Saturday Commentary and Review #97
Swedish Immigration Restrictionists on Verge of Victory? Turbo-America Exports Transgenderism, Weed as New Oxycontin, Racial Progress and South Africa, RIP Counterculture
Swedish politics can be characterized as follows:
>man who no one likes tells people at a party not to stick a fork in an electrical outlet
>someone does it anyway, gets shocked
>people at party get mad at man who told him not to do that
Sweden, which hasn’t seen a war on its own soil in over 200 years, has long been a peaceful oasis in Europe. During this long exception to the rule, the Swedes have managed to build an incredibly high-trust society with strong civic institutions that place them as one of the few countries in the world where liberal democracy is a natural state of affairs. Resting atop a strong manufacturing export sector that allows it to fund a very generous welfare state, the Swedes evolved to grow both naive and too confident about themselves and the society that they created.
This high self-opinion has now been tested thanks to mass migration, which has seen an enormous (in the Swedish context) spike in violence accompanying this demographic transformation. Most Swedes were confident that they could easily absorb these new minorities, gradually ‘turning them into good Swedes’.
The Swedish Democrats (SD), a populist immigration-restrictionist political party, have played the role of the man telling other Swedes not to swing open wide the doors to migrants because they might be in for a shock. Rather than taking into consideration this advice, the Swedish mainstream instead has done two things: a) call them Nazis and b) ring fence Swedish politics to keep them out of power.
Both of these actions have served to dampen support for SD, but a very wide and unwieldy coalition of parties at cross-purposes makes effective governance and legislation much more difficult to conduct due to the inherent differences within it. This strategy has left Sweden as a country that votes to keep certain people out of power, with little beyond this to justify their own existence as a government.
This trick can work (and may continue to do so), but Swedes are growing increasingly tired of getting shocked by the fork-in-electrical socket routine.
Despite steadily growing support for the Sweden Democrats, the party has effectively been powerless since it won its first seats in parliament 12 years ago.
At first, the other parties simply shut them out. In 2014, six parties even made an elaborate agreement to guarantee the largest bloc passed its budgets — effectively voiding the far-Right’s mandates. The agreement fell apart less than a year afterward, which sparked a debate within the conservative coalition whether to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats or not.
If the above doesn’t work, call them ‘Nazis’:
The Swedish Democrats, as Anders Ygeman, now a government minister for the Social Democrats, once told a Danish newspaper, “was founded by people who celebrated the German occupation of Denmark and not the Danish liberation”. This is perhaps a bit pointed, but the Sweden Democrats’ troublesome history is a fact that no one questions: the party’s own white paper about its history, released just a couple of months ago, basically confirmed that it was founded by people from different racist groups.
“I will not listen to him telling me not to put this fork in this electrical socket, because his father was a racist who admired Adolf Hitler”.
Nevertheless, the ice has broken:
Now, the other three parties in the former centre-right coalition — the Moderate Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats — have decided to take the Faustian Bargain and ally themselves with the far Right. Will centre-Right voters follow suit? Ever since the Moderate Party began its reluctant courtship with the far-Right, it has siphoned off voters. Since the election of 2014, the last election in which they had a clear line against the Sweden Democrats, they have lost more than a fifth of its support — which is now down to 18% in the most recent polls.
In order to win, they need some of those voters to come home again. Or at least choose the Christian Democrats or the Liberals. The polls suggest the race is too close to call. In any other country, this would be a pretty good environment for the Right-wing bloc to take power.
Law and order at the top of everyone’s minds, as Law and order are what Swedes have grown accustomed to over the past two centuries:
The rise in crime, in particular, is a weak spot for the governing Social Democrats. So far in 2022, the Swedish police have registered 47 killings and 273 shootings, putting this year on track to be the deadliest in a series of violent years. Reports of innocent passers-by getting killed or injured also strike a new kind of fear in people. On August 19, less than month before the election, a man was killed and a woman was seriously injured by a teenage shooter at a shopping mall outside of Malmö.
Law and order is twinned with policies on migration, meaning that SD have a very, very good chance of becoming the largest Swedish party on the right side of the political spectrum:
The far-Right party will likely become the biggest part of the new Right-wing bloc and have insisted that they won’t settle for providing passive support, although they don’t appear to seek the prime ministerial post.
