Language, Politics, Top Stories

The Prison-House of Political Language

Of all the stunningly awful attempts to explain away the reasons why the 2016 US Presidential election did not produce the result that the elites wanted, perhaps the worst – and certainly one of the most persistent – has been the claim that Donald J. Trump is a would-be Hitler leading his Nazi followers to power. Almost two years after Trump’s victory, plans have now been announced to once again adapt Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four to the screen but this time with “Trump hanging over it.” So as well as being the embodiment of evil, does President Trump also have an Orwellian Big Brother stranglehold on the media?

Let us look at some facts. Of America’s Top 100 newspapers, only two endorsed Trump in 2016. Since January 2017, Trump has not polled higher than 50% with any of the major polling outlets. Major award ceremonies now seem dedicated to venting celebrity hate with the President as Emmanuel Goldstein. At the same time academics (who, remember, tend to be Democrats rather than Republicans at ratios as high as 132 to 1 at the 66 most elite universities) found that in his first 100 days, Trump was covered by the major news networks three times more than any other President, without a single instance in which the coverage was more positive than negative. I’ll admit this does all look somewhat Orwellian, but the “Ministry of Truth” does not seem to be working for President Trump.

George Orwell once said that the “English intelligentsia…can swallow totalitarianism because they have no experience of anything except liberalism…So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.” Having experienced the reality of totalitarianism first-hand, Orwell knew all too well the ways in which people far removed from it employ “soothing phrases” to disguise more sinister ends. Of course, he would later coin the term “Newspeak” in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). This was the totalitarian language created to meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism under Big Brother.

In Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (2015), Roger Scruton reminds us that “intellectuals are naturally attracted by the idea of a planned society in the belief they will be in charge of it” (p. 12), and this is one reason why they most often start with the area over which they have the most control: language. Another reason is because reality has a stubborn habit of not cooperating with their utopian visions: thoughts are easier to control than economies or the revealed preferences of individuals. In this article, I will explore the various ways in which the political left uses the techniques of Newspeak in the real world, in Britain and in the USA, while projecting their own totalitarian motives onto their opponents.

The US media, stocked with coastal elites who all seem to be on the same page politically (including on the issue of blacklisting those with dissenting opinion), has more or less devoted itself to daily preaching against Donald Trump for the past two years. Criticising or morally condemning Trump is hardly edgy or even a courageous act of sticking one’s head above the parapet; it is expected. Yet these people still call him a totalitarian. How can we account for this lack of self-awareness on their part? One of their own thinkers, the Marxist philosopher, Louis Althusser, argued that people in the grip of ideology “believe themselves by definition outside ideology…ideology never says, ‘I am ideological.’”

In plainer words: if you are trapped in an echo chamber without anyone to challenge your ideas, it is difficult to be self-aware because there is no motivation to do anything other than revel in the righteousness of your cause. Inside the confines of your own imagination, you are a freedom fighter, a member of the Rebel Alliance – or should I say, #TheResistance – fighting the evil Empire. Under such circumstances you are likely to become intolerant of anyone who isn’t in your view also fighting against “The Dark Side.”

Given this fact, people who are part of the “Rebel Alliance” develop a way of speaking designed to circumvent the possibility of debate or even the introduction of evidence. They employ what Thomas Sowell called, in The Vision of the Anointed (1995), “pre-emptive rhetoric” (p. 64), a set of words and phrases that assert the correctness of the argument before anything else has even been said. At their most effective, such pre-emptive strikes become what Scott Adams has called, in Win Bigly (2017), “linguistic kill shots” which he defines as “a nickname or short set of words so persuasive that it can end an argument or create a specific outcome” (p. 28).

Thinkers who typically oppose the left have long pointed out that they have been losing the war of words. As David Horowitz puts it in Take No Prisoners (2014):

Whenever a Republican and a Democrat square off, it’s Godzilla versus Bambi. They call us racists, sexists, homophobes, and selfish pigs, and we call them … liberals. Who’s going to win that argument? They spend their political dollars calling us names and shredding our reputations; we spend ours explaining why the complicated solutions we propose will work and why theirs won’t. But when you are being called a racist, an enemy of women, and a greedy SOB, who will listen to your ideas about the budget? Who is going to believe you when all of your motives are portrayed as vile? (p. 105)

Writing in The Times, Matt Ridley finds a similar state of affairs in the UK:

