter refugees in your basement.
    Landlord Alistair: Yes, but I had not really noticed. Anyway, we all have a moral duty to help our fellow human beings in their time of suffering.
    (One day later)
    Lodger: I see, Alistair, that the council has moved in more refugees to your basement and put a family of them in your attic and in the spare room, too.
    Alistair: They are all my brothers, and together we will make a fairer, kinder world without the stain of discrimination.
    (One day later)
    Lodger: I see, Alistair, that the council has coerced yet more refugees on you, and given them equal title to the property.
    Alistair: Just because we were here first does not mean we own it. These suffering souls have as much right to this house as you. Anyway, I won’t have any truck with those who want to return to a mythical white past.
    (One day later)
    Lodger: I see, Alistair, that the council has doubled the number of refugees in the house. Now there is drug-dealing in the garden. Your son is in hospital with a knife-wound and your daughter has a suspiciously large number of foreign boyfriends.
    Alistair: I will not tolerate white racism in this house.
    (One day later)
    Lodger: I see, Alistair, that the local councillor and some of the refugees have been in my room and thrown my Shakespeare plays and classical music collections in to the waste.
    Alistair: All signs of colonial oppression and white supremacy must fall. Black Lives Matter.
    (Later that day)
    Lodger: Just as a matter of interest, have you ever given any thought whatsoever to your own family?
    Alistair: I have reported your hate speech to State Security.

  14. It is a bad error to omit from the list of threats to our cultural heritage, liberties, and free speech the obvious element of Islam. The nett costs of having fast-growing numbers of Muslims reside in the West, esp the Anglosphere, are many: tangible and intangible, direct and shadow, and all in perpetuity. To omit Islam from the threat/cost line-up is to contribute to the anti-Reality campaign that is now succeeding across the Anglosphere. Yes, in the short term, non-mention of threats/costs imposed by Islamic forces reduces the bombings, beheadings, and slaughter-by-van. But longer term -Bad.

  15. We prepare and we go to war…and about time too. The socialists wanted this to descend to a fight from day one. It’s the only way they know, but they will lose eventually, as they always do.

  16. An excellent example of a virtual bubble dweller. He must marvel how he or she came to be born among the enlightened . ‘I am not as other men Lord, I am of the elect’

  17. Alisdair,

    There is no equality of moral and intellectual standing between the parties. One seeks destruction, the other life. One hides from debate, the other seeks it. Why so?

    Well, we are living in the time of the death of the European race. This is not a bubble fact. This is a demographic fact and a political fact; and this is not a natural death. It is politically generated, and the philosophical roots of those politics are found in liberalism, modernity, Christianity, and Judaism. The angels of this death of whom it is possible to speak at all are, in the main, the political internationalists, banking and corporate elites, security agencies of the Western states, and hyper-individualists and hyper equalitarians everywhere. Obviously, some of these are first-order actors and some are tools, but all are straining to advance their own agendas (which are congruent if not identical), and to do this without having to answer to their victim’s rage. Indeed, their typical response is to dehumanise and exclude any who articulate that rage.

    Now we can answer your question with a more pressing question. How, then, are the European victims of those actors and tools to secure the existence of their peoples and a rightful future for their children?

    Btw, you are welcome to try to avoid the question by claiming, Biden-like, that there ain’t nuttin’ goin’ down. It won’t work, obviously; but you can always try.

    • We need politicians more capable than the Donald.
      Was it not the evil racist Carlyle who once said that the hour does not always find the man?
      However, there are a number of competent people in the USA, if they could get their act together. The “race, gender, class” poison spread from there in the mid-1960s – maybe so should the antidote. Meanwhile, there are a few French and other Europeans with backbone who have got a better grasp of realities than, sadly, English “activists” like Nigel, Laurence or “Tommy”. Meanwhile, we can all learn from the mistakes, as well as ideas, of past performers – from Oswald to Enoch.

      • Speaking of Enoch, Black and Hispanic attacks on whites and on their property have been rising since it was clear that the election of Biden-Harris had been successfully manufactured.

        • Harry Black: I expect that white “liberal” victims of crime who voted for Biden and Harris will somehow find a way of blaming Trump for their losses.

          One could probably make a fortune on Amazon selling buckets of sand for white “liberal” Americans to stick their heads in.

        • Biden’s waffle about “structural racism” (causing climate change, unlike Chinese and Indian coal-burning!) and “white supremacy”, plus his woke appointments, celebrated by Labour’s Lisa Nandy, is both depressing and stimulating. Unity among patriots from New Brunswick to New Zealand is the first essential.

          • Unity among the good guys -yes Ned, agreed. But unified for what? Jaw-Jaw will not suffice, not how things stand now.