Education, Politics, Top Stories

The Psychology of Progressive Hostility

Recently, I arrived at a moment of introspection about a curious aspect of my own behavior. When I disagree with a conservative friend or colleague on some political issue, I have no fear of speaking my mind. I talk, they listen, they respond, I talk some more, and at the end of it we get along just as we always have. But I’ve discovered that when a progressive friend says something with which I disagree or that I know to be incorrect, I’m hesitant to point it out. This hesitancy is a consequence of the different treatment one tends to receive from those on the Right and Left when expressing a difference of opinion. I am not, as it turns out, the only one who has noticed this.

“That’s a stupid fucking question,” answered a Socialist Alliance activist when I asked sincerely where they were getting what sounded like inflated poverty statistics. “If you don’t believe in gay marriage or gun control, unfriend me,” demand multiple Facebook statuses from those I know. “That’s gross and racist!” spluttered a red-faced Ben Affleck when the atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris criticized Islamic doctrines on Bill Maher’s Real Time. Nobody blinks an eye when Harris criticizes Christianity, least of all Affleck, who starred in Kevin Smith’s irreverent religious satire Dogma. But Christians are not held to be a sacrosanct and protected minority on the political Left. As Skeptic Magazine’s Michael Shermer tweeted recently:

Outbursts of emotional hostility from progressive activists – now described as Social Justice Warriors or SJWs – have come to be known as getting ‘triggered.’ This term originally applied to sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but activists have adopted it to describe the anxiety and discomfort they experience when they are exposed to views with which they disagree. “Fuck free speech!” one group of social justice advocates recently told Vice Media, as if this justified the growing belief among university students that conservatives should be prevented from speaking on college campuses. It’s no secret that, with the rise of the triggered progressive, university professors are increasingly intimidated by their own students. An illustrative example of this alarming trend was provided by the hoards of screaming students who surrounded the distinguished Yale sociologist Nicholas Christakis and demanded his head (which they duly received). Christakis had made the mistake of defending an email his wife had written gently criticizing Yale’s attempts to regulate students’ Halloween costumes. “Who the fuck hired you?!” screamed one irate student in response. “You should step down!”

This sort of my-way-or-the-highway mentality is now spreading well beyond the urban university and into even remote communities. In the small Outback Australian town of Alice Springs where I once lived, agitators have attacked and attempted to silence the local aboriginal town councillor Jacinta Price for her principled efforts to improve the lives of her people. When Price tried to sound the alarm about skyrocketing sexually transmitted diseases, or the adult rape of children in aboriginal communities, she was shouted down as a ‘traitor’ and a ‘coconut’ (a term of disparagement used to describe a person deemed to be black on the outside and white on the inside). These criticisms do not come from the majority of aboriginal people in Alice Springs, but from a minority of furiously offended activists who, in their own little circles, plot to have Price undemocratically removed from the town council. Censorship is now the instrument of choice, and a reactionary authoritarianism increasingly defines what the liberal Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz has termed the ‘Regressive Left.’

So how and why have these activists become so intolerant and horrible to deal with? Part of this hostility can be explained by a wilful ignorance and incuriosity about ideas with which they disagree. Every so often, a progressive friend will peruse my bookshelf in a thought-police sort of fashion. What happens next is fairly predictable. Once they realize that Malinowski’s Melanesian epic The Sexual Life of Savages doesn’t include any erotic pictures, they will turn their attention to the Ayn Rand collection. “Why do you have these?” they ask with an air of indignation, holding up a copy of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. “Have you ever read her?” I will ask. “No,” they reliably respond.

The liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill once explained that, “The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, has left it on record that he always studied his adversary’s case with as great, if not with still greater, intensity than even his own.” Mill held that unless we carefully study the views of those with whom we disagree, we will never really know what they’re right or wrong about. “He who knows only his own side of the case,” Mill wrote in his 1859 book On Liberty, “knows little of that.” Our opponents could be right for all we know or care, because they may know a fact or offer an argument we’ve never thought to consider. And even if they aren’t right, Mill points out that specks of truth may exist among their falsehoods which can guide our minds in new directions.

Sprinkled throughout what I regard as Rand’s erroneous theory of Objectivism, are moments of penetrating insight. In his critique of her work, the late president of the American Philosophical Society Robert Nozick called her writing “powerful, illuminating and thought provoking.”1

The world is more complex than we can imagine, and every new point of view we encounter can enrich our understanding even if we don’t embrace it entirely. But this comes with the risk of self-effacement and growing uncertainty. Imagine that you are standing in a small clearing in the middle of a vast forest, and that this forest represents your ignorance of the world. The clearing you stand in represents your knowledge. As one gains knowledge, the clearing expands and the forest of ignorance recedes. But as the clearing expands, so does its circumference and so the area of contact between knowledge and ignorance also grows, and our knowledge of the extent of our ignorance grows with it. So, paradoxically, the wiser we become, the less wise we feel. This is the wellspring of intellectual humility, the Socratic realization that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and the more apparent it becomes that your own opinions are susceptible to fallibility.

This is a tremendous problem for progressive students entering higher education, where remarkably homogenous viewpoints are taught and heterogeneous ideas are shunned. For example, one of the concepts most ridiculed by philosophers in recent decades has been the notion of ‘social justice,’ which has received such a beating that the Nobel Prize winning economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek once remarked that shame should fall upon people who still defend the idea.2 But ask any self-described social justice advocate to name a critic of the very idea of social justice, and they will likely draw a blank. Criticisms of social justice are routinely swept under the carpet in an environment where students are asked to embrace the concept hand-on-heart, as if no reasonable or legitimate objections had ever existed.

A whole raft of brilliant philosophers and Nobel Prize-winning economists lean to the right. The problem is that these people tend to go into business or enter academic fields like engineering, economics, and mathematics. They have therefore surrendered the humanities and what philosopher Roger Scruton has called the ‘fake fields’ of gender and ethnic studies to their political opponents on the Left, who relish their role as the unchallenged shapers of student minds. According to a 2005 survey3 conducted in the United States, there was only one Republican sociology professor in the humanities for every 40 Democrat professors, and we now know the extent of the resentment when views outside the progressive consensus trespass on their territory.

Last year, the Wilfred Laurier scandal shocked conservative and moderate professors when a young teaching assistant by the name of Lindsay Shepherd revealed that she had been interrogated and disciplined by her superiors for showing a Youtube video to her communication studies class. The video in question was of a televised debate between a group of progressives and psychologist Jordan B. Peterson about whether or not the law should punish Canadians who refuse to use new transgender pronouns like ‘zir’ and ‘ver.’ During Shepherd’s surreptitious recording of the interrogation, her superiors can be heard explaining that professor Peterson’s views were “problematic,” and that she should have either criticized them or not exposed her students to his opinions at all. “But that would be taking sides,” protested an audibly distressed Shepherd, who insisted that, although she didn’t share Peterson’s views herself, she had played the video to encourage a class debate. “Yes,” replied one of her interrogators. “Can’t you see that this is something that is not really up for debate?” Her job, she was informed, is to oppose the political Right.

According to these academics and others like them, not only should people be punished for not conforming to the new politically correct consensus, but conservative opinions opposing punishment for non-conformity should also be punished. A 2012 study, conducted by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers and published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, found that progressive faculty openly admit to discriminating against the conservative minority when it comes to job promotions and grant applications.

Given the current environment, conservatives would be advised to simply abandon academia if they know what’s good for them. On the other hand, it is a problem when a student goes through university where each and every course is taught by a left-leaning professor. For conservative students, the toxic and hostile university environment needn’t cripple their intellectual development. These students arrive at university with conservative ideas and will naturally seek out and read conservative authors in their own time to balance out the latest application of progressive doctrine to which they are subjected in class. The most ambitious will be familiar with both Rand and Marx, Keynes and Hayek, Galbraith and Friedman, Krugman and Sowell, Picketty and Peterson. But we ought to worry about the progressive student who arrives with progressive ideas, and is then showered in class with more of the same and reinforces them in their own time. Such students live in a much smaller cultural universe than the cosmopolitan intellectual world through which the conservative will be made to travel. This isn’t to deny that bigoted reactionaries on the opposite side of the spectrum also inhabit a tiny intellectual space. But that does not excuse the closing of the mind at a university.

In 2014, one of the world’s leading scholars in the field of moral psychology was publicly accused of homophobia for showing his class a video about the phenomenon of ‘Moral Dumbfounding.’ A transcript of the video Jonathan Haidt showed his class can be read here, and a transcript of the apology he offered his class the next day can be found here. A subsequent investigation by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity found no evidence of wrongdoing. But, rather than being put off by this brush with reputational disaster, Haidt became fascinated by the problem of hypersensitivity at university. “It’s a crazy time, but it’s also a fascinating time to be a social scientist,” he has since remarked, “It’s the dawn of a new religion, and I study moral psychology as though religion, politics, even sports, they’re all manifestations of a tribalism.”

In his remarkable book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Haidt recalls a telling experiment. He and his colleagues Brian Nosek and Jesse Graham sought to discover how well conservative and what Haidt terms ‘liberal’ (ie: progressive) students understood one another by having them answer moral questions as they thought their political opponents would answer them. “The results were clear and consistent,” remarks Haidt. “In all analyses, conservatives were more accurate than liberals.” Asked to think the way a liberal thinks, conservatives answered moral questions just as the liberal would answer them, but liberal students were unable to do the reverse. Rather, they seemed to put moral ideas into the mouths of conservatives that they don’t hold. To put it bluntly, Haidt and his colleagues found that progressives don’t understand conservatives the way conservatives understand progressives. This he calls the ‘conservative advantage,’ and it goes a long way in explaining the different ways each side deals with opinions unlike their own. People get angry at what they don’t understand, and an all-progressive education ensures that they don’t understand.

Haidt’s research echoes arguments made by Thomas Sowell in A Conflict of Visions and Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate. Both Sowell and Pinker contend that conservatives see an unfortunate world of moral trade-offs in which every moral judgment comes with costs that must be properly balanced. Progressives, on the other hand, seem to be blind to, or in denial about, these trade-offs, whether economic and social; theirs is a utopian or unconstrained vision, in which every moral grievance must be immediately extinguished until we have perfected society. This is why conservatives don’t tend to express the same emotional hostility as the Left; a deeper grasp of the world’s complexity has the effect of encouraging intellectual humility. The conservative hears the progressive’s latest demands and says, “I can see how you might come to that conclusion, but I think you’ve overlooked the following…” In contrast, the progressive hears the conservative and thinks, “I have no idea why you would believe that. You’re probably a racist.”