It feels as if the left has always been better at vocabulary than the right. “Capitalism” was a word largely invented by the opponents of commerce … Ever since, the left has used “capitalism” to imply that all free-market commerce is run by big financiers, with massive investments, rather than merchants and entrepreneurs taking risks on behalf of consumers and driving down prices. For reasons I don’t fully understand the champions of commerce fell in with this scheme and have spent the last century and a half trying to defend the word “capitalism,” instead of “commerce” or “enterprise”… Likewise, the term “Tory” for a Conservative is generally intended as an insult, as is the term “socialist” for a Labour person (it remains a puzzle that we have never coined a noun for Labour members). But note that a diligently impartial newscaster on, say, Channel 4 will not hesitate to use “Tory prime minister” to describe Theresa May, but would never call Jeremy Corbyn the “socialist leader of the opposition.” Why is that?

Indeed, one of the ironies of Ridley’s piece is that he is forced to use the term “right” for “opponent of the left,” but I am not convinced that the “right-wing” exists except as a weapon of ridicule for the left to wield; it is a smear-word, another linguistic kill shot, a way of dismissing any counterpoint without the burden of engaging with the substance of what is actually being said. The left exists as a unified utopian vision built on abstract ideals that are deemed so pure they must never be tested. What all brands of leftism seem to share– whether that of Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Fidel Castro, or Joseph Stalin – is a tendency to speak of what ought to be, as opposed to pragmatically dealing with what is, while then seeking to implement their utopian vision using the instruments of the state.

In considering the leftist definition of “the right,” what then unites Southern Baptist preachers, certain Catholics, Lockean classical liberals, Rothbardian Libertarians, One Nation Tories, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, Fascists, Nazis, “the alt right”, and all other ragtag groups that the left sees as a unified group? The answer of course is “not much” because what the left sees as a monolithic “basket of deplorables” is nothing more than a disparate jumble of distinct groups thrown together with the express purpose of tarring them all with the same brush. This is why the term “the right” such as it exists today could only be accurately described as “opponents of the left for any reason,” which is why I refuse to use the label. As Sowell put it, the left-right dichotomy, as it stands, “is a somewhat Ptolemaic view of the political universe, with the political left being in the center of that universe and who all who differ – in any direction – being called ‘the right.’” (Vision of the Anointed, p. 208).

On a recent podcast, Jonah Goldberg – someone who has addressed these language games in both The Tyranny of Clichés (2012) and Liberal Fascism (2007) – complained that those on the American left can seldom, if ever, accurately summarise their opponents’ positions in a form to which said opponents would be willing to subscribe. They routinely use “the right” as linguistic kill shots, whether wrongly calling John Bolton “a neo-con,” or smearing Candace Owens as “toxic” and “far right,” or defining Jordan Peterson as “alt right.”  Actual neoconservatives tend not to like Bolton (and vice versa), and the same can be said of the actual alt-right, in relation to both Owens and Peterson. The point is not that the left simply does not care about fact checking, but rather in each of these cases their implicit hope is that the stigma of the label will stick, regardless of the facts. Pre-emptive rhetoric is an attempt at thought control: put the words “Jordan Peterson” and “alt right” together in a headline enough times and it will be one of the first two or three things that the average person will accept about him, irrespective of what he’s actually said or done, so that fewer people will listen to Peterson or engage in the substance of his ideas.

One side effect of dealing with political opponents in this manner is that the left has become increasingly accepting of straw man fallacies created out of their own righteous bigotry and refusal to respectfully address counterpoints. They have no concept of Jonah Goldberg’s philosophical world of Burkeans, Straussians, Hayekians and so on, because many of these people are so ignorant that they genuinely believe that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sit closely on a political continuum with Adolf Hitler. Hence, here in the UK, Labour activists burned effigies of Thatcher when she died and also draped a sign saying “HANG THE TORIES” over a bridge in Manchester, without any of their moralistic cheerleaders batting an eyelid. The left generally revels in its own distasteful behaviour not only without critique but also as still further confirmation of their righteousness. When you see your enemies as pure evil as opposed to trying to understand the merit of their ideas, bigotry becomes inevitable.

