Monday, July 30, 2007

Useless Battles over “Liberal” and “Conservative” Part II

[Unknowingly, the Baron and I both wrote a response to an email from a reader using the pseudonym Beverly Hills. Her letter is posted below, along with the Baron’s reply. This is my response, which assumes the reader has seen what Ms. Hills has to say. - Dymphna]


Ms. Hills:

Thank you for the effort you took to write us about an important issue. As I said in a recent post, there is definitely power in the names or labels we assign to ourselves and one another.

The meta-argument you make, which is that conservative bloggers could change the course of the national conversation by changing the labels we use, assigns to us far more power than we could ever have to engender such a fundamental alteration. Not only that, we would have to preface every discussion by explaining what we mean by “socialist” and why we don’t employ the more commonly used phrase “left” or “liberal” - even though these are the designations that those who assume those positions assign to themselves. Many would be insulted by “socialist”; some simply wouldn’t get it.

It is a surprise to have a liberal reader who does not vilify us. In blogs written by those who favor people like Barak Obama, Cindy Sheehan, or for those who read Daily Kos, we are called “Bacon” and “Lymph Node.” Our blog is called “The Darkies Are Coming”…
- - - - - - - - - -
Vitriolic ad hominem attacks which never address the content of our posts are the usual fare. James Wolcott, from Vanity Fair, calls himself a liberal and he votes Democratic. He has ridiculed our blog in scatological terms for our philosophy - and that philosophy can most usefully be described as conservative. I say “usefully” because the majority of people understand the word “conservative” in the sense we use it; the only difference is whether they consider it complimentary or pejorative.

Our son spent four years at college getting spittle on the front of his shirt if he questioned the liberal party line. Students who identified themselves as Democrats went into a frenzy when they learned he was not in agreement with their assessment of what they called “conservative s**t”. In fact, during his middle school years, at a Quaker institution he attended on scholarship, he and one history teacher were the only voices of conservatism in the whole school. The others did not self-identify as socialists and would have had no idea what he was talking about had he used the term. They called themselves “liberal” and their general dismissal for those who did not tow the party line was, “you suck.” These were the children of the very wealthy and they held the poor in contempt even while they supported government funded programs to “help” the underclass.

At work, I lived in a liberal world — again, self-defined. People did not call themselves socialists, and, like my son’s peers would have argued the point had they been so designated. These adults, like the school children, believed in large government programs, higher taxes to fund them, abortion without limits, and “gender equality” which included a large dose of hostile, anti-male feminism that I found unpleasant and intellectually sterile.

People choose the names/labels/points of view that they think fit them. The media puts its own gloss on those names. Thus, there are “left-wing activists” and “right wing extremists.” Somehow, Cindy Sheehan has never made it to the “extremist” position in the MSM.

I have edited books for people who define their own political views as “left of center.” Even though their books were not about politics at all, there would nonetheless be de rigueur political jibes aimed at Republicans and conservatives. These would be just stuck into the manuscript for no other apparent reason than to vent their spleen about, say, Margaret Thatcher — many years after her exit from office. It would be like pulling teeth to get them to remove these irrelevant gems.

Even those who write fiction indulge in this reflexive mean-spiritedness. They obviously assume the vast majority of their readers will agree with them. Read Tony Hillerman and you’ll find at least two anti-Republican remarks per book. In contrast, I’ve not found anything positive about the Democrats in his work, just this mandatory conservative-bashing.

In Robert Parker’s mystery novels the villains are often extremist or fundamentalist Christians. They are portrayed as both stupid and ignorant, prejudiced, and socially evil. Otherwise, regarding religion, Mr. Parker is silent about matters spiritual. In the world he creates in his books, it is as though religion didn’t exist. I like the stylistic nature of his novels and continue to read them, but I do notice the bright thread of contempt for Christians he weaves into his stories.

These are just some examples of a pervasive mindset. This phenomenon is an interesting characteristic of many people who are “left of center”: they do not begin by describing what they are for, or what they value. Instead, they use vitriol and ad hominem attacks against those who disagree with their world view. That seems to be their version of a level playing field - i.e., one that has been leveled and cleansed of anything they find disagreeable.

As far as “political correctness” goes, I do not see this label being used to squelch anything but the viewpoints of conservatism. And the people wielding these bludgeons do not consider themselves socialists, Marxists or Communists - unless you factor in the academics, who do indeed understand the truth of what you say. But they also know the negative effect that using these designations publicly would have on their cause; thus such labels are often veiled in public discourse by those who hold the socialist or marxist views you describe.

I do not agree that the countries of the Anglosphere are “about finished.” These are the bright spots of robust economies, active electorates, and a strong sense of identity. We are currently experiencing an unprecedented wave of global migrations fueled by a mixture of hope and envy and the desire for freedom, not to mention the need to find a safe, orderly place for their children. These mass movements of people have created a kind of disjointedness that will take time to resolve. The old solutions do not work, but new syntheses have not yet been created which can effectively address the problems created by our technology — successes that make us a Mecca (so to speak) for those who cannot survive the corrupt, failed states into which they are born.

If, as you say, there are many liberals who visit our website, they are not much in evidence. Occasionally one shows up to excoriate us for our point of view, and liberal websites link to us for ad hominem vitriol, but none have appeared to join in any honest debate of the issues.

It is the common experience of many conservatives that it is better to keep one’s political views private. Liberal friends simply presume we think like they do. And if we explain that we do not and have sound reasons for our conclusions, their animosity becomes overt.

It is not our purpose to change anyone’s mind. We exist to provide a forum for those who are concerned about the exponential spread of government, the dangerous situation Israel faces, and the cancerous growth of Islamists bent on our destruction and the establishment of a fascist Utopia they call the Ummah.

11 comments:

Otter said...