No doubt, other factors creep into the mix of the triggered progressive mind. Fashionable theories, such as those advanced by Jacques Derrida, teach students that all text and language is structured by power, so any argument from someone in a position of ‘gendered’ or ‘racial’ power can be disregarded, whatever its logical validity. By reinforcing this premise with a heavily left-biased education, university educators have created a Frankenstein generation of fanatical students, and are now finding that they are unable to force the genie they’ve conjured back into its bottle. With the rise of the Heterodox Academy, progressive, liberal, and conservative university professors are coming forward, united by their concerns about the dangers of educational orthodoxy and committed to bringing an end to the radical Left’s domination of the humanities and social sciences. It’s a noble stand in the name of viewpoint diversity and free inquiry, as the rest of society slowly becomes aware of what their taxes are paying for. The sharp decline in public support for the university, especially among Republicans and conservatives, suggests they are not impressed.


Matthew Blackwell is a writer currently completing a BA in Economics and Anthropology at The University of Queensland. You can follow him on Twitter @MBlackwell27



1 Nozick, Robert (1997). Socratic Puzzles, Harvard University Press.
2 Hayek, F.A. (1976). Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume II. The Mirage of Social Justice, Routledge.
3 Cardiff, C. & Klein, D. (2005). Faculty Partisan Affiliations in All Disciplines: A voter-registration study. Critical Review, 7.



  1. I agree with the main point of the piece, I’d just like to expound on the shot taken at Derrida in the last paragraph.

    As far as I can tell (and do please show me the readings that would show otherwise), Derrida never actually said to disregard the arguments of those in positions of racial and/or gendered power. He did come up with the concept of “phallogocentrism”, which is the notion that all western discourse so far has been both logocentric and phallocentric, and that there was a whole other region of knowledge that had been so far neglected because its core principles (indeterminateness, mostly) would contradict the phallogocentric imperative of achieving absolute truth. Now, does that mean that all philosophy henceforth must be anti-phallogocentric (that is, disregarding masculine arguments)? I can’t recall that he ever said that, and I dare say it strikes me as strange that a man so preoccupied with indeterminateness would ever utter such a blunt dictum regarding what should and shouldn’t be. Then again, maybe his ideas did pave the way for noxious simplifications by later theorists.

    I just thought I’d point that out since one of the traits of current conservative thought (or other variants of anti-Social Justice thought) that have bothered me the most for a while is this demonization of every “postmodern” text, whether it has been read and understood by the speaker or not. There is a sizeable fraction of the New Right and other neo-skeptic movements for whom to say Derrida or Foucault (who continues to be so sorely misunderstood by both anti-postmodern critics and his own SJW “proponents”) is almost like bringing up the devil. Given that a part of this very piece deals with never dismissing arguments out-of-hand, well, it seemed a little contradictory to dismiss derridean theory out-of-hand without a rigorous textual analysis.

    Now, as I say, I don’t fancy myself an expert on these subjects, so if there’s indeed textual evidence that would prove Derrida held these positions unambiguously, I’d be more than glad to know.

    • You talk about “a whole other region of knowledge that had been so far neglected” and whose “core principles” include “indeterminateness, mostly.” This does sound like Derrida, but it’s also nonsense. You cannot know (or think) what is indeterminate, nor can you communicate it to others – indeterminacy makes discourse impossible. On my understanding of Derrida, the tail that is wagging the dog here is a kind of activism: by abolishing distinctions/hierarchies he aimed to make people more free. That the ‘freedom’ provided by indeterminacy might turn out to be a living hell is something he seems not to have grasped, but that notion of freedom is widely prevalent in left-wing circles – i.e., just abolish the hierarchies and everything will be fine. This idea does seem to me to link up naturally (and obviously) with a focus on power.

      • “You cannot know (or think) what is indeterminate, nor can you communicate it to others – indeterminacy makes discourse impossible.” Is it? I mean, Derrida exists after all. So do Deleuze and Guattari. Is that not proof that indeterminate discourse is possible, if nothing else? Also, I do think he grasped (at least a little) that deconstruction, while it permits individuals to think differently, could be dangerous if excessive: after all, many of these arguments go back to his essay “Plato’s Pharmacy”, where he discusses the concept of “pharmakon” as something that could either be curative or poisonous according to its usage and dose, just like language and deconstruction.

        I do agree that his thought is interlinked with power and hierarchy, that much is obvious and I’m not trying to make him sound like an innocent, apolitical thinker. I just don’t fully buy that he meant for his followers (a notion which I’m sure he would’ve found ridiculous to begin with) to “disregard” arguments posited by “those in positions of power”. I believe that he meant to create an anti-canonical way of thought that would be liberating for everybody, in which we could subvert the hierarchies that bind us, but that generations of poor students of his and other postmodern theories turned that liberating force into the opposite: a hierarchy of suffering and a tyranny of the oppresed, at least as far as discourse.

        • The point is that the claim of ‘indeterminancy’ should be met with “so what” what can be implied….what inference can be draw? That therefore we can know nothing? If so…..this is untrue and silly. It has been eons since philosophers quit discussing whether we could know with ‘certainty……at least since Wittgenstein.

        • RalphB says

          DVX quotes and replies, “‘You cannot know (or think) what is indeterminate, nor can you communicate it to others – indeterminacy makes discourse impossible.’ Is it? I mean, Derrida exists after all. So do Deleuze and Guattari. Is that not proof that indeterminate discourse is possible, if nothing else?”

          You’re half right. The usual strategy to produce indeterminate discourse is to both affirm and deny the same proposition, though not without a huge volume of fluff to cushion the harshness of the contradiction. For Derrida, language is a game — it is not about the world, it is about texts, it is about itself. So if you’re willing to play that game then obviously indeterminate discourse is possible.

          But let’s assume that Babbington looks for the communication of facts about the world outside of language, the real world. For Derrida and the rest of the postmodernists, that is a fantasy — reality is socially constructed. Thus, Babbington is correct insofar as nothing about reality is communicated by indeterminate discourse.

          As Aristotle says, “The doctrine of Heraclitus, that all things are and are not, seems to make everything true, while that of Anaxagoras, that there is an intermediate between the terms of a contradiction, seems to make everything false; for when things are mixed, the mixture is neither good nor not-good, so that one cannot say anything that is true.”

          Yes, DVX, indeterminate discourse is possible, but it cannot say anything that is true.

      • Excellent summary…..not only of Derrida…..but the whole pack of “indeterminancy” genuflectors.

    • Florin N. says

      Derrida is literal nonsense. Frankly he can mean anything because his writing demands that the reader *create* sense and logic. Whatever you look for… there it is.

    • Keith Pridgeon says

      Wow that is some premium authentic western gibberish Gabby

  2. This is just another article written by another student on he exact same subject which has been repeated many times before. And, unsurprisingly, it mentions the exact same debates and events and if you look up the writer’s Twitter profile he unfailingly follows the exact same people.

    What a surprise!

    This site might have gone places. But if it is going to do this. Then clearly it isn’t. It might have become a place for genuine debate by encouraging different sides to participates. Now it is just a space for right-wing windbags to pontificate about the same thing over and over and over…

    • Suzanne Fortin says

      This comment reinforces the author’s point. Left-wingers ONLY want left-wing conformity and don’t tolerate expressions of right-wing comment.

      I actually learned a few things in this article.

      • Eh? This is a right wing website which pushes right wing agenda only – whilst claiming to be for view point diversity and it actually isn’t. And I consider myself to be centre-right, a Cameron supporter, thank you for enquiring.

        Perhaps this is your first time on the site, else this article is oft repeated.

        • Beny says

          Not true at all. Just a few days ago quillette published an article called “The Academic Mob and Its Fatal Toll”, in which a typical radical feminist discourse was the tone of the narrative.
          Left wing obtuse people are the ones that dislike everything that isn’t a mirror.

          • “in which a typical radical feminist discourse was the tone of the narrative.” What does that mean? The writer Brad Cran isn’t a “typical radical feminist”.

          • I can see the point in the article, however I belief this is true for both sides.
            Quote: “Left wing obtuse people are the ones that dislike everything that isn’t a mirror.”
            Illustrated by the commander and chief by demonizing any news outlet with a critical view… calling any critical news programming: “Fake news” …

        • L. Davis says

          Well why would you assume everyone reading it is aware of what you say is “oft repeated”? Everybody has to read something for the first time and it may not sink in first time.

        • Jon says

          No Reading Nomad – you oversimplify. I would describe myself as ‘centre-left’ (I’m a member of the British Labour Party) – and broadly speaking liberal and progressive – but I have absolutely had enough of the self-righteous anti-free speech bullshit flowing out of universities. You think you can divide the world up into good guys and bad guys and lump all the bad together as ‘right wing’ – but there is increasingly widespread concern about the excesses of identity politics – and the way in which all of this performative virtue signalling is not just unpersuasive – it’s actually alienating for vast number of voters and might well have contributed to electoral defeats for the left such as the EU referendum in the UK and Trump’s victory in the US.

        • Miles says

          I’ve read Quillette for a while and I wouldn’t call it right wing.

          I’m left-leaning and have never voted Tory in my life, and certainly not Cameron!

        • Nomad….This just being a “right wing agenda” site sould not interfer with your ability to intellectually rebut what is said. Who cares who says it. Just rebut it…..if you can.

          • This is the comments section and I am complaining about the article being derivative and unoriginal. And one bit of originality regarding Derrida and he got it completely wrong.

            What other kind of rebuttal are you looking for?

        • Tom Williams says

          Gee, Nomad, they seem to let you enter comments — which leads me to believe that the quillette site is happy to entertain multiple viewpoints.

      • Agreed Suzanne, It was nice of Reading to dis[lay such a fine example of left wing closed mindedness though to accompany the article.

      • Good one Susan. The playing field must be restricted for the progressives to be comfortable. Their universe is smaller as their increasingly defensive mood suggests.
        A few hard rocks in their ideal smooth path string of theories reminds them of their life experience with their own simple ideas .
        Chesterton had them nailed nearly one hundred years ago too as mere meddlers in moral doctrine .They criticize others moral decision making , but are basically not sure on what basis they can do that.

        As a practical and effective scientist, I think their influence has grown because they represent a growing group who worship science but are simply unable to practice it . This problem too was anticipated many decades ago by Ellul in ” The Technological Society”

      • Johan says

        I thought he was trolling…”right-wing windbags” is not an argument. It’s just ordinary left-wing labeling.

      • @Zoran Jovanovic – Nope, not so. Just complaining about this site banging about the same thing over and over. The irony being this site does exactly what it supposedly stands against.

        • Alex says

          I just wanted to mention that in the tetralogy:

          1) First they ignore you,
          2) then they laugh at you,
          3) then they fight you, —> Quillette is just right about here….
          4) then you win.