My real question is why we continue to take such people seriously when it is clear that they do not demonstrate even the merest whiff of intellectual curiosity or charity – as Paul Krugman’s bafflingly long-running New York Times column shows every week. Scruton accounts for the leftist need to control language as a type of pathology:

Behind the impassioned rhetoric of the Communist Manifesto, behind the pseudo-science of Marx’s labour theory of value, and behind the class analysis of human history, lies a single emotional source – resentment of those who control things…it seems to me that it is not an accident that the triumph of leftist ways of thinking has so often led to totalitarian government. The pursuit of abstract social justice goes hand in hand with the view that power struggles and relations of domination express the truth of our social condition, and that the consensual customs, inherited institutions and systems of law that have brought peace to real communities are merely the disguises worn by power. The goal is to seize that power, and to use it to liberate the oppressed, distributing all assets of society according to the just requirements of the plan. Intellectuals who think that way are already ruling out the possibility of compromise. (Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, pp. 15, 13)

In the following table, I chart some of the newspeak ardent leftists have used over the years in order to avoid arguments, counterpoints and facts. They avoid these things precisely because their aim is full control and total capitulation, rather than compromise or negotiation. Here, next to each leftist buzzword or phrase, I will provide the ostensible definition (the way most people understand the word or phrase), and then the definition of leftist intent, whereby we can see the political intention behind its usage.

Newspeak word or phrase

Ostensible definition

Definition of Leftist Intent

Crisis

A time of intense difficulty or danger

Something that we want done must be done now because we want it

Urgent need

Requiring immediate action or attention

Something that we want done must be done now because we want it

Public service

Anyone providing a service for the public

Government-appointed bureaucrats who can make the top-down decisions we want enacted are good

Greed

Intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food

The sinister and malignant motives of our enemies who must be brought to heel

Access

The means or opportunity to approach or enter a place

Barriers imposed on those who we like but who are not being admitted into desirable places in high enough numbers

Progress

Development towards an improved or more advanced condition

Social or political change in a direction that we like

Here to stay

Something that has stopped being unusual and has become generally used or accepted

A change that we like cannot be unchanged because we say so

Inevitable

Certain to happen; unavoidable

A change we like is destined to happen because we say so

Outmoded

No longer modern, useful, or necessary

Something we don’t like has gone away and cannot come back because we say so

Unrealistic

Having a wrong idea of what is likely to happen or of what you can really do; not based on facts

A change our opponents want but which we don’t cannot happen because we say so

(Social) Justice

The system of laws in a country that judges and punishes people; equality under the law

Equality of outcomes enforced through coercive top-down redistribution

Diversity is Our Strength

It’s good when people have many different ideas or opinions about something

It’s good when people have different skin colour or genitals, as long as they agree with us

Representation

A person or organization that speaks, acts, or is present officially for someone else

The demographics of an industry, institution, or media outlet that do not reflect the percentage breakdowns we see in the national demographics, and think, for reasons we will never explain, that they should

Austerity

Difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure; sternness or severity of manner or attitude

The evil opposition are telling us we cannot run up huge national debts; all they want to do is cut spending (and kill innocent children) because they are evil and have no compassion

This table might go on for pages, but just the few terms I’ve included do enough to demonstrate the subtle reframing of everyday terms to obscure radical ends, for which few people outside the extreme-left would voice support if they were stated clearly and openly. These terms and phrases are designed to provide the left with moral high ground and to manufacture consent for extreme positions hidden behind innocent-looking façades. The moral high ground is all too frequently conceded by their less verbally dexterous opponents, who then proceed to argue on the back foot in a defensive position in which they are implicitly arguing against the side of the righteous.

If you are ever in a situation in which you face the rhetorical kill shot (and the other rhetoric that is sure to follow) my recommendation is systematically to deny them this moral turf. Get them to explain what they mean in plain English, and if they will not or cannot do so, then do your best to redefine what they mean there and then. It is important to insist on this clarity, in order to uncover the real intentions behind the employment of loaded jargon, which if left unchallenged will undoubtedly obscure true meaning. Then press further: why is what they want desirable? How is it defensible both morally and economically? What are the costs of implementing it? Who should pay and why should they pay? What are the likely long-run consequences of enacting this policy? What evidence do they have that this will work? Demand a fact-based approach. It is only fair that those who would redesign society from the top down should be put on the back foot in defending the radical utopian changes they want to see.

 

Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey. He is the author of five books, the most recent being Shakespeare and New Historicism Theory (2017) and Shakespeare’s Moral Compass (forthcoming 2018). He also presents a popular podcast series called Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory.

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97 Comments

  1. Jon says

    I speak as someone who would describe themselves as a ‘moderate liberal’ or ‘social democrat’.

    There is plenty I agree with in this article – and I certainly think it’s true that Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ can, and should, be interpreted as a critique of left wing authoritarian attempts to control language – and hence proscribe certain ideas. This is true of both communist totalitarianism – obviously – but also increasingly the kind of intolerant identitarian policing of ‘political correctness’.

