Apparently last week, there was a major dust-up online between two seemingly disparate forces and writers. Gary North (more to come further down the page) took issue with James Howard Kunstler, peak oil iconoclast, anti-WalMart crusader, and writer. I respect Kunstler, I’ve read his books, and I even reviewed his latest book in January. That’s not to say that I hang on every word of Kunstler’s because I don’t.
North on the other hand, is someone I’d dub a “theo-fascist.” I do so because North’s religious zealotry has morphed into some perverted cross between Xianity and national pride, all wrapped up in the American flag and dotted with scripture.
He took issue with Kunstler’s dismissing WalMart, because I guess North considers WalMart to be the embodiment of all that’s good in America, and a perfect demonstration of Adam Smith, free markets, and the key to America’s greatness.
I don’t know if it was Kunstler’s temerity in questioning WalMart’s destruction of small town economies that got North’s hackles up and prompted this post, or if it was Kunstler waxing poetic about Tea Partiers, referring to them as “corn-pone Nazis” that pushed North over the brink. Whatever it was, he came out with guns a blazing.
Actually, it seemed that North had a pretty big issue out of the gate with Kunstler’s naming of his blog/website as Clusterfuck Nation. He wrote that he considers Kunstler to be a “foul-mouthed Leftist.” It was interesting to me that North made a big deal about letting Kunstler’s “foul” blog name emanate from his own lips, since he’s made a career profaning a host of subjects, including theology and economics.
After registering his disdain for Mr. Kunstler’s choice of names for his blog/website, North went on to call Kunstler “a whiner who brings nothing to the intellectual table but some slightly updated form of medieval oligopoly. He wants us to believe that the Good Old Boys of the small town council have our interests at heart.” Wow!! That’s rich, coming from a huckster and shill like North. Did I mention that he’s a racist, too? Keep reading!
Actually, North, and anyone of his ilk, is always bothered when someone like Kunstler pokes holes in the hyper-capitalist canard that these demagogues foist on ignorant Americans every chance they get. This brand of voodoo economics never allows the dark side of capitalism to get an airing. When Kunstler and others mention the “bubble” economics that have made WalMart and the entire Happy Motoring lifestyle possible for the past 50 years, it rankles free market apologists like North, who seems to revel in the dismantling of an economy that once allowed small town America to thrive.
North, like so many others genuflecting before every paean to neoliberalism (that’s the actual term I prefer, not “free market economics”), never has a problem with all the corporate subsidies that go to economic dismantlers like WalMart; the subsidized wages that you and I are taxed to provide so WalMart can pay substandard wages, and not offering health insurance, which allows their corporate profits to escalate. Meanwhile, community hospitals and other clinics in small town America pick up the slack for this brand of corporate malfeasance and greed.
Before I continue on a bit further regarding North and his economics, let me touch on his aberrant theology for a moment. I actually am very familiar with the Christian Reconstructionism that North and his late father-in-law, Rousas John Rushdoony subscribed to. It’s actually one of the pillars (although it gets dressed up in economic garb by North and others) of today’s far right fringe Republicanism. Personally, I think one of North’s biggest irritations with Kunstler is his refusal to worship at the Republican free market altar.
Like Rushdoony, North is a master proof-texter, pulling passages of scripture and twisting them to justify misanthropic rants against critics of WalMart, food stamp recipients, Xian mercantilists, and any other stripe of ideology and practice he opposes. Rushdoony was a racist and I actually owned some of his materials, including a series of tapes where he made all kinds of racist attacks on Native Americans. At the time, I tried to justify them, given my own pathetic attempt at the time to embrace some weird Hyper-Calvinist theology. Looking back, I must have been out of my fucking tree! Oh no!! I guess that must make me a foul-mouthed, Leftist? Yes, it does!
If you want a better picture of Gary North and his crazy, unhinged father-in-law, check this link out, which takes you back a few decades. I don’t think much has changed with North since then. Scroll down a bit further and read North’s own words about Native Americans. Like father, like son-in-law.
These theological hacks, the Elmer Gantrys that populate right-wing evangelicalism in the U.S., use Jesus for their own purposes. They are one of the reasons why I now call myself a post-Xian. I’ve heard, read, and experienced enough of their bullshit during a significant portion of my life when I should have known better but didn’t. I would never, ever, willingly subject myself to their thought-control and intellectual straitjacketing, again!