          Dear Quillette, please carry on.

        • PapayaSF says

          In contrast to the left, which studiously avoids “banging about the same thing over and over.” *rolls eyes*

          • @ PapayaSF The fact that Left going around repeating itself has got nothing to do with this – a derivative article which has become rather common here.

            *sniffs very loudly*

    • Abu Nudnik says

      The left, while denouncing religion, uses one-word dismissals like “homophobe, sexist, racist, etc, to end debate by excommunicating the speaker. Then they accuse others of *pontificating,* their favorite word because everything religious is irrationally authoritarian. Yet its points are invariably unyielding, irrational, and authoritarian, and they bind their opponents with their chains of anathema. Heretic! Witch! And they don’t see the irony that it is they who are pontificating.

    • Robin says

      You should read other articles. Quillette criticized Trump’s fake news rhetoric. It’s not right wing.
      Quillette is better than 99% of other websites on the news media. It has also been praised by Richard Dawkins.

      • BuBBa says

        Dawkins has been excommunicated from “the left”, though. Mentioning him isn’t going to persuade the person you are conversing with.

      • kris says

        Dawkins has been disowned by the left because he dared to criticise Muslims but he is still a highly respected, brilliant scientist whose opinion is gaining currency everytime the left try and excommunicate him.,

    • Chris says

      Your hostile and irrational reaction gives credence to the author’s argument.

    • Capitalism is Wage Theft says

      Couldn’t agree more. This person obviously has never had a good relationship with liberals or progressives or socialists. I interact with them on the internet. They are the nicest and welcoming people I have ever come across. I grew up in a conservative family. Sure they’re nice but they draw a line in the sand when it comes to solving systemic problems. Not all people are going to be held to this person’s analysis- they’re out there but don’t make up the majority. I hope this dude wakes up into reality about the political climate.

    • Fred. says

      I hear you, this might be coming across as a center-right/libertarian site, which to be honest reflects the extent of the problem considering freedom of speech is a fundamental principle, but I think the idea is that it is a platform for diverse viewpoints that aren’t typically expressed anywhere in the media. Nobody else is saying this, relative to mainstream, and especially not with academic training, not in cable news, entertainment, social media, universities, etc.

    • Daniel Grant says

      You just said nothing Reading Nomad. You did not object to one idea proposed in the article nor did you ask intelligent, reflective questions. You are a typical anti-intellectual leftist.

    • John McCormick says

      Thank you for offering a first-hand example of what the author described.

    • MsEV says

      As opposed to the left wing “windbags” who actually ban debate from their campuses…

    • kris says

      Yes of course this is an unashamed right of centre website. They are springing up all over the place simply because the public has been subjected to so called ‘balanced’ mainstream reporting for what seems like forever. It is anything but ‘balanced’ and ‘Quillette and others are simply supplying all the missing pieces in the jigsaw that the MSM are so reluctant to tackle and deliberately avoiding. They are all like the NYT ‘Everything that fits our narrative’

      • Johan says

        Exactly! I live in Sweden…I know all about it. We are the most utopian country in the world. Just take a look att the “world” – the Inglehart-Welzel diagram. We are heading for space. We only get fake news.

    • meredith mallory says

      The article I just read before this one was trying to separate Bernie Sanders from unfair malignment in the press and on social media, which is not something a right wing windbag would do.

      • Andrew Roddy says

        The general tone of the reactions to ReadingNomad tend to prove his point. This site does tend to ‘re-plough the same predictable little furrows. You can make a fair guess at what tack any given article is likely to take before reading it. That’s just not sustainable! Go on – surprise us!

    • rightwingbastard says

      You know, saying that you have seen the same argument before is not an actual refutation of the argument.

      • Craig Willms says

        Exactly! I’m glad someone finally stated the obvious.

  3. “such as those advanced by Jacques Derrida, teach students that all text and language is structured by power”

    This is outright incorrect. Derrida does NOT advance this. No reference given.

  4. NeutrinoPhysics says

    this is an excellent summary of the current charged political atmosphere, and it is well written, polite, researched, nuanced and precise. Nice work !

    • Cate says

      Agree entirely. And this JS Mill was icing on the cake ~~~ “The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, has left it on record that he always studied his adversary’s case with as great, if not with still greater, intensity than even his own.”

  5. Steven says

    It saddens me that political science and history seem to be so out of favor with this author.

    If he was more versed on either he might have noted this kind of divisive and petulant behavior is new the common thing to do for either side after a loss. David Frum discussed his daring to dissent on conservative orthodoxy cost him his job and made him a pariah among his fellow Republicans. Conservative Eric Dondero published a hilarious rant calling on conservatives to fire liberal employees, disown liberal relatives and generally behave as belligerently as possible towards liberals. Republicans worked diligently to kick out anyone GOP Senator or Congressman guilty of compromising with Democrats, the list just goes on.

    This behavior from liberals is appalling, but it is nothing new. What really frightens me is this sort of thing is now just what people do after they lose; something which should scare everyone.

    • Kurt says

      RE: “David Frum discussed his daring to dissent on conservative orthodoxy cost him his job and made him a pariah among his fellow Republicans. ”

      Daring indeed. Nothing requires more courage than becoming a darling of the leftist media as you assume the “more in sorrow than in anger” pose toward your supposed teammates that just don’t measure up to your cosmopolitan tastes anymore. Just ask John McCain. And what do you bet the New Yorker pays a bit better than National Review – and has better parties? Going the other direction requires real courage, as well as social and financial sacrifice, as guys like Brett Weinstein show and this author points out.

      Little in life can bring a person more joy than rewatching CBC YouTube replays of Frum on election night 2016 as the delicious reality set in to his vain, preening brain…Well, other than contemplating what was going through Hillary’s mind around 10:00 pm eastern, that is.

      • Steven says

        How is Frum “a darling of the leftist media”?

        But if you don’t think it is brave to speak your mind knowing those closest to you will treat you like garbage for doing it, you might want to revisit the definition of the word brave. Or perhaps you should give it a shot sometime.

        Not sure what you mean about sorrow and anger, care to elaborate?

        I have no idea which publication pays better, and based on your post you don’t either. As to who throws better parties, it depends on your taste. What we know is that Frum was fired and ostracized by his community for speaking out.

        Brett Weinstein quite a job because he felt unsafe, when he spoke out he had little realistic chance of being fired as a tenured professor. He then sued his employer and received hundred of thousands in compensation. He was certainly brave to speak out, but no more so than Frum.

        If seeing people suffers brings you joy, I certainly feel sorry for you. I hope you find some help for that.

        • Kurt says

          >>If seeing people suffers brings you joy, I certainly feel sorry for you.

          If you cannot derive great joy and pleasure from the much deserved angst, fear and sleeplessness that is surely haunting Hillary, Comey, Brennon, Clapper, Yates, McCabe, Ohr&Ohr, Strzok, Page(Lisa), King, Murray, Rice, Power, Simpson, Steele, Lynch, Obama et al because their plan failed, they lost their ability to conceal everything, and the walls are closing in, then you have no soul and don’t deserve the benefits of the constitution they crapped all over.

          Which also speaks to the author’s point. How many on the left even know why the above names are significant and where the real story lies? (hint: it isn’t in the Seychelles) You can bet anybody that does know also can tell you plenty about what Mueller has been up to. It’s the world we live in. The left thoroughly controls the media and entertainment culture and narrative that washes over all of us. It leaves a great number of their fellow travelers who feel comfortable in that bubble (and don’t step outside of it) clueless about a great number of things that other people understand.

          it is likely what makes you so platitudinous and dependent on Google to frame your arguments, Steve.

          • Steven says

            I do not derive joy from watching others suffer, those who do tend to live sad, miserable lives devoid of success or accomplishment. I might feel more anger towards them if their lives weren’t generally so awful.

            My points are dependent on facts, ironically enough you concede the facts every time I point them out, you just don’t allow them to override your anger and prejudices.

            Which is also sad.

          • Is this for real though. The text is about how the leftists are so much more intolerant than the right wing, and you serve us with “if you disagree with me you have no soul”. Truly ironic.

          • Brad says

            I think you err in thinking those you mentioned experience sleeplessness. Sociopaths do not have such reactions. Add Bill Clinton to the list

          • Sean says

            This page is full of cunts…but you stand out as a real proper cunt.

        • Jen W says

          Weinstein didn’t quit. His was asked to leave as part of the settlement of his lawsuit with Evergreen State College.

    • Beny says

      This argument is a non sequitur. The quillette article is mainly about academia where ideas were supposed to run freely.
      Your example is of the political world which by definition is divisive and more dogmatic.
      It’s been like this forever.

      • Kurt says

        I can’t tell, because of the way the mobile page formats, if you are addressing me or Steven.

        But are you suggesting that nearly everything argued about on campus these days isn’t about politics and isn’t dominated by a divisive, dogmatic, and political point of view? Didn’t we just see classes canceled and safe spaces privided for students to grieve after an election? Isn’t that politics? Did we see that in 2008 or 2012? Hasn’t it been this way, and growing worse, since at least the 60s?

        Are you suggesting that the collective of every humanities and education department of every public and private university (along with nearly every administration, with their diversity officers) doesn’t make up the far left wing of the Democratic party and exist to accomplish the same political goal?

        Are you suggesting that the University as it stands, outside some STEM fields (that are now also under attack from critical theory), isn’t essentially a boot camp for new Democratic party activists that leaves its recruits emotionally and intellectually stunted?

        Isn’t that the whole point the article?

      • Steven says

        Barry, this article is about personal experiences arguing with people and the media. It starts off with an image of Ben Affleck, remind me again which university he is a professor in?

        My example was David Frum and Eric Dondero: Frum is a pundit who writes op-ed pieces, Dondero is an activist. Like Affleck, Maher and many of the others mentioned above, they are part of the media, not the educational system.

      • Steven says


        This article references the media so many times I don’t know how you can pretend otherwise.

        My examples were of the media, which is the primary focus of this article.

  6. Thanks to the recent debates about gun control, I’ve seen quite a few over-emotional conservative responses lately, and abortion seems to provoke severe overreactive, my-way-or-the-highway conservative thinking, too. As a level-headed progressive who enjoys working alongside level-headed conservatives and level-headed progressives, I cringe when I see emotional overreaction from either side. Just because conservative overreaction isn’t typical in academia doesn’t mean it isn’t typical period. This article presumes antagonism from the left based on the writer’s exposure to TV and university life anecdotes, but there is life outside of those very small, unrealistic, and contrived spheres of experience.