    However – I do also think that Neema Parvini overstates the case – or rather, let’s the ‘other side’ i.e. right wing authoritarians and free market fundamentalists – off the hook. He is right that ‘the right’ is more varied than most ‘leftists’ would acknowledge (some of them are increasingly prone to labeling anyone who has ideas even one notch to the right of themselves a ‘fascist’) – but he should have acknowledged that Orwell was concerned about people from all points on the political spectrum abusing language for political/propaganda purposes. In an age of government press releases about ‘collateral damage’, a ‘war on terror’, and ‘alternative facts’, as well as successful attempts to frame debates about taxation in terms of a ‘tax burden’ from which people should seek ‘relief’ – it is little wonder that left wing people are also proclaiming the ongoing relevance of Orwell’s novel. Hollywood award ceremonies may well turn into two minutes hate directed at Trump – but Trump’s own rallies were even more obviously examples of two minutes hate directed at Hilary/Muslims/Mexicans – so let’s at least be fair about it!

    • SoDakDan says

      Well stated. I believe this article can also be applied to the “right” (avid followers of Fox News, Red State, Breitbart, etc.). These people use the same tactics as “the left”. It seems to me that the day one plants their flag and proclaims themselves as “conservative” or “progressive”, is the day they stop thinking critically and start seeking others that will agree with them. They also begin to use this kind of language on anyone who disagrees.

      • jsolbakken says

        “These people use the same tactics as “the left””
        Not really. The Left are out right liars deliberately trying to pull the wool over the eyes of people that they consider stupid and pathetic and in need of being controlled in every detail. The so-called “Right” tries to put a spin on things that is positive for their cause and negative to the Left’s cause. And bottom line is, this “spin” on the Right is the kind of thing that professionals engage in. At the grass roots level the Right generally tells the truth whilst the Left tells the same big fat evil lies that their professional leadership does.

    • Avoc Aviator says

      You start by addressing the author’s salient points but then drive straight to comparing Trump’s rallies to an Orwellinian mob supporting two minutes of hate.

      No, let’s not be fair about. All I want is to be left alone to live my life with the law. Your side (yes, your leftist side) won’t let me because you cannot abide my liberty. You cannot acknowledge the logic in my side–and our Constitution. If you acknowledge my right to believe in the foundational documents, you simultaneously degrade the relevance of your Hegelian beliefs and you cannot stand that.

      No, sir, I will not be fair in this titanic struggle between good and evil. I need to do every legal thing in my power to force your loss and help good to win. Yes, I just did call the progressive movement evil.

    • “two minutes hate directed at Hilary/Muslims/Mexicans” ….. I know I am dreaming as this isn’t how Trump rolls but I wish he would do an address to the nation on immigration. He should tell the nation; 1) what our laws are; 2) he’s just doing his job as chief executive to enforce the law (every developed country has similar laws that are strictly enforced and not enforcing the law is anarchy); 3) call out the sanctuary cities for violating Federal Immigration laws; 4) if you’re not happy with the law there’s a process to change it outlined in our Constitution, it’s called contact your congressman.

    • Rudy Mendoza says

      “but Trump’s own rallies were even more obviously examples of two minutes hate directed at Hilary/Muslims/Mexicans”

      Hillary is a criminal who runs a deeply corrupt “Foundation” and who is clearly above the law of which pertains to the average American. Those who are not among the elite resent this inequality.

      As for Trump’s hate speech – once again disagreement with a leftist is hate speech. Calling out illegal immigration (key word is illegal) for what it is and pushing for enforcement of existing laws and tightening our borders is not hate. It is the preservation of our sovereignty. Unlike Leftists, conservatives believe in nations having the right to choose who they allow into their country.

      Typical Leftist rhetoric is to say we hate minorities. Legal immigrants want stricter enforcement of immigration laws. They see what the influx of illegals has done to our communities and our economy.

    • Jeff says

      The last sentence you wrote is a prime example of people judging something without any evidence. Trump never said anything about Clinton that was not factual. One example..Hillary is a liar..another example..Hillary should be in jail. Trump has also never said anything about Mexicans or Muslims that was not true and provable. Your own post proves that ” hate speech” to a liberal is just something the liberal doesn’t like or agree with. Nice try at projection disguised as moderation.

  2. ga gamba says

    “Reductive” and “lacks nuance” also frequently appear to be used in and of themselves as rebuttals unsupported by anything. Time and time again I’ll read an essay or comment citing many statistics of a multivariate study from an authoritative source which reaches a conclusion distressing to progressives. It’s as if writing these words magically makes everything disappear.