North loves to couch all his free market BS in spiritual garb, much like the Pharisees did with their own aberrant ways, which got them sideways of Jesus, 2,000 years ago. In order to quiet the criticism coming from the Prince of Peace, they nailed him to a cross.
Even sadder, the followers of North think of him as a champion of liberty; he’s actually an authoritarian of the worst kind. No anarchist at all, North ticks all the boxes on the authoritarian front. He favors authoritarian family relations, arguing in his book, The Sinai Strategy that ” When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime (Ex. 21:17). The son or daughter is under the lawful jurisdiction of the family. The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death. Clearly, cursing God (blasphemy) is a comparable crime, and is therefore a capital crime (Lev. 24:16).” That doesn’t seem very libertarian at all. Actually, stoning your own kids is just plain, batshit crazy.
Here’s what North doesn’t address in his uncritical cheerleading on behalf of WalMart. These are points that Kunstler’s been writing about for nearly two decades, and others, like Stacy Mitchell, have documented thoroughly. In fact, Mitchell wrote an entire book about it.
WalMart kills local commerce. It’s not at all about local oligopoly, as North rants on about. Here are a few more of the “benefits” of WalMart that North is so high on:
- WalMart extracts resources from local economies.
- WalMart destroy the economic fabric of local/regional economies.
- WalMart removes decisionmaking from local citizens and transfers it to centralized authority.
- Local businesses create local jobs that pay livable wages; WalMart promotes an economic race to the bottom.
- Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution. WalMart perpetuates Happy Motoring and nonsustainable development.
- A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. WalMart destroys that!
There’s a lot more data and information on why local is better at the website of the Institute of Local Self-Reliance.
I’m sorry Mr. North was so offended by the term, “clusterfuck.” It’s actually military in origin, which denotes a chaotic situation where everything seems to go wrong. It is often caused by incompetence, communication failure, often due to a complex environment. Kind of sounds like America in these post-Empire days, when worship of the free market, should be seen for the dead-end that it is. Too bad the Fox-watchers and other duped (hey, I was duped at one time in my life, too) WalMart shoppers don’t understand the irrevocable damage that has been visited upon much of small town America, which might actually be the beginning of the collapse. At the very least, large segments of the country are now economic “burnt-over” regions with little hope of recovery.
Lest I end and let readers think I’m a lackey for Kunstler, let me be as transparent as I can be.
I rarely ever read Kunstler ‘s CFN posts on Monday; this was after spending a few years being a regular visitor to his site. His commenters trouble and even scare me. I think JHK makes many salient points, but for whatever reason, his blog attracts a band of misanthropes, and others that can’t wait for society to collapse. They are almost identical to the losers and other crypto-fascists that are attracted to North’s false theology.
In spending a few minutes scanning down through the comments, I found this one by Carol Newquist. It sums up pretty well my own thoughts about CFN and the majority of commenters that flock to his site every week:
Let’s not forget some of the cornerstones of Nazi fascism. A fierce nationalism that included the ostracizing of all non-germanic peoples, to include the degradation of immigrants and immigration. Also, a constant referencing to a mythological past which simply never existed. Review the comments section for the past several years and tell me that these freaks aren’t corn-pone fascists beckoning collapse so they can implement their version of fascism modeled off of nazi germany. Why they’ve chosen to hang at JHK’s site still remains a mystery, although I have several theories. I still contend a number of the regular names are sock puppets of four to five, at most, freaks, and they are the same bastards that wrote the filthy and degenerate hate mail to JHK. And yes, this Julian sock puppet is Janos, or more aptly put, Janos and all his manifestations has been Julian all along. For anyone considering home schooling, please look at this final product, and think twice before creating another monster like him.
The challenge continues to be in a dust-up like this one, that fans of Kunstler will side with him, fans of North will go along with him, and some of the very important gray matter in the middle never gets the critical consideration that it deserves and even requires. That’s one of the tragedies of bifurcated or binary thinking. It locks people into only two ways of seeing the world, with one always being right and the other always being wrong. This plagues religious, political, and just about any other movement in America right now; it’s one of the major cause for the partisan gridlock in DC.
For more on transcending this cognitive limitation, a great starting point would be this older John Michael Greer post.