    • Really? Gee, well to Hell with conservatives for being a tad cranky about the murder of unborn babies and about people wanting to take away their ability to defend themselves and their families, right? But if you ask me, that seems sort of different from getting bent out of shape and throwing tantrums over non-existent wage gaps, boys whistling at pretty girls, the fact that most engineers are men, the mere existence of white people, the fact that some people are more competent than others, conservative speakers showing up on campuses to give talks, the monstrous problem that movies tend to have more white people than black people in them, bad dates, the fact that Hillary didn’t get elected but “Hitler — er, orange Cheetoh-man” did, the reality that we don’t all live in a socialist utopia like Venezuela, the fact that most men aren’t sexually attracted to fat women the Hellish truth that most men don’t want to have sex with transwomen, and other such horrors.

      • Timoth says

        Your response is exactly what characterizes the inability to actually discuss. “Really? Gee, well to Hell with conservatives for being a tad cranky about the murder of unborn babies” You can say the exact same thing about gun control “Really? Gee, well to Hell with liberals for being a tad cranky about the murder of children”. You play the exact same hand as they do. This is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read honestly, trying to claim the high-ground while simultaneously committing the act you are disparaging. Pathetic. You are why people dislike conservatives. I hope you never engage in public debate again, you make us look bad.

        • I “get” Leftists being concerned about the murder of children (but believe their solution won’t work); they don’t get conservatives’ concern about the murder of unborn children. That is the problem.

    • Yes this article is interesting but ultimately assumes progressive intellectuals are just completely unaware of the arguments on the right by equating them with…Ben Affleck? A known expert in which field again? If the author wants to talk on leftist bias in Hollywood, that would be an interesting topic but ultimately require a whole other article.

      • How does academic intellectuals’ understanding of Muslim immigration into the West differ from Affleck’s?

  7. augustine says

    Thanks to Mr. Blackwell for an excellent summary discussion.

    @Reading Nomad

    If Quillette published nothing but right wing windbaggery for the next 50 years it would not begin to make a dent in the voluminous effluence of the modern liberal experiment. Repetition of good ideas and good faith reasoning are needed all over again, every day, without relent. Isn’t that how the last 50 years of progressive campaigns have been so successful?

    • In other words, this is the future of the site. Dogma. So all the calls for debate and diverse views are just insincere. And repetition of the same thing over an over and over would eventually put maybe even you to sleep. And you too would move on to the next big thing.

      There are heck of a lot places where there is plenty of “right wing windbaggery”. Is there need for another one?

      “Thanks to Mr. Blackwell for an excellent summary discussion.”

      So you agree this is nothing new. Priceless!

      • defmn says

        I’ll stick my neck out and agree with you that this site does publish (is that the right word on the internet?) a lot of articles railing against the stupidity of the progressive agenda. It is not balanced in terms of partisanship at all.

        That said I think the reason for that is because the philosophic issues are not nearly as interesting to most people as the political implications of the philosophic dichotomy.

        In other words there are far fewer people – in general & on this site – interested in understanding the tradition of political philosophy than there are those who are interested in memorizing the arguments made by the authors here so that they can use them to try and win arguments with those they disagree with or reinforce their own beliefs.

        Now, I tend to agree with the conclusions of many of the articles I read here while retaining a level of skepticism regarding the premises many of them are built upon but that is because political philosophy is the ‘idol of the theatre’ – to use a wonderful phrase from Bacon – through which I view the contemporary political landscape.

        But there is no doubt in my mind that our western democracies have gone off the rail. We are still waiting – at least as far as I know – for that great thinker able to respond appropriately to the challenges Nietzsche threw down. As a result the political landscape has been infected by the plethora of second and third rate thinkers who have filled that void with an array of destructive political ideologies representing the permanent options available to our less than perfect nature as humans.

        Personally I would welcome intelligently written commentary that could explain the metaphysical underpinnings the ‘left’ think support their political postures. I admit that is mostly because it would allow me to make fun of them but it would also be instructive for the political debate because imo it is not possible to change people’s minds by attacking their conclusions. You have to expose their premises and arguments as being questionable or false in order for the penny to drop. And that, of course, is a philosophic enterprise rather than a political polemic and requires a deeper dive into the idea of ‘human rights’ and the validity and origin of that concept.


        • William Blaxton says


          “…it would also be instructive for the political debate because imo it is not possible to change people’s minds by attacking their conclusions. You have to expose their premises and arguments as being questionable or false in order for the penny to drop.”

          Perhaps you overrate the capacity of Rationality, as I believe Sam Harris and Steven Pinker do. We have thousands of years of evidence that most humans do not change their views through some Rational mechanism when presented with clear and contrary evidence. In this sense, human thinking is far more religious-like, and obviously heavily affected by the local team or tribe one is affiliated with. If anyone wants an idea on how far science denial on the far left has progressed, look no further than a recent Pew poll which showed that some 25% of women believe that differences in physical abilities between men and women are mostly based on societal expectations, rather than biology.


      • Suzanne says

        Reading Nomad, I agree that seeing a range of POVs would be great. If you have an idea for a piece, then why dont you query the editor?

  8. augustine says

    @previous comment
    I meant to reference the repetitive aspect of progressive campaigns; their goodness or lack thereof is obviously open to interpretation.

  9. Darrell Hill says

    Another bullshit attempt ti demonize liberals. Good luck with that.

    • “Bullshit” is not a magic word that will make your opponents forget the numerous and widely circulating examples cited in the article whereas you bring none.

  10. Darrell Hill says

    Anytime anyone paints a group with such a broad brush, it’s time to call BS.

    • ga gamba says

      I agree. Patriarchy. White supremacy. Rape culture. Toxic masculity.

      Such broad brushes!

      In fact, there may be no brushes at all; just large pails of paint dumped over the canvas.

  11. Darrell Hill says

    The writer tends to dismiss any argument because there’s passion behind it. He somewhat equates passion with superficiality and unwillingness to go deeper. That’s exactly the sort of bias he argues against from a different angle. And he’s very generous with the idea of conservative openness. That has been far from most experiences I’ve had where I’ve been called names and been stereotyped by conservatoves as the means to dismiss any perspective I have. This pseudo-intellectual needs to visit the real world.

    • Passion isn’t the problem; a lack of logic is. Try debating your perspective using solid premises and decent reasoning, and do so without white noise machines, bike locks to the head, and mindless chanting; watching you emote won’t be persuasive for any conservative I know.

  12. Nice article. I’m looking forward to the slow painful death of everything “Critical Theory.” It is the BANE of academia and is tearing Western culture to shreds, with the generous help of the corporate mockingbird media.

    • Imagine the dread that filled my stomach when I discovered that the next text we’re reading in my Literary Criticism class is nothing but Critical Theory. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to keep my mouth shut as we’re being taught this nonsense for several weeks.

      In the spirit of this article, I think I’ll use the class as an opportunity to learn what the enemies of critical thought believe. But it frightens me to think what my classmates are going to uncritically absorb while we read this stuff.

  13. Robert Night says

    It is true that educated conservatives must learn double the material in almost every field. Left-leaning material is spoon fed to students starting in grade school. Conservatives have written untold volumes and articles probing progessive ideology, so much so that it forms a staple of the conservative intellectual market. It has undoubtedly given conservatives an advantage to make up for their institutional weaknesses.

    It requires serious study to understand those with very different points of view. It requires becoming familiar with offensiveness. Progressives have a long way to go if they wish to “coexist,” instead of moving along their frightening path to Orwellianism.

  14. Abu Nudnik says

    In a word, the so-called progressives have on argument: “HERETIC!”

    • Nah, they also have “fascist,” “racist,” misogynist,” “homophobe,” “transphobe,” heteronormative,” “white,” “cisgendered,” “male,” “Nazi,” and other great one-note conversation-enders.

      On second thought, they all could be consolidated into the word “heretic.”

  15. Scott B says

    It has long been observed that ‘the left’ is more inclined towards aggressive dogmatism than ‘the right’ – I don’t think there has been a better parody than Rik from The Young Ones. I think it comes from an ego position of needing to feel intellectually and morally superior, which in turn requires certainty. Hence the hostility towards nuance and open dialogue and the tendency to perceive any questioning of the dogma as an attack on the individual.

    The result is a cultish mindset based on clinging to a set of dogma probably received at university, where this ego position first established itself. But unlike a self-contained cult leftist dogma is ill-defined, hence all the intersectional silliness and factionalism once again parodied expertly in the early 80s by Monty Python and the People’s Front of Judea.

    Among the many excellent points made in the above piece is the observation that Universities themselves seem to be increasingly encouraging this dogmatism when they should be doing exactly the opposite. I think this is due to a combination of weakness on their part and a desire to pander to students they now see as clients.

    The only effective way to confront this aggressive dogmatism is through calm reasoning, perhaps augmented with a touch of gentle parody every now and then. The apparently growing militance of these types indicates panic and vulnerability but the ultimate win isn’t to crush them. As we’ve seen with the likes of Dave Rubin, the covert often becomes the most energetic advocate and promoting calm, nuance and reason should be our aim.

  16. Forceful publication, thanks….
    It is a simple reality that there are three types of subjects dominate the world and if we like to look at it in ones most Simplicity as possible, perhaps one get’s air and space to shift focus and attention, without contradiction or sense for argument.
    Politics, commerce and religion. All three thrive because of one simple and ancient universal principle; ‘Divide and conquer’. Three subject quite responsible for so many different (senseless/useless) discussion developing into quite some strong and vile division of (woman) up to the most extreme hate, envy, jealousy, war.

    There is only one way these three, as having a common denominator predominantly, are spread around. Violence and fear. Both quite negative I’d say. Any debate is fine, but if (wo)man doesn’t have the strength and courage, to leave any view or opinion, in the eye and hand of the beholder, knowing we may differ because we are different and individually unique, those turning to any form of violence and oppression, lose in the end. That too is universal principle fact and all one has to do is read the history books.

    If one would like at splendor of things to see how one has come to ‘a conclusion’ without looking any different to the (wo)man, allowing the other to do exactly that, at the end of any argument all there is, is perhaps a bottle of wine and peace to share.

  17. RichieRich says

    A whole raft of brilliant philosophers and Nobel Prize-winning economists lean to the right. The problem is that these people tend to go into business or enter academic fields like engineering, economics, and mathematics.

    Do brilliant philosophers really “tend to go into…engineering”? Certainly, Nobel Prize-winning economists “tend to go into…academic fields like…economics”!

  18. RichieRich says

    To put it bluntly, Haidt and his colleagues found that progressives don’t understand conservatives the way conservatives understand progressives. This he calls the ‘conservative advantage,’ and it goes a long way in explaining the different ways each side deals with opinions unlike their own. People get angry at what they don’t understand, and an all-progressive education ensures that they don’t understand.