    If all else fails, accuse your opponent of lacking empathy.

  3. “They spend their political dollars calling us names and shredding our reputations; we spend ours explaining why the complicated solutions we propose will work and why theirs won’t”

    — this quote brings to mind something I’ve said before: conservative/traditionalist ideas require a lot more thought to understand than do leftist ones. As an example, look at poverty and race: the left’s solution is to throw money at the black community via welfare; the conservative solution looks at the roots of the problem, which it sees as cultural and, in terms of IQ, possibly partly genetic in origin, and understanding their ideas requires understanding the importance of fathers, how inordinate use of welfare undermines initiative and creates dependence, how IQ works, how merit is rewarded, how equity will result in tyranny, etc.

    The time preferences are different. The liberal solution are quick and doomed to fail: throw money at it and set up a program to force everything to at least look equal; the conservative solutions would actually work, but would have to play out over a longer period of time.

    The emotional types are impatient, though, and they don’t put in the necessary thought. They think in memes, and their ideas are easily spread by them. Gay “marriage” — why, “it’s only fair!” Never mind that marriage has traditionally been seen in the West as the coming together of a man and a woman for the purpose of bearing and raising children, and that gay “marriage” makes no sense for the obvious reason that two homosexuals can’t produce children together. And never mind, too, the fact that gay people could always marry someone of the opposite sex, and straight people also couldn’t marry anyone of the same sex, so both had always had the exact same rights. “Fairness” has nothing to do with it. But “it’s only fair” and “love is love” won the day. Memes spread by the likes of “Will and Grace.” Memes changed the thousands of years old, rooted in nature herself, definition of marriage. Think about that. The mass media are powerful. Thank God people are tuning out.

    Another problem is that conservative types tend to play by the rules and are — well, nicer. Leftists play dirty. They lie, distort, name-call, throw M80s at people, knock people out with bike locks, dissolve into tears in order to manipulate, throw tantrums, etc. Conservatives just tend not to do that sort of thing. And conservatives tend to capitulate to that crap way too easily, wanting to go along to get along, for everything to be nice.

    Then there are the calls to compromise, the giving in to which amounting to the left asking for 10X, getting 5X in a compromise, and then coming back later and asking for 15X and getting 10X as a compromise, etc. Leftists tend to get all they originally wanted, and more, through compromise. But because they’re the ones who are always wanting change, the burden of proof should be on them.

    Leftists have a tendency to characterize rather than relate facts. E.g., Donald Trump, they say, is “racist.” Ask them what he has done or said to indicate that he is a racist, and they almost always dummy up, having no answer at all (or they come up with the “he said all Mexicans are rapists” lie, and then they’re spent). My advice on dealing with progressives is to ask for facts and not let them get away with merely characterizing.

    If they resort to name-calling, don’t defend yourself at all; it’s just their way of trying to shut you up, getting you to play defense, or changing the subject. Instead, say, “I’m a Nazi? That’s an interesting thought. Now, back to what we were talking about…” Let it slide off you like it’s nothing. Because that’s what it amounts to: leftist hot air, nothing but breath going through some vocal cords. It’s bizarre how fearful so many are of being called names!

    Apologizing to leftists is invariably just chumming the waters. NEVER do it (well, unless you’ve actually done something awful and intentionally caused harm or something). They never forgive, and any apology you offer is seen not just as an admission of guilt, but as license to further attack. Don’t apologize just because they feel hurt or feeeeel that you’re a fascist or whatever. Even “I’m sorry you feel that way” is giving them too much (I’m not sorry they feel that way; I’m some combination of pissed off and amused).

    Humor, ridicule, and art are the weapons of choice, IMO (in addition to sound logic, of course). Leftists can’t handle humor. They have all the late-night comedians, but we have all the actually funny people sitting around kitchen tables being hilarious. Turn that stuff into videos!

    • Penrod says

      Name calling: I’ve taken to responding to comments like “You’d probably vote for Hitler!” (Actual quote by the way, received for having quoted FBI homicide by weapon type statistics to refute a call for banning ‘assault rifles’) by giving the opponent a winning smile and thanking him for publicly admitting he was unable to refute anything I had actually said, and had to shut down conversation before anyone noticed. ‘So, when you claim I’m a Nazi, you really are saying that I’ve won the debate but can’t bring yourself to admit it. Thank you!’ Spittle spewing generally ensues. At least some audience members generally catch on to the purpose of name calling when it is pointed out to them.

  4. Emmanuel says

    Good article. I agree with everything the author states, however I do not believe that the phenomenon described here is specific to the left. There are also people on the right who play with words in a dishonnest way. Of course, since the huge majority of academics and journalists and people who comment the political situation support the left, leftist biased vocabulary is far more common that conservative biased vocabulary. But it does not mean it does not exist.

  5. Sarah Harry says

    I’m surprised the author is unaware of the origin of Tories as the faction and party in opposition to the Whigs going back to the Jacobite cause; no surprise that there isn’t an opposite for Labour supporters then. Both words started as terms of abuse before adoption. The Whigs have scattered but the Tories endure.

    The article could be countered with similar points about the right. I don’t understand the rejection of the word ‘right’ while ‘left’ is fine. Eh?

    • Jon says

      Agreed – because it’s always easier to see the faults of others (particularly your ideological opponents) than your own. See my comment at the top of the thread for examples.

  6. P. K. Adithya says

    Good grief – the author actually says that lumping together Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Stalin as “the left” is fine, but “the right” doesn’t exist.

    Perhaps the left is more of a continuum whereas the right is composed of disparate factions, but that doesn’t make it any more fair to blur the distinctions between “Hope and change” and “One million deaths is a statistic”.

    Comparing the coverage of Donald Trump to the Two Minutes’ Hate against Emmanuel Goldstein is just laughable. Trump’s legal team just submitted a letter to the Special Counsel claiming that the president has the right to order the Department of Justice to shut down any investigation and open any others. How would you cover this without implying that American democracy is under threat? Yes, Trump is so incompetent that it’s hard to imagine him as a ruthless totalitarian, but he certainly has authoritarian impulses and we can do without disingenuous attempts to portray him as a victim.

    Also, the author seems to think left-wing propaganda is so effective that their weaponized words and phrases have acquired their intended meanings. Far from it – ordinary people routinely joke about charges of racism and sexism being overused and social justice being an insufferable movement. You might think “Social Justice Warrior” is way too generous as a label compared to “racist”, but it has managed to acquire significant negative connotations and is a powerful term of abuse on the right.

    It also needs to be understood is that moderate conservatives are rapidly losing their influence, while more extreme views are ascendant. National Review and The Weekly Standard are not where people opposed to the left go to discuss their ideas any more. They gravitate to Breitbart, YouTube videos and the more explicitly white nationalist sites. The alt-right routinely uses “globalist” as a term of abuse, “anti-white” in as careless a manner as “racist”, and “warmonger” to describe neoconservatives with the same abandon as the anti-war left – to name just a few of their rhetorical tactics.

    • P. K. Adithya says

      Just had to make this correction. “National Review and The Weekly Standard are not where people opposed to the left go to discuss their ideas any more. They gravitate to Breitbart, YouTube videos and the more explicitly white nationalist sites.”

      I meant the people who hate the left with a passion (of which there are plenty), not just all people who consider themselves opposed to the left. Apologies.

      • P. K. Adithya says

        It’s not whataboutery. The author quotes David Horowitz approvingly to make the point that the political right is too honorable to use rhetorical smearing. I wanted to argue against that, as well some of the article’s other failings.

        The Quillette article about free speech on the right, written by the person who got fired from RedState, didn’t make any pretensions about the left not having similar problems. This article is ridiculously unbalanced, going so far as to even define away “the right” so that meaningful criticisms can’t be made of it.

        You’re certainly not obligated to criticize both sides equally in every article, but this reads more like a screed against the left by someone who accepts the arguments of right-wing partisans at face value.

        • I think the best thing anyone can say about Prof Parvini’s interventions into politics outside the groves of academe would have to come from the right and be phrased thusly:

          “He may be an English professor, but he’s our English professor.”

          And as a lifelong socialist I can only thank him for planting the vision of Hillary Clinton and Joseph Stalin as bedfellows on “The Left”. We love it when the right makes itself look ridiculous!

    • Shenme Shihou says

      “Perhaps the left is more of a continuum whereas the right is composed of disparate factions, but that doesn’t make it any more fair to blur the distinctions between “Hope and change” and “One million deaths is a statistic”.”

      You may be right, but I can see where this thought comes from. For instance, Obama’s spokeman hangs Soviet propaganda in his home and its treated as no big deal or surprise. Many University professors, who campaigned for Bernie or Hillary, are outspoken communists. I had a lacturer at my University who was a Bernie supporter that told us to “go forth and become revolutionaries like Lenin. That is Vladmir, not John.” As the work of John Hayes, Harvey Klher and Ronald Radosh show, plenty of mainstream left-of-center academics and government officials have been apologetic for Soviet communism (if not outright employed by them).

      The same cant really be said for mainstream right academics and fascism. The Trumpites that are fascist apologists are fringe internet types and not very mainstream. You wont find swastikas in the homes of Ben Shapiro or Thomas Sowell. And when those on the mainstream right do show signs of fringe tendancies, such as Steve Bannon reading Julius Evola, it gets nation media attention in New York Times articles (remember too that the NYT published work by Walter Duranty who was a Soviet apologist and denied Soviet famines and genocide).

      That being said, does Trump have some authoritarian tendancies? Eh, the example you gave could be used as evidence of such. But its also nothing particularly meaningful in terms of presidential overreach. If you remember, Obama sent a drone strike to kill two american citzens. Neither were charged of a crime and one was a minor who was not even suspected of a crime. I would say that is also pretty authoritarian. Which is worse is a matter of opinion, but if Trump is evidence of an authoritarian streak then the other has to be as well. Keep in mind, no one was accusing Obama of being a threat to democracy.

    • I agree with the article’s general thesis. I also think your criticisms have merit, but I think the questions you’re asking get at the heart of something the article implies but does not make explicit: Why are conservative/classical liberal thinkers and writers always expected to play fair, to concern themselves with issues of civility and decorum, and, when they do not, to prostrate themselves before their political opponents and beg forgiveness? There are a lot of things we can correctly accuse the right of doing or having done in the past (especially in the last century), but the mean state that we find public discourse currently in is not among them. Conservative writers and thinkers tend to play by the rules. They tend to care about maintaining standards of decency. I can’t honestly say the same thing about writers on the left. The left plays to win. They don’t need to maintain standards, because they aren’t interested in preserving the institutions they criticize. If the right does the same, it’s admitted the institutions and traditions it holds dear aren’t worth defending. And so the right gets dragged incrementally to the left.

      I also think your graph about Trump news coverage represents a problem. Trump should be criticized when he is behaving in an authoritarian way; I don’t care what his intentions are. I absolutely agree with you on this point. But if most of the coverage of his administration is so biased that only explicitly right-leaning outlets cover his successes favorably, why would anyone outside of lefties listen when mainstream journos are pointing out issues that need bipartisan attention? It’s the Boy Who Cried Wolf scenario. Never mind that the media hasn’t applied this standard very fairly in the last twenty years. Outside of a few journalists and thinkers (Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, for example), criticism of President Obama’s tendency toward authoritarianism was practically non-existent.

      I disagree with your last paragraph completely. I listen to a lot of YouTube videos. You haven’t offered any examples, so I have to make guesses about which ones you’re referring to. The one thing that most of the YouTube accounts described as “far right” or alt-right” have in common that I have listened to is that they are explicitly anti radical left. I wouldn’t listen to or read anything that is explicitly white nationalist or otherwise explicitly racist, so I can’t speak to those possible examples. Maybe my experience is too limited to speak to your examples had you given them. But this, again, points out a problem with these kinds of blanket (and often false) descriptions the left likes to use on its political opponents: If everyone to the left of Hillary Clinton is a Nazi, how do we identify the real Nazis among the noise and subterfuge?

      I don’t know that I can speak to the way in which the alt-right uses the terms you’ve listed (and I don’t think you can, either), but if people are sensitive about “anti-white” sentiment found in headlines (“Your DNA is an abomination”) and Tweets (“All I want for Christmas is white genocide”) by blue check mark journos and professionals, who do you think they have to blame for it? Themselves?

      • P. K. Adithya says

        Thanks for your responses.

        I think we’ve formed our impressions of the left and the right based on different criteria. As K said, there certainly are conservative writers who respect standards and principles and decency – David French of National Review, for example. However, there are also liberal writers like Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine to whom I would give the same compliment. My point is that both these writers, and others like them, are in trouble with their own side for refusing to toe the partisan line on all topics. You seem to think that this is only a problem on the left, and that writers like David French can be seen as a fair way to judge the right. I’m afraid I disagree. If that was the case, Trump would never have won the Republican nomination. Among Trump-supporting writers, I’m afraid I can’t name any whom I respect as paragons of consistency and fairness.

        Let me give you an example of the right-wing base being far worse than the thinkers who seem to represent it. Jordan Peterson recently wrote a blog post explaining that Jewish overrepresentation in certain fields could be explained by their competence, dismissing the idea of a Jewish conspiracy. His post attracted nearly 1500 comments, the vast majority of them berating him for being naive about Jews and promoting white nationalism. You can read them for yourself (see the comments with the most upvotes).

        https://jordanbpeterson.com/psychology/on-the-so-called-jewish-question/

        Given this, and similar patterns in innumerable other threads under Breitbart, YouTube, etc., it’s not unreasonable for me to think that moderate intellectuals like Jordan Peterson who focus on criticizing the left are just seen by the right-wing base as useful idiots who can be jettisoned should they ever start to seriously attack the alt-right. I am appealing to people to not be naive about this.

        On Trump and Obama’s authoritarianism, I don’t believe that they are even remotely comparable. Since I posted my earlier comment, Trump has claimed that he has presidential authority to pardon himself. This would literally give him the power to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and face no consequences. The example of Obama’s authoritarianism given by Shenme was the drone strike to kill Americans who were in the battlefield against American forces (giving aid and comfort to al-Qaeda). I completely reject this equivalence and furthermore I think people like Chomsky, Chris Hedges, etc. are far-left nutjobs whom I can’t believe you approvingly quoted.

        • You’re using the Guilt By Association fallacy.

          “If you stand up against the radical left, you’re in a group that also has Nazis in it. Because the Nazis also stand up against the radical left. So it’s perfectly reasonable, from a strategic perspective, for the radical left to say, “you’re against us, how do we know you’re not a Nazi?” Well, statistically, I’m probably not. But you could say at least the question is open. It’s motivated epithet slinging, because if I’m reasonable, and I’m standing up against the radical left, and they admit I’m reasonable, then there has to be an admission that reasonable people could stand up against the radical left, which kind of implies that the radical left isn’t that reasonable. And so they’re not going to go there. Of course, they’re not reasonable. They’re unreasonable beyond belief, as we saw with the situation with Lindsay Shepherd in Canada.”

          — Dr. Jordan Peterson

          • P. K. Adithya says

            Dear harlandO:

            My segment about Jordan Peterson was not to malign him in the slightest. It was for people to recognize that the right-wing base really does have a dark underbelly and isn’t as liberal as Peterson. Just as this article makes broad claims about the left.

        • “I completely reject this equivalence and furthermore I think people like Chomsky, Chris Hedges, etc. are far-left nutjobs whom I can’t believe you approvingly quoted.”

          I’m not sure what to make of your comments in the main. I can find common ground with some of what you’re saying or at least admit there are arguments to be made, but the bit you wrote at the end, which I’ve pulled out in quotes above, makes me think that this isn’t going to lead anywhere productive.

          Thanks for the civil discussion.

        • Shenme Shihou says

          “The example of Obama’s authoritarianism given by Shenme was the drone strike to kill Americans who were in the battlefield against American forces (giving aid and comfort to al-Qaeda). ”

          Not at all. Like I said before, neither was even charged of a crime. Neither were “in the battlefeild” either. One was supsected of giving aid to al-Qaeda (which would still warrent a trial before execution), the other was his son who was not even suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda, and was a minor.

      • Cassandra says

        The alt right is a straw man the left use to demonise the other side. The supposed “leader” of the alt right movement, Richard Spencer, has 78k twitter followers, about a tenth of Peterson. Its a niche. It’s amazing that the vilification of old white men ( demographically typically mostly right) by the sjw crowd hasn’t pushed more people in this direction to find a group identity they can relate to, but there you go, as you say we are all far too decent.

    • Officious Intermeddler says

      “Trump’s legal team just submitted a letter to the Special Counsel claiming that the president has the right to order the Department of Justice to shut down any investigation and open any others.”

      In other words, Trump’s legal team reiterated to the Special Counsel the completely accurate and uncontroversial fact that the Department of Justice is an executive branch agency that is answerable to, and not independent of, the president. But P. K. Adithya doesn’t like that, and so he’s running interference for hysterical media suggestions that American democracy is under threat. As for the above article, QED.

      • P. K. Adithya says

        Officious Intermeddler:

        Do you know anything about why Nixon was forced to resign? According to you, was it justified for Nixon to carry out the Saturday Night Massacre in order to seize control of an investigation he didn’t like?

        The idea that law enforcement shouldn’t be politicized is one of the foundational principles of a liberal democracy. You can obfuscate all you want, but you can’t get around the fact that Trump is openly undermining this.

        • ADM64 says

          The point here is that the entire executive power of our government is vested in the President by the Constitution and therefore he has total discretion over what cases the government chooses to pursue and whether a Federal officer should be fired