Hey, you have to remember:

We have a share of Idiots on our side of the argument, also.

Once in a while, there Has to be a voice of decency and reason on the other side... people who ascribe more to the original meaning of the word 'liberal,' say, about 100 years ago...

rickl said...

In the tenth paragraph, first sentence, you refer to "Robert Parker", but two sentences later, you write "Mr. Spencer". Is that an error?

Apart from that, nice letter.

unaha-closp said...

The most important people - everybody from football fans to MySpacers - live happily without acknowledging this debate. This whole liberal/conservative slugfest is being carried out in a small corner of the internets where us political junkies reside.

Dymphna said...

otter--

How right you are...we have many idiots. I avoid them also. However, what is customary and usual behavior for the average liberal would be out of bounds for the average conservative. In the deep blue city near where we live, cars with conservative bumper stickers are keyed. OTOH, the average (note the use of "average") member of the VRWC smiles, frowns, yawns or shrugs when a car bedecked with liberal slogans and witticisms re the "Rethugs" trundles by.

_________
rickl--

You have a sharp eye for the ADD guy...I tend to meld Robert Parker and his character, known as Spencer. Robert Parker writes the books in which the main man, Spencer, acts out Mr. Parker's fantasies of derring-do and witticisms. I will change that to avoid confusion.
_________

unaha-closp --

ever the voice of reality. You forgot to include the Soprano watchers and callow fraternity boys, not to mention the mini-brain "personalities" famous for their substance abuse.

Yes, we do inhabit a tiny portion of the universe. But as a Robin Williams character, when ridiculed for the tiny size of his ummm...family jewels, retorted, "it is small but fierce."

Harrison said...

But they also know the negative effect that using these designations publicly would have on their cause; thus such labels are often veiled in public discourse by those who hold the socialist or marxist views you describe.

Heck, even Hillary espousing policies that just scream "Socialism!" takes great caution in disguising them through rhetoric.

Perhaps the discreditation of Communism has left a legacy that has prevailed till today: the Left wants to reclaim intellectual and political power for itself, evoking the spectre of far-right extremism in the most notorious of strains: Fascism. They wail and rail against the right for embracing Fascist elements into government, trying to urge people to remember why the right is potentially dangerous, all the while conveniently keeping under its wings Socialist ideas that have already been discredited. Convenient amnesia of the Left in denying that the gulag, show trials and the lexicon of atrocities that Communism had perpetuated has channeled into the Left a virulent strain of hypocrisy and indifference to the lessons of history.

Pulling A Fas(cis)t One

gun-totin-wacko said...

Here's a moment or irony: Mark Steyn has reprinted an article from 2002, entitled "Reclaiming the 'L' word". It features this quote:


"You'll notice, incidentally, that I haven't used the word "liberal" to describe the left. "Conservative" has been carelessly appropriated by the media to mean no more than the side you're not meant to like. John Ashcroft is a hardline conservative, but so, according to the press, is the Taliban and half the Chinese politburo and the crankier Ayatollahs. So I think we conservatives ought to make an attempt to reclaim the word "liberal." We believe in liberty, and in liberating human potential. I don't know what you'd call a political culture that reduces voters to dependents, that tells religious institutions whom they can hire, that instructs printers on what printing jobs they're obliged to accept, that bans squeegee kids unless they're undercover policemen checking on whether you're wearing your seatbelt, etc., etc. But "liberal" no longer seems to cover it."

As usual, he says it better than anyone, with all due respect to the Baron and Dymphna.

Vasarahammer said...

I think Mark Steyn is right in that old article, in which he says that conservatives should reclaim the word liberal and stop using it as a derogatory term describing statist left.

Even though American conservatism is routinely misrepresented in European media, taking a closer look reveals that American conservatism has a lot more in common with classical liberalism than the ideology of the political left.

The leftist liberalism has nothing to do with liberty, but it is a form of egalitarianism, in which you level the playing field through state measures like financial aid or legislation against 'hate speech' so that there is no more 'discrimination'.

A lot of people in the left think that they are for all the good things in the world and that they are morally excellent people. If somebody disagrees with their worldview, he or she must be an evil person and can safely be called with most derogatory names possible.

These people are for diversity (sexual orientation, skin color, religion) except in the case of opinion. The goodness of the opinion is determined by who expresses it. If you belong to an oppressed minority group, you can say pretty much what you like. On the other hand, if you are a white heterosexual male that likes to eat red meat, you are a racist bigot.

Geraldo said...

I dont know the subtleties of american politics but this stuff smells pretty bad.

It seems that they used that word(Liberal), wasted it and now want give it to you.

Vol-in-Law said...

In continental Europe American-style conservatives are derided as Liberals or Neo-Liberals; because they are economically liberal (free market) rather than socialist or corporatist.

Archonix said...

In the UK, all our parties are statist to a greater or lesser extent, and there's no real outlet for liberals or libertarians. The lable 'Liberal' is now forever tied to the liberal democrats (who are neither liberal nor honestly democratic given their uncompromising support for the EU... except when the other parties are against it), and is consequently seen as a label for ditherers and wets.

It does need reclaiming but the myraid of uses for the word might make it hard.

Ypp said...

Current split is not Left vs Right, but liberals vs conservatives. Liberals, including right-liberals, promote muslim immigration. Bush for example is a right-liberal. Conservatives, including left-conservatives, oppose immigration, especially muslim immigration. For example, one group that contributed to the defeat of Amnesty bill, was Numbers USA, a typical leftist-environmentalist group. They opposed immigration mainly on the basis that there are too many people in the USA. I must admit, that the Left knows how to fight and destroy, whereas the Right is busy making and producing. However, at some point it starts producing something that goes out of control. Than the Left comes, and destroys that thing (and a lot more by the way).