    Do people always get angry at what they don’t understand? Usually? Sometimes? Occasionally?

    • Andrew says

      @RichieRich I’d say frustration leading to anger is a natural response when you don’t understand why someone refuses to share your most urgently held beliefs. It quickly becomes I’m a good and that person doesn’t want to be good, and if that person isn’t good then bad things will continue to happen.

  19. POC says

    The article addresses an extremely important issue for our society today. Unfortunately, I think the article does not focus on the essential point. The article addresses ‘progressive hostility’ and I think it’s more useful to focus on the psychology driving this attitude than to debate the finer points of different postmodern thinkers. Fundamentally, this is not a problem that can be solved with reason and evidence.

    I’m going to use the terms ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ for convenience. I mean them as neutral descriptive labels.

    My experience (therefore limited) is that progressives are more inclined to form their views based on emotion and to use motivated reasoning to sustain their viewpoint. Conservatives are more inclined to use logic and evidence (though also susceptible to the human foibles of motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, etc). I use the word ‘inclined’ deliberately, as I believe that these are all just tendencies and everyone operates with a mix of emotion and reason. For the sake of discussion, I do think it is reasonably accurate to make the generalisations that I have.

    Progressives, therefore, are more inclined to respond to a challenge to their viewpoint using emotion and to resist appeals to evidence and logic. They interpret a challenge to their views as a challenge to their identity because their views are grounded in emotion and define who they see themselves as. Hence the outrage shown by Ben Affleck against Sam Harris, and his resistance to persuasion.

    Progressives, grounded in emotion, are more inclined to be intolerant of other points of view, to stifle debate, to seek to enforce conformity and to use whatever means possible to achieve their goals. (For balance, I think the same can be said for far-right extremists).

    Free speech advocates and conservatives are mistaken in thinking that they can sway progressives with appeals to evidence and logic. Progressives are pretty well impervious to this. Similarly, progressives are pretty ineffective in swaying conservatives with emotional appeals.

    The goal shouldn’t be conformity of opinion – just the opposite – but we need to find a way to talk to each other, to reach compromises and to tolerate differing points of view. I have no idea how we can achieve this. Progressives have reframed public discourse as an arena of power and have closed their minds to other points of view. Conservatives are rightly reluctant to engage progressives on their terms (i.e., a raw contest of power) but it remains to be seen whether the conservative strategy of trying to win over the moderate centrists with logic and evidence will be effective against the more ruthless tactics of the progressive left.

  20. RichieRich says

    For example, one of the concepts most ridiculed by philosophers in recent decades has been the notion of ‘social justice,’ which has received such a beating that the Nobel Prize winning economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek once remarked that shame should fall upon people who still defend the idea.

    This is absurd. Sure, some philosophers have attacked egalitarian liberal notions of justice but a large number of eminent political philosophers defend such notions. Rawls, Dworkin, Arneson, Cohen, Barry and so on and so on. Indeed, I’d have thought that the majority of political philosophers within the academy are some variety of egalitarian liberal.

  21. Cycologist says

    Blind spot bias, anyone? Science shows that people think it is always the others, never me… holds for political leanings and other issues, those who think differently are the ones who react unreasonable.

    As said in the scripture: Matthew 7:5
    You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

  22. Pingback: The Psychology of Progressive Hostility | Sassy Wire

  23. Henry Edwards says

    Interesting stuff. As a liberal who works in academia, social psychology no less, there definitely is a liberal bias in academia. That said, methinks the author doth protest too much. There are zealots on the right and zealots on the left. Zealots are, by nature, zealots. We all should listen more and not shout others down. We should commit to reason, science, & evidence. I think Elizabeth Warren & Bernie are brilliant, but they ignore evidence that doesn’t fit their worldviews (& one reason I support more pragmatic liberals than they).

    That said, in the progressive bubble at the Ivy League school where I work, I’m not hearing the same level of anti-reason/science/rule of law rhetoric that I’m hearing from the President and other leading conservatives. Yes, there are left-wingers on campuses shouting down people with “privilege,” and this is wrong. But it’s nothing like the most powerful person in the country trying to stifle freedom of the press, undermining generally good institutions like the department of justice an FBI, and supporting cultural conservative positions not because of their rationale or evidence, but because they win votes (while hurting people like immigrants, LGBT‘s, etc.). There is often too little humility on the left, but I have seen more humility and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than I did the George W. Bush and Trump. (W. shows much more humility as an ex-president, but remember during his presidency he came up with no answer when asked if he had made any mistakes.)

    My worry is that since there are indeed zealots on the left and zealots on the right, people will come away thinking there’s a false equivalence. I think what the zealots on the left are doing is bad, but the President is acting like a zealot and making unreasoned decisions that disdain evidence and scientific inquiry. Nothing on he left reaches Trump’s hostility, volume and power.

    Re: hostility to religion, I am a Christian by choice (but not certainty), & when other people question religion from a rational standpoint, I really have no good arguments. If God existed we would have a photo or some physical evidence by now. I go to church and practice religion because I think it’s a good thing, but I don’t have a scrap of proof (& I certainly shouldn’t proselytize). So I expect some hostility and questioning because there’s good reason to question. Sadly, my faith, like nearly every faith, has a pretty bad track record on human rights. But I stick around because the people in my Christian community are doing great things. I embrace the paradox but don’t claim I have the truth or foist it on others.

    So, keep pressuring those on the left who eschew reason, evidence, & science, but focus most on where the most harm is being done, which is by populists on the right who have disdain for reason, evidence, & science…& control
    most of he levers of power in the US.

    • Short reply.

      Your kind completed the long march through the institutions and you’ve had it all your way for a generation and more.

      Now you are facing the reaction or counter-revolution and we’re going to show you just as much compassion as you’ve shown us.

      To our ears, your examples are risible.

      The press attacks Trump and those who support him. Trump counter-attacks. You conclude Trump is stifling freedom of the press.

      The FBI, DoJ and CIA joined with MI6 and the EU intelligence apparatus to bring down a freely elected official. You conclude the FBI and DoJ are generally good institutions that must be supported. We see it a failed coup, nothing more.

      You assert that Trump supports conservative cultural institutions because that wins votes and hurts your pet groups. You would have us believe that you are not supporting your pet groups simply because that also wins votes. We don’t believe you.

      • Henry Edwards says

        Obama’s citizenship was questioned. There was no proof yet Trump persisted. Obama didn’t like the way much of the press treated him but he accepted it as part of the job. Trump shouldn’t defend himself any more than Obama did..or W or Clinton. They all accepted that the press is critical. Trump calls out specific outlets as “fake news” even though he has no or little proof. He’s undermining the press and a commitment to evidence.

        We have had our way? Is this deep state BS? Mueller is compiling tons of evidence against Trump & his confreres the good old fashioned way. Where’s the deep state smoking gun? And #maga? Before Trump was sworn in we had record longevity, health, wealth, education, freedom, low violence, low war, etc. The carnage Trump speaks about…murder rates are near record lows! You may feel 🇺🇸 was bad but it’s never been better (politics excepted). #maga discounts the current (before and during Trump) greatness of America to get people afraid so they’ll follow Trump (& eschew pluralism, commitment to fact/science/evidence, democracy…even free markets (tariffs).

        A bit of a tangent but it’s apropos: I am a white, male, Christian. We have had our way and that’s fine. I think everyone should have a place at the table. White male Christians should not be threatened by globalism, modernity, liberalism. If you are a white male Christian and you feel threatened by 21st century modernity, well toughen up man! Don’t play victim. You aren’t. My white male Christian ID has (unfairly) been beneficial to me.

    • defmn says

      I applaud your courage in identifying as a liberal on this site. 😉 I think it deserves a response so here I go.

      //I think Elizabeth Warren & Bernie are brilliant, but they ignore evidence that doesn’t fit their worldviews (& one reason I support more pragmatic liberals than they). //

      It is not logical to think somebody is brilliant and at the same time accuse them of ignoring evidence that does not fit their worldviews. That is not the definition of brilliant. That is the definition of a dogmatic ideologue. And to be clear I am not saying that is what they are. I am pointing out that you have called them something and in the same sentence explained why what you said is not possibly correct.

      //That said, in the progressive bubble at the Ivy League school where I work, I’m not hearing the same level of anti-reason/science/rule of law rhetoric that I’m hearing from the President and other leading conservatives. //

      Trump is not a conservative. Thinking he is simply indicates that you don’t understand what a conservative is. Trump is, shall we say, adaptable. He cares about the economy and security. I have not seen any indication that he cares deeply about anything else. He has figured out that if he wants support for his agenda on security and the economy he has to have support and he doesn’t particularly care where he finds it.

      //But it’s nothing like the most powerful person in the country trying to stifle freedom of the press, undermining generally good institutions like the department of justice an FBI, and supporting cultural conservative positions not because of their rationale or evidence, but because they win votes (while hurting people like immigrants, LGBT‘s, etc.).//

      The idea that Trump is trying to stifle freedom of the press because he calls them liars and makes fun of them is a liberal narrative. To my knowledge he has not kept one single media outlet from running any story they want to run. That would actually constitute stifling freedom of the press. What Trump does is say that the press gave up reporting news a long time ago. What they do now is report the part of the news that supports a liberal perspective while remaining silent or dismissive of views that do not support their worldview – sort of like Bernie and Elizabeth. Or Fox News for that matter. All news has become obviously polemic. That says more about our educational system than it says about Trump.

      Secondly I have never yet heard Trump hurting immigrants. That is also a liberal narrative. Opposing illegal immigration is not the same thing as hurting legal immigrants. He is married to an immigrant. Illegal is different than legal in a country built on the concept of rule of law. It is actually fundamentally different. The fact that liberals don’t seem to recognize that fundamental difference is quite disconcerting.

      The LGBT community is a long discussion. Almost as long as the full list of sexual differences it represents. But it is a discussion largely built upon the assumption that sexual behaviour should be outside the purview of government regulation. I believe that contention is then supported by reference to either some very murky genetic theory or an unsubstantiated and religious belief in ‘human rights’.

      I’m not sure why you think Trump is hurting this particular community – I suspect it has something to do with transsexuals participation in the military or washroom usage – but this is an issue that the left continues to trivialize by conflating the promise of liberal democracy to allow behaviour different from the majority with the idea that it is the government’s role to support or even encourage such differences. In either case I think your belief that Trump has hurt this segment of society overstates the issue while misunderstanding it.

      As for the FBA and DOJ those are ongoing investigations which at the moment seem more likely to implicate their upper management than exonerate them. But we will see how it plays out. There is little doubt in my mind though that Trump is correct that their handling of aspects of Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and the election campaign has clearly indicated a more partisan bias than should exist in those organizations.