At the same time, however, many Swedes are aligned with the Sweden Democrats on some of their policy proposals. One telling data point is that about a third of all voters say the party have the best migration policy. Many voters also associate the rise in gang-related shootings to the steep rise in migration over the last decade.
If SD does enter government, will there be an outcry from other members in the EU to sanction Sweden like they did to Austria when the Freedom Party governed as part of the ruling coalition in Vienna? Chances are unlikely that this would happen. A ruling coalition with SD as a member would legitimize both the party and its immigration-restrictionist policies. This would be symbolically significant at the very least.
Two of the most important pieces that I have written on this Substack are “Turbo-America”, and “The Desquamation of America”. You really should check them out to see why I argue that the USA is not just changing fundamentally, but is also more powerful than ever on the global stage despite recent performance issues. This runs counter to the prevailing current of thought that suggests the idea that US power is declining.
I am hopeful that I have coined a maxim that goes as follows: “The genius of America is in its ability to to identify an internal threat, co-opt it, repurpose it, and then monetize it for its own ends.” Will this become popularized and spread like a virus? Time will tell. In the meantime, more data points are coming in, confirming my theory:
Is the U.S. State Department about to classify Sweden, Finland, and the U.K. as human rights abusers? According to an internal memo from Secretary Antony Blinken (leaked to me by an officer in the department’s Foreign Service) and circulated among employees last week, the answer might be yes.
The memo represents an effort by Secretary Blinken to carry out President Biden’s Executive Order 14075 from last June. That order instructs agencies of the federal government to do what they can to stop “conversion therapy” for “LGBTQI+” people. Following its release, Biden appointed Jessica Stern as Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, a position created by the Obama administration but left unfilled under Donald Trump. Stern, who goes by “all pronouns,” had previously served as executive director at OutRight Action International, an advocacy organization with a permanent presence at United Nations headquarters in New York. OutRight has borrowed arguments against “conversion therapy” for sexual orientation (where the evidence against the practice is strong) and applied them, unscientifically, to “gender identity” (where studies have consistently shown that cross-gender identification in children is, for the vast majority of those who experience it, a passing phase). This strategy of piggybacking off public ignorance about the difference between homosexuality and transgenderism is by now familiar. And lest it be thought that politicians know better, Biden himself seems unable to differentiate between sexual orientation and gender identity.
A Global Transgender Commissar.
The Blinken directive effectively turns American consulates and embassies into global “gender affirming” spies. Embassies are instructed to “submit robust information on the so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices” of host countries “as part of the annual Human Rights Reports.” Jessica Stern’s office will then devise an “action plan to combat the practice across foreign policy and foreign assistance lines of effort.”
Reports generating actionable plans. Conversion Therapy means that your country is a “human rights violator”, opening it up for potential sanctions (not that they would sanction the UK or Sweden, but then again, who knows?
Check this out:
Further, for countries with deep suspicions toward the West—countries, in other words, likely to be the most intolerant of transgender-identified people—the association of cross-gender identification with American foreign policy enables traditionalists to frame social change as cultural imperialism. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, youth medical transgenderism is a worthy goal, it defies reason that American soft power can aptly promote it.
Because it is cultural imperialism.
Proponents of US Empire are rightly worried:
Other implications of the new “human rights” policy are anyone’s guess. Will the United States use its long financial arm to pressure Sweden, Finland, and the U.K. to restore “affirmative care,” against the judgment of experts in those countries that—unlike here—have conducted systemic evidentiary reviews? Will economic and cultural cooperation between the U.S. and other Western nations be made contingent on these countries demonstrating that a sufficient number of teenagers every year are medically transitioned? (Bureaucrats like to define objectives and measure outcomes numerically.) Or will the harm be largely symbolic and reputational, underscoring the extent to which American elites are willing to sacrifice reason and common sense to the ever-proliferating and increasingly destructive demands of wokeness?
Transgenderism and its promotion is just another tool in the vast array of weapons at the disposal of the American Empire that allow it to discipline its subjects and attack those that it targets.
Are cultural energies created by shifts in the types of drugs that are being used at the time? Or does this unseen energy dictate the types of drugs that people will use?
This may sound like a silly question, but I do think about this from time to time. For example, there was a noticeable shift beginning in the second half of 1967 in California from LSD towards speed. Based on oral histories from the disastrous Rolling Stones-led Altamont concert in 1969, a lot of the blame on the “bad vibes” present at that event was put onto the sheer amount of speed being consumed by the concert-goers that day.
The intoxicants that we consume do tell us a lot about the society that we are living in, just like they do for any other society throughout history. The modern West offers us an incredibly wide array of escapes from reality to pick and choose from. This volume speaks volumes! A little over a half century ago, most people in our parts of the world had little exposure to marijuana, much less to opiates, with alcohol being the only real option for the masses. The shift that began in the 1960s, but that accelerated over the course of the following decade, made drug usage pervasive.
Leighton Woodhouse argues that Big Pharma and Big Tobacco has joined forces to market very potent (and dangerous to health) THC as little more than ‘harmless’ medical marijuana, even though it could grow to become the next OxyContin:
For 30 years, Dr. Libby Stuyt, a recently retired addiction psychiatrist in Pueblo, Colorado, treated patients with severe drug dependency. Typically, that meant alcohol, heroin, and methamphetamines. But about five years ago, she began to see something new.
“I started seeing people with the worst psychosis symptoms that I have ever seen,” she told me. “And the worst delusions I have ever seen.”
These cases were even more acute than what she’d seen from psychotic patients on meth. Some of the delusions were accompanied by “severe violence.” But these patients were coming up positive only for cannabis.
Stuyt wasn’t alone: Health care professionals throughout Colorado and all over the country were seeing similar episodes.
I’ve been told by people that the marijuana available today is much, much stronger than that which was smoked 20 years ago.
In 2012, Colorado legalized marijuana. In the decade since, 18 other states have followed suit. As billions of dollars have flowed into the new above-ground industry of smokable, edible, and drinkable cannabis-based products, the drug has been transformed into something unrecognizable to anyone who grew up around marijuana pre-legalization. Addiction medicine doctors and relatives of addicts say it has become a hardcore drug, like cocaine or methamphetamines. Chronic use leads to the same outcomes commonly associated with those harder substances: overdose, psychosis, suicidality. And yet it’s been marketed as a kind of elixir and sold like candy for grown-ups.
“I got into addiction medicine because of the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Roneet Lev, an addiction medicine doctor in San Diego who hosts a podcast about drug abuse. Years ago, she advocated against the overprescription of opioid painkillers like OxyContin. Now, she believes she’s seeing the same thing all over again: the specious claims of medical benefits, the denial of adverse effects. “From Big Tobacco to Big Pharma to Big Marijuana—it’s the same people, and the same pattern.”
Purposely-bred higher potency:
Prior to legalization, marijuana plants were bred to produce higher and higher concentrations of THC, a naturally occuring chemical compound in the plant that induces euphoria and alters users’ perceptions of reality. In the 1960s, the stuff the hippies were smoking was less than 2% THC. By the ’90s, it was closer to 5%. By 2015, it was over 20%.
In the era of legalized weed, the drug you think of as “cannabis” can hardly be called marijuana at all. The kinds of cannabis products that are sold online and at dispensaries contain no actual plant matter. They’re made by putting pulverized marijuana into a tube and running butane, propane, ethanol, or carbon dioxide through it, which separates the THC from the rest of the plant. The end product is a wax that can be 70% to 80% THC. That wax can then be put in a vacuum oven and further concentrated into oils that are as much as 95% or even 99% THC. Known as “dabs,” this is what people put in their vape pens, and in states like California and Colorado it’s totally legal and easily available to children. “There are no caps on potency,” said Stack.
If you’re over 30 years old and you used to smoke weed when you were a teenager, the strongest you were smoking was probably 20% THC. Today, teenagers are “dabbing” a product that’s three, four, or five times stronger, and are often doing so multiple times a day. At that level of potency, the impact of the drug on a user’s brain belongs to an entirely different category of risk than smoking a joint or taking a bong rip of even an intensively bred marijuana flower. It’s highly addictive, and over time, there’s a significant chance it can drive you insane.
The association with schizophrenia:
If you’ve ever smoked a bowl and become irrationally anxious that everyone is staring at you and knows you’re high, what you experienced was a mild symptom of cannabis-induced psychosis. According to one study, about 40% of people react this way. If you experience that paranoia and keep smoking on a regular basis nonetheless—especially with today’s high-potency THC products, and especially if you’re young—there’s a good chance you’ll eventually suffer a full psychotic break; 35% of young people who experience psychotic symptoms, according to another study, eventually have such an episode. If you keep using after that, you run a decent risk of ending up permanently schizophrenic or bipolar. Cannabis has by far the highest conversion rate to schizophrenia of any substance—higher than meth, higher than opioids, higher than LSD. Two Danish studies, as well as a massive study from Finland, put your chances at close to 50%.
“One out of every 20 daily users can expect to develop schizophrenia if they don’t quit,” Dr. Christine Miller, an expert on psychotic disorders, told me.
Combine this with how it’s now increasingly physically addictive (unlike before), and a perfect storm is being brewed.
What happens to progressives when a racist state is dismantled and power is handed over to the previously oppressed racial group? This funny, funny (and highly slanted) article takes a look at how some progressive Afrikaans feel in post-Apartheid South Africa:
But as time wore on, even wealthy white South Africans began to radiate a degree of fear and frustration that did not match any simple economic analysis of their situation. A startling number of formerly anti-apartheid white people began to voice bitter criticisms of post-apartheid society. An Afrikaner poet who did prison time under apartheid for aiding the Black-liberation cause wrote an essay denouncing the new Black-led country as “a sewer of betrayed expectations and thievery, fear and unbridled greed.”
What accounted for this disillusionment? Many white South Africans told me that Black forgiveness felt like a slap on the face. By not acting toward you as you acted toward us, we’re showing you up, white South Africans seemed to hear. You’ll owe us a debt of gratitude forever.
I’m sure that any non-progressive White South Africans will get very mad while reading this piece due to its exaggerations, omissions, and falsehoods regarding the country. Forgive me for sharing this, but I want to present a peek into the minds of progressives for our overall edification.
White people rarely articulated these feelings publicly. But in private, with friends and acquaintances, I encountered them over and over. One white friend and former anti-apartheid activist (who didn’t want to be identified in order to talk freely) told me that after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission publicized much of what Black South Africans had faced under apartheid, she felt humiliated to recall what she and her friends had once considered resistance: gestures like having a warm exchange with a Black maid or skipping class to join an anti-apartheid march.
The following is quite interesting:
Not infrequently, white South Africans who identified as progressive confessed to me that they wanted to withdraw from public life because they felt they couldn’t speak the truth about what they did see. Many felt that only Black people could point out certain realities—for example, that Black-majority rule hasn’t reduced economic inequality since apartheid or that half of Black people under 35 are unemployed. If a white person expressed too much pessimism, they could be considered demeaning. Too much optimism, and they could be accused of neglecting enduring racial inequalities. The window they had to exist in, intellectually, could appear so narrow as not to exist.
On being disposable:
Giliomee, the historian, told me he thought that what dogged white progressives after apartheid ended was less a concern for physical safety than a feeling of irrelevance. Under apartheid, many of them felt they belonged to a vanguard. One of Giliomee’s friends, a liberal white politician, left a secret 1987 meeting about a transition to Black-majority rule believing that he and the prominent ANC leader Thabo Mbeki were “best friends.” He expected the aftermath of apartheid to be an exciting time, full of the same thrilling work he had done to help build a democratic, multiracial future for the country.
Once Black leaders secured political power, though, they didn’t have to rely as much on white allies. When Mbeki became Mandela’s deputy president, he wouldn’t return the white liberal’s calls. The politician sent policy proposals and got no reply. After apartheid, the friend “started drinking heavily,” Giliomee said. “He drank himself to death.”
“Thank you for your service”.
“Progress” was easily dispensed with when racial goals were at last achieved.
We end this weekend’s Substack with an interesting look at how corporate culture has completely eliminated any counterculture. Ted Gioia is a great writer with an excellent Substack, but here he opts instead to use 14 tweets to illustrate his point.
First, here’s a quick definition. These are the key indicators that you might be living in a society without a counterculture:
A sense of sameness pervades the creative world
The dominant themes feel static and repetitive, not dynamic and impactful
Imitation of the conventional is rewarded
Movies, music, and other creative pursuits are increasingly evaluated on financial and corporate metrics, with all other considerations having little influence
Alternative voices exist—in fact, they are everywhere—but are rarely heard, and their cultural impact is negligible
Every year the same stories are retold, and this sameness is considered a plus
Creative work is increasingly embedded in genres that feel rigid, not flexible
Even avant-garde work often feels like a rehash of 50-60 years ago
Etc. etc. etc.
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