      //Re: hostility to religion, I am a Christian by choice (but not certainty), & when other people question religion from a rational standpoint, I really have no good arguments.//

      I am an atheist myself. As such I am constantly amazed how liberals confuse religious opinion with conservative opinion simply because the religious align more closely with a conservative perspective in secular states. The left often enjoys making fun of those who believe in an omniscient moral force. They believe that believing in a god makes people stupid and rarely resist the opportunity to say so. Of course the left’s religious belief in the existence of ‘human rights’ suffers from the same lack of rigour in establishing its authority over what constitutes correct human behaviour. A perspective that never seems to occur to the progressive mind.

      Anyway this is offered in the spirit of encouraging discussion or debate but I think that you will find that railing against Trump as a legitimate argument against conservative values is a dead end. Trump was successful largely because he rejected the foolishness that has taken over the progressive agenda as opposed to the idea that he represents conservatives in any consistent manner.

      I hope this helps.

      • Steven says

        You make an interesting argument. When you say “liberals confuse religious opinion with conservative opinion simply because the religious align more closely with a conservative perspective in secular states” I am unclear on your meaning. Liberals typically point out that when one can offer no basis for a belief beyond their own personal prejudices, prejudices which happen to align with conservative christian dogma, we usually assume the belief to be religious in nature.

        The r-wing view on homosexuals is a good example of this.

        • defmn says

          I’ll try to answer using your choice of example to see if that makes sense.

          I’ll use ‘Christian’ as a proxy for ‘religious’ just to keep the argument narrowed as I think that covers enough of the discussion for this purpose.

          A Christian might argue that homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says so and that is really the end of the discussion since the Bible reflects the word of god.

          A conservative could – not ‘would’ because there are alternative arguments – argue that the primary responsibility of any government is to provide protection against hostile external forces and that that requires young men to defend it. Homosexuality does not produce offspring and is therefore not a behaviour that can enjoy state support since it not only does not provide the offspring required for the defence of the state but if monogamous it excludes those individuals from also forming a heterosexual relationship that could produce that need for the state.

          With the rise of technology and concerns regarding over population that argument provides historical context but is open to the rebuttal that it is no longer relevant. The need for ‘cannon fodder’ has passed would be one retort. Of course the discussion then muddies because ‘workforce’ has largely replaced ‘defender’ in our modern commercial world. Immigration versus childbirth starts a discussion on the role of culture in a state.

          This argument, btw, is the same argument as to why issues such as abortion, birth control pills, euthanasia saw such a sea change during the last 50 years. Without specifically understanding that population maintenance or growth no longer offers the same assurance of protection from invasion society intuitively revisited its position on these issues.

          You are conservative if you think that it is incumbent upon change to justify itself rather than the progressive view that the status quo is required to defend its past.

          What has been lost in the contemporary discussion is that the state can allow, ignore, encourage, or enshrine in law the behaviours of its citizens.

          It is the promise of the modern liberal democracy envisioned by its authors that behaviour that does not endanger or weaken the state should remain unregulated. It did not promise to encourage it or specifically enshrine it in law. So while the reason for homosexuality being illegal is questionable that does not necessarily translate into a requirement that government promote it as an equally viable alternative to heterosexual arrangements unless it can make the case that it provides the various other advantages to the state that the heterosexual arrangement has provided over the centuries.

          But that is a longer discussion.

          • Steven says


            This is exactly my point. Conservatives cannot, and I say cannot because they have utterly failed despite being granted ample opportunity, provide one single logical argument in defense of their bigotry towards homosexuals. Each and every one fails under even the most basic scrutiny.

            1) Our society is not, in any way, lacking for “young men to defend it”. We do not have an underpopulation problem, we are in fact dealing with an overpopulation problem. And even if we did, many homosexual couples do in fact have children throughout artificial means.

            2) But even if underpopulation was an issue, you would not be offering a consistent argument as plenty of heterosexual relationships, monogamous or otherwise, do not produce offspring. Therefore it is obviously hypocritical to claim heterosexual relationships” must be given extra special rights so people will breed.

            3) Persecuting homosexuals does not, in any way, alter a persons sexual orientation. No independent study has ever found so-called “conversion therapy” to be remotely effective in altering peoples attraction. Saying that heterosexual relationships, but even then only marriage, enjoy the support of the state because they produce offspring is invariably false. One can have children in a relationship outside of marriage, which has no state support, and one can have a “state supported relationship”.

            4) As to your claim that homosexuals must justify their relationships as providing the same benefits to society, as I have already pointed out, heterosexual marriage provides none of the benefits you claim it does. It simplifies parental rights, property rights and certain issues related to healthcare. But it does not a single thing you claim it does.

            Hope that clarifies my point.

            Conservatives can offer nothing but vague poetical waxing about their preferences and will do any number of mental gymnastics in order to justify persecuting homosexuals. Even going so far as to pretend marriage is about producing offspring when that is clearly false. If they actually believed this, they would not consider a childless marriage to be a marriage. Similarly, they would have to explain how all the children born outside of marriage are somehow being less able to “defend the state”, another obvious falsehood.

      • Henry Edwards says

        Sorry, but the Shroud of Turin is really cool but probably a forgery. There’s some controversy about whether or not he dates from the first century A.D. Even if it does, there’s no proof it’s actually Christ. The onus is on the person making the claim, and the chance that it’s Christ is one in tens of thousands of people who died at that time.

    • augustine says

      Interesting phrases in your missive, especially “Christian by choice (but not certainty)…” It’s a good way to phrase something that is not easy to express, at least for me, and is inviting to a reasoned discussion.

      But I would apply “false equivalence” in broader terms.

      We tend to think in terms of Left and Right, Conservative and Liberal, as being roughly equivalent political-philosophic realms, but I don’t think they are. I’ve come to believe that the conservative or traditional represents our baseline cultures and social behaviors, underlain by instincts that are largely in harmony with the natural order– nature is viewed as something divine rather than a limitation to be understood and mastered (cf. scientism).

      Liberal or progressive ideas are set against this backdrop (and really have no meaning without it). If we imagine tradition as a mountain range, then liberalism serves as the rainfall that erodes and reconstitutes the old material into new, sometimes destructively. Rainfall patterns are a major determinant in where people live on earth, to carry on the analogy.

      The basic force of modern liberal thought– creative, disruptive, seeking to abolish limits and boundaries that would confine the human experience and limit our autonomy– helps us keep a balance or evolution of ideas and practices when it maintains a participatory role and not a leading role. Its principles are not suited to lead groups of people, if for no other reason than its aims are indeterminate and process-driven rather than content-diven or spirit-driven. Experiments in 20th century Russia and China are blunt examples of this fatal flaw in practice.

      Liberals in many ways have gotten carried away with their ideas and the success of those ideas in the last few generations. Push back is inevitable.

    • Jeff Walther says

      @Henry Edwards

      If Bush realized at the time that invading Iraq was a mistake, could he admit it? Not even for himself, but would it be right after the efforts and sacrifice of so many people in uniform to say, “Sorry, all that you went through, all you gave and sacrificed, all the time you missed with your families; that was a mistake.”

      Even if he admitted it to himself, would it have been the right thing to do to say so publicly?

      Regarding religion, bad track records and good works. Starlets, when asked about religion often quip that they don’t like religion but that they are very “spiritual”, whatever the heck that means.

      I think they have it exactly backwards. The spiritual part of religion, as you point out, lacks any evidence to support it. But the organization of a local congregation provides a sense of community, trusted people to comfort the sick, infirm and dying, to perform meaningful ceremonies that mark life’s turning points, and in the best examples, the congregations also provide valuable community services.

      It’s a pity we can’t seem to have “religion” without the superstitious spiritual part. It’s the latter that gets used to justify the bad track records, usually.

  24. suzanne Humphreys-Hogg says

    so few people have the capacity to actually think critically for themselves if they are faced with ideas that differ from their own they are unable to look at the facts that may or may not support those ideas and judge that information based on its merit rather than what conclusions have already been imprinted on their minds by whom ever or what ever they have been exposed to. It’s unfortunate but critical thinking is not a universal ability . Look at all the people who follow bullies because it makes them feel like they are part of something stronger and bigger than themselves . How about all the great people who feel their role at work is to support their boss regardless of whether that person is ethical , honest or correct . It is more challenging to think for yourself , so most people just don’t .

  25. ccscientist says

    Throughout history, people have obtained their certainty from religion, which gives them a place in the world. In the absence of religion, progressives have taken on politics (an absolutist, rigid politics) as their religion. They cannot imagine that other people might value different things, have different experiences, etc and therefore cannot debate or even listen. Anyone else with an opinion is nor merely stupid or wrong but is expressing a heresy. I guarantee that these extremists who are shouting down conservative speakers do not belong to any traditional church.

  26. KeithCenter says

    I’m a classic liberals at heart. But I do find people on the far left almost childlike, immature in their responses and perceptions. I will agree that people on the right seem to calmly hold onto their ideas with debate. You don’t walk away angry.

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  28. I have wondered if the push to get everybody to go to college has something to do with this.
    Sowell pointed out in Inside American Education that when people entered college on the quota system, they would find themselves out of their league and would turn to activism instead of academics.

  29. Santoculto says

    ”Recently, I arrived at a moment of introspection”

    It was revealing, how do you felt*

  30. It’s *very* simple. As libertarian/conservatives, we know the leftists are outright wrong, so we engage with mild amusement that someone could be so…well..wrong. There’s no reason to get upset because nothing they say actually conflicts with our beliefs, they’re just…jokes.

  31. Ronald Nugent says

    I am “conservative” on some issues (e.g., abortion and same sex marriage) and progressive on others (e.g., immigration and indigenous affairs). My experience is the opposite of the writer’s. I find that it is my “conservative” friends who become angry and abusive if I express a view with which they disagree.

    • Santoculto says

      Be against same sex marriage is one of the most dumbest and pointless ”point of view”. What do you have to do with it** Nothing. It’s not you who will marry and in the end, conventional marriage IS a conservative value, why not try to inject some healthy conservative values within LGBT community**

      Ok, debate about adoption is little more complex but still with similar destiny if rationality is accessed.

      People who have mental disorders, SPECIALLY related with CHARACTER, can’t adopt a human or a non-human puppy, regardless their sexual prefference.

  32. doug says

    This whole discussion is remarkably data-free. Dozens of anecdotes about how friends react (typically, the author of the comment and his/her fellows are incredibly reasonable and the other side…well…not). It’s probably redundant but good advice would be for you-all to steer clear of the sciences.

    Unfortunately, we’re likely going to discover the underpinnings for the major differences in point of view are biological. Where would that leave us?

    We might do better to look at ourselves as an ant colony and figure out how to engage ourselves with what we’re good at, rather than trying to argue out who’s right and who’s wrong…

    • Les says

      The arguments will always be with us, because, as others have pointed out, they are rarely forwarded by reason. ala Monty Python’s Argument Clinic. It would all be just as humourous as that skit if there weren’t real world consequences.
      Totalitarianism of any flavour comes easily to humankind it seems, both in culture and government. Likewise de-(con)struction comes more easily than construction, because, I would surmise, it doesn’t require near the talent or intellect to be done well.
      I remember the chants not so long ago against laws based on religious moral convictions, “keep your laws off my body!”
      Today, against laws based on religious moral convictions, those such as Jordan Peterson are essentially saying, “keep your laws off my speech!”

      Plus ca change…

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  34. Cretinous as politically-correct liberals are, I don’t for a second buy this author’s depiction of conservatives as people who, by listening to opposing arguments, have a deeper understanding of the world. Who does he think he’s kidding? Conservatives have only one argument: that might is right, whether its inherited from the idiotic descendants of robber barons, stolen from the labour of the working class, or extracted at the point of a gun. We get enough right-wing views from our government, media, press and financial sector, and the cops that impose them on us, without writers using a denunciation of political correctness and the growing stupidity and santimonious of the so-called ‘left’ to promote their cut-throat ideology as the royal road to wisdom through debate. While this article is right in many of its observations about the increasingly dictatorial nature of so-called liberals, it says a lot more about the bad faith of conservatives and how they justify their position in the world through these kinds of absurd self-representations.

  35. The left and SJW are usually quite traumatized and triggered by any facts or opinions not agreeable with their worldview. No wonder their responses are quite rude and not elaborate. Recent lecture by Dr. Peterson and Queen’s University caused quite a meltdown that, as Christie Blatchford reported in National Post, required an offer of a safe space with “colouring pages, music, food and discussion,” for traumatized SJW.
    It’s difficult to be a leftist, marxist, or any of the so called “progressives” as their ideologies got thoroughly discredited by creating, when applied as intended, nothing but human misery through economical deprivations and mass murder of their fellow citizens in the name of “progress” .

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  38. John McCormick says

    I suggest that we please stop calling people whose views are on the left side of the political spectrum “liberals” or “‘progressive”. They are certainly not liberal, and they don’t believe in progress. Let’s call them progressivists. While conservatives have faith in tradition, progressivists have faith is in novelty. They like what is new or shocking and they want to be congratulated for their views as people want to be congratulated for wearing the latest fashions or appreciated for having the latest iPhone. Now, how do I know this? I used to be one of them.

    • Santoculto says


      conservs are AMAZINGBLE people…


      illibs / neo-leftists have a excess of stupidity

      old-conservs have a lack of [more] intelligence.

      i’m talking about AVERAGE ilibs and cons.

      But old-leftists are conservatives who, seems, care more about social justice than tradition. They blame/d elites while traditional conservs blame people themselves to not be a great workers/serfs as them.

      Neo-leftists are just like ”domestic dog” while old-conservs are like ”hunter dog/farmer dog”. both have in common the fact they are domesticated breeds, easily manipulated by their masters.

  39. unaha-closp says

    It is all basic supply and demand.

    The University tells students they are correct about everything, the students pay $20,000 a year to hear they are correct and the University gets rich.

  40. Well put. I have found the truth of this for more than 30 years now. When we tell children that they are all smart and worthy, and they find out that they really are unexceptional, they throw their rude little fits at those they cannot understand and launch a reasoned dispute against.

  41. The Quillette article doesn’t go very deeply into WHY conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives, and WHY liberals have always been so intolerant, angry, and hateful.

    Haidt’s research has so far uncovered six evolved psychological mechanisms of social perception, subconscious intuitive understanding, and conscious reasoning. He calls them moral foundations. He ALSO finds that moral foundations are the essential building blocks of human society. In his 2008 TED Talk “The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives” he explains that human society is possible through the use of “all the tools in the toolbox.” It’s no coincidence that evolution pre-wired them into our brains.

    Haidt finds that conservatives use all of them but liberals use about half of them, and of that half mostly just one. There’s no conservative moral foundation that is not also a liberal one, but half of the conservative foundations are external to, and inaccessible by, liberal cognition.

    When half of the evolved psychological mechanisms of social perception and understanding are essentially unavailable to one’s subconscious intuitions and conscious reasoning one is left with no cognitive alternative for understanding people who think differently but to conclude that they’re afflicted with some sort of mental dysfunction.

    A conversation about social issues between a liberal and a conservative is like a conversation about rainbows between a color blind person and a fully sighted one in which the color blind liberal “knows” that the sighted conservative is an extremist nut case because he sees moral colors that “everybody knows” are just not there, and conservative think liberals are misinformed because they DON’T see moral colors that everybody knows ARE there. In The Righteous Mind, Haidt observes:

    “You might even go as far as Michael Feingold, a theater critic for the liberal newspaper the Village Voice, when he wrote:

    Republicans don’t believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don’t give a hoot about human beings, either can’t or won’t. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm)

    One of the many ironies in this quotation is that it shows the inability of a theater critic-who skillfully enters fantastical imaginary worlds for a living-to imagine that Republicans act within a moral matrix that differs from his own.”

    In an article entitled “Fact Free Liberals: Part IV” Thomas Sowell observes that this phenomenon has been characteristic of small circle thought since its beginnings in the eighteenth century

    “From the 18th century to today, many leading thinkers on the left have regarded those who disagree with them as being not merely factually wrong but morally repugnant. And again, this pattern is far less often found among those on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum.
    The visceral hostility toward Sarah Palin by present day liberals, and the gutter level to which some descend in expressing it, is just one sign of a mindset on the left that goes back more than two centuries.

    T.R. Malthus was the target of such hostility in the 18th and early 19th centuries. When replying to his critics, Malthus said, “I cannot doubt the talents of such men as Godwin and Condorcet. I am unwilling to doubt their candor.”

    But William Godwin’s vision of Malthus was very different. He called Malthus “malignant,” questioned “the humanity of the man,” and said “I profess myself at a loss to conceive of what earth the man was made.””

    R. R. Reno concluded his review of The Righteous Mind in the magazine First Things as follows:

    “Thus the profound problem we face. Liberalism is blind in one eye, yet it insists on the superiority of its vision and its supreme right to rule. It cannot see half the things a governing philosophy must see, and claims that those who see both halves are thereby unqualified to govern.”

    • Santoculto says

      But maybe you are comparing average liberal with academic level conservatives. Most conservatives seems quite similar to liberals in their incapacity to think in multiple perspectives, in non-immediate and conformistic/selfish to their social groups. The two big differences, or one of the big ones, is that conservatives are majority of human beings [as well among non human animais]. So it’s easier to a conservative swede to understand a [very likely conservative] somali than a liberal swede, because they have basically the same mind, of course, with quantitative and another secondary differences, but considerably more similar than to liberal swede.

      Another reason about, why cons look more reasonable [but not enough] than libs is that the first are more intimate with natural world, even already very traditionalists, while liberals tend to be a type of exotic breed mostly found in urban places, or in more proportion. Libs are considerably more CULTURALISTS than NATURALISTS. I even can say that libs tend to be

      culturally domesticated, SPECIALLY to the current social scenario;

      while cons tend to be laborally/technically domesticated.

      Just like a mentalistic versus mechanicistic differences but viewed by another perspective.

  42. Jon says

    This article does exaggerate in one respect though – let’s not forget that right wing ‘conservatives’ can also be censorious and intolerant. I’ve only been ‘unfriended 3 times on Facebook during mid debate – once by an Islamophobic fanatical Israel supporter – once by a Conservative Brexit supporter – and once by a gun ownership libertarian (my own cousin!) who accused me of ‘Trump bashing’.

  43. Pretty accurate if you ask me. I have friends on both sides of the divide. Some with more extreme views than others. And I’ve noticed the same thing. It’s much easier to have constructive discussions with people on the “right” than on the “left”, in my experience. On the one hand we can at the very least agree to disagree, and on the other hand I’m just wrong 😀

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  45. Aleph37 says

    Being French, I feel ashamed to see what is knonw as “French studies”, or French “philosophers”.

    Please read Tocqueville, Descartes, Pascal for a start. Don’t waste too much time with the XXth century “thinkers”, to the exception of Alquié and Aron maybe.

  46. bwayjunction says

    The young women who made the statement “Who the fuck hired you?!” screamed one irate student in response. “You should step down!”, was one of the people who hired Christakis.

  47. Rob says

    Except conservatives aren’t saying that they can see our (liberals or regressives) point, they are shouting us down, too. Self-identifying as a liberal is essentially inviting a conservative to attack everything about you with little to no background as to what you actually hold as values. All liberals are now regressives to them, and this is no mistake. Their propaganda has ensured that this would be the case. Don’t agree with them? You are now an authoritarian progressive (ie., regressive leftist). This article is clearly one-sided to only see the stupidity of the growing alt left, and to ignore that of the growing alt right.

    • It kind of sucks when it happens to you, doesn’t it?

      Did it really seem impossible that those of a right wing bent, let’s not call them conservatives because they’re not, their hero is Pinochet, not Reagan, could learn from the left and respond in the same manner?

      The right didn’t invent identity politics, but when you’re being subjected to it, day in and day out, it becomes entirely natural that you’ll end up in your own identity group too.

      The tribe has to be forsaken when building a nation, but when your nation is being broken up into competing tribes your only options are to hang with your tribe, or hang alone.

      • Sean says

        Conservatism is based in religion…the original identity politics machine.

  48. This is some fantastic stuff, both in the article itself and at least some of the comments.

    I have little to add, but this insight that has been very influential to me and has helped me understand quite a bit of my own (formerly) progressive mindset and that of my friends.

    “Everybody is conservative about what they know best, or affects them directly.”

    The Progressives who rail on about institutional racism, the plight of the poor, etc. are the very same people who show up at rallies opposing low-income housing for mostly black and Hispanic people in their beautifully landscaped high-cost towns.

    When I look at how my most Progressive friends actually live and behave, I would rather copy that than what they say and preach.

  49. kn83 says

    One of the main reason why the Far-Left is more hostile than the Right is because they can afford to be. The Right has slowly lost its power and control over Western Civilization since WW1, so its in their interest to be more objective and tolerant now when they no longer have the power to force their views on others like they had over a century ago. We see the same pattern with Marxist and Muslims, Its typical tribal strategy.

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  51. G. K. Homan says

    While I would say that the various research lines alluded to here are not without interest, particularly the notion that “conservatives” can recite “liberals” views more accurately that the reverse, It should be noted by careful readers that the research is described entirely without caveats, reference to method, limitations &c.

    For myself I have serious doubts about the extent to which the concepts “Left”, “Right”, “Conservative” or “Liberal”, have actual (current) referents, and that to the extent that this is the case correlative research using such concepts is of little value.

    But rather than go down that rabbit-hole, I would simply point out that there are other lines of research, lines less suggestive of the innate superiority of the right-wing mind. For example researchers have found self-identified conservatives to be less skeptical, less able to to distinguish falsehood, and more authoritarian that others. Without vouching for any of these findings, I would point out that they don’t necessarily sit comfortably along side those Blackwell seems to prefer.

    So hardly an even-handed look at a literature, but more of a set of cherry picked references to support a per-existing opinion, and this impression is backed up but the plethora of personal anecdotes.

  52. Santoculto says

    The times i was blocked by facebuc it was all the time by gramscists and never by conservs, even i still don’t buy the idea that the second group os considerably better than the first.

  53. doug says

    Wordfence (whatever that is) won’t let me leave a link but Vox has an article with actual data that disputes the basic premises of this article:


  54. JEFF LUCK says

    The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.

    One of the more remarkable feats of these leftists has been the maintenance of their reputations in the face of repeated predictions that proved to wrong by miles and repeated policies that have proven time after time to be complete disasters.

  55. bczz says

    I don’t know where you people live, but the threatening bumper stickers and yard signs in my neck of the woods are all distinctly ‘conservative’ in nature.

  56. Liz Mills says

    This writer doesn’t know the difference between liberals and progressives. His opinion (and let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is nothing but an op-ed piece) therefore lacks even an iota of credibility. Furthermore, anecdotal reports don’t constitute evidence in a debate.

    • Santoculto says

      A well-perceived anecdotal may be a evidence…

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  58. Helen says

    I agree that a “regressive left” has appeared lately (although here I’d put the left inside one more pair of quotation marks).

    However, I’ve seen many raged reactions from right-wings throughout my life. Hell, they’ve also been responsible for racist attacks and creation of concentration camps for those with opposing beliefs, haven’t they?

    Back to the topic — still, I think I can answer your question about why they never seem too angry, at least in your own lucky encounters: They don’t need to. They are already in power. They couldn’t care less about whom they get to persuade and why, they run the world.

    • Les says

      “Concentration camps” are the preserve of socialist totalitarians, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. The reason for that is simple, for it to work full-on socialism/communism requires totalitarianism to have a hope of working, and the silencing and elimination of dissidents.

      As to running the world, a small cadre of “conservative” globalists have been doing so recently, using Neo-Nazi’s in places like Ukraine, communists(Antifa) in places like the U.S. and Islamists in parts of Europe, to undermine the established order and lay the groundwork for their solution.
      They actually don’t care about political ideology, that is for the masses, and as far as they are concerned whatever gets control is just fine, as long as that control ends up in their hands.

      The recent political wars are not so much left-right, which is more of an intramural fight within nations, as they are globalist vs. nationalist. That is the real fight. Of course, the left has always tilted toward the globalist mindset, and to that extent they are a natural in this fight, but there are and have been a sizable number of so-called conservatives who are just as globalist in thinking, wishful thinking I would say.

      That is why Trump is not a conservative. If you want to put a label on him, he is more a libertarian nationalist. What is funny but instructive to watch is the total 180 degree swing the left in America has done wrt to Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Globalists hate Putin instinctively, hence the new rabid McCarthyism, because he is a Russian nationalist, albeit authoritarian.

      • DeWitt says

        Hitler was not a “socialist totalitarian”. National Socialism was not a socialist doctrine anymore than the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a democracy. The same goes for Mao and Stalin. They called themselves socialists/communists, but implemented right wing totalitarian systems. Socialism/Leftism is fundamentally about delivering power and the means of production into the hands of the people. Right wing authoritarianism on the other hand is about concentrating power in the hands of a few. This is what happened with Hitler, Mao, and Stalin.

        I’m not writing this to advocate for socialism. I’m not sure whether a genuine form of socialism can or could ever be implemented, given the existence of the many dark facets of human nature and culture.

        However, the fact that so many conservatives have mindlessly copied this “argument” (*) about N.S. being a “leftist doctrine”, because the term “socialism” appears in the name, sadly testifies to the low average intellectual level of contemporary conservatism. It’s also extremely ironic since the same conservatives will often claim that postmodernism has been undermining the foundations of Western civilization. But to read the term “National Socialism” as a covert signifier of leftism (based on a mere word-form) is basically a direct application of Derrida’s (non-)concept of Deconstruction.

        If conservatism ever wants to make a reputable comeback, it will have to drop the infantile silliness and Alex Jones-level paranoia which has crept into and been nurtured by its mainstream culture ever since Reagan took office. Non-arguments like “the Nazis were leftists, take that, SJWs” are not the way to achieve this.

        Since the far left is currently making quite the fool out of itself as well, this could be a good time for conservatives to reclaim some ground. With the way things have been going for quite a while now though, it rather looks like the two sides will keep going down while trying to strangle themselves and each other with nonsense.

        (*) Which can be debunked by visiting Wikipedia’s “socialism” page and reading the first paragraph. No further effort required.

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  60. The dangers of rationalizing the anti-social. I sense the readers here would find comic book jargon a bit simplistic, but I am a believer that at the end of the day sometimes the simplest explanation serves best. Ra’s al Ghul, one of the great Nemesis of Batman, was quoted as telling Bruce Wayne the following, ” the criminal is not complicated”.

    No, the criminal who is the anti-social uses the immature and pathological defenses we see everyday with the left and progressives. And those defenses very commonly are denial, deflection, projection, and pathological rationalization.

    I leave readers with this: when one is accused of something that not only does not fit, but it’s just absurd, it is what the accuser in fact embraces and desires. That is projection, and the anti-social wants to keep people off their footing and quick to defend so the anti-social can continue to dominate the debate.

    Think about it…

  61. chickensoup says

    Well written. One bone to pick. Using the word “Progressive” to describe “Leftists,” and often “Radical Leftists,” is playing into the Leftist agenda which is to hide their history, direction and origins. ‘

    Never let one’s opponent choose the language and names.

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  63. Darren, nottingham says

    As with so many debates today, this one looks completely different viewed through a Georgist lens – we could have social justice AND free market small govt capitalism at the same time if we’d wake up and walk through the door David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill kicked open for us in 1911.

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  65. Ken McKinley says

    This is the first time I’ve ever been to this site, and I was impressed with the article, as well as the comments that followed. I am equally impressed with the author of the article. As I was reading I assumed that he held a PhD, or at least a Masters degree, but he is simply pursing his BA. I think that people on both sides of the political spectrum can find themselves trapped in a world-view prison, but being a moral conservative, a political and fiscal libertarian in the United States, I must admit that it is from those holding liberal views who most often attack me. What I have personally found is that when a liberals point of view or belief is weakened or refuted by other evidence, they still stand on their point of view and are more resistant to adjust their view based on that evidence. For example; there is a segment of the population who claims that science has proven that homosexuality is genetic, but as far as I have read, no one has demonstrated any necessary genetic link. I recently read where someone attempted to prove a genetic link by stating that in one study, the hypothalamus in homosexual cadavers was enlarged. However; this person was then asked, “Is an enlarged hypothalamus the cause of homosexuality, or is it the effect of homosexuality?” The one trying to prove the genetic link became silent and began to attack the questioner. The question of whether an enlarged hypothalamus was present in the beginning or whether the homosexual behavior caused the enlarging of the hypothalamus was never answered.
    For me personally; it makes no difference, as it’s irrelevant to the moral question. Just because homosexuality may come naturally to some, that does not mean that it is moral to practice it. In-fact; the difference between doing what comes naturally and principled self-restraint is called civilization. Do we really want to argue that whatever we ‘naturally’ feel like doing at any moment ought to be morally allowed? People often seize on things in order to justify their point of view, not because they have examined the issue carefully. Another argument on the subject that I personally have heard is that – “animals engage in homosexuality.” How do they come to this conclusion? Because they see male dogs mounting other male dogs, to which I replied, “I also see male dogs mounting couch cushions, my friends leg, logs, and other things. This is not homosexual behavior; it is auto-eroticism.”
    It is frustrating to attempt to engage in the battle ground of ideas when one, or both parties are not taking the time to construct a point of view that attempts to integrate all the evidence pertaining to an issue into the discussion. And when people refuse to do that, it then become very hard for me to believe that they have any desire to learn the truth of a thing (be it a world view, a political view, a belief system, etc.).
    Instead (at least here in the US), you are much more likely to be demonized, marginalized, or ostracized if you hold a view that is contrary to the person or persons you are hoping to speak with. Again; I have been called a racist, a bigot, a deplorable, narrow minded, an idiot, and much worse. This is concerning to me for a couple of reasons. First it is reminiscent of Cold War tactics in which one side would be unable to refute certain facts, and instead would attempt to discredit their opponents by demonizing them, marginalizing them, or ostracizing them. In other words, “You don’t want to listen to this person’s point of view, because they are a tin-foil hat wearing lunatic who is so far out that they have no real understanding of the complexity of the issue, and not only that, their ideas are dangerous, and harmful, and you sure don’t want to associate with that kind of person. And if per chance you do, then don’t expect anyone to do business with you, talk to you, socialize with you, befriend you, etc.” And again; in my experiences it is the “tolerant left” that engages in this far more than the right. Secondly; it is reminiscent of what we as soldiers (again at least here in the US) have done to our enemies during war time. We create derogatory nick-names for our enemies. During WWII we called the Germans Krauts and Goose Steppers. In Vietnam we called the Vietnamese Zippers, Nips, Charlie, and worse things. In the Middle East we’ve called the Iraqis Towel Heads, Camel Jockey’s, and worse. In Somalia we called them Skinny’s and worse. Psychologists tell us we dehumanize our enemies in this way in order to make it easier to kill them – which is the goal in warfare. But when we begin dehumanizing our own citizens in the same way my great fear is that it is a precursor to violence, or at the very least desensitizing ourselves to the possibility of committing violent acts. When we begin seeing our fellow humans as something less than a being created in the image of God, it justifies all sorts of behavior. When we begin closing off to other ideas and viewpoints by flat out refusing to consider or even hear what the other side has to say, we are also claiming a type of superiority in ourselves or an inferiority in others. To me this is dangerous.
    So thank you for this article, and to all who have commented it has been informative and of great help to me. I will bookmark this site and check it on occasion now that I’ve discovered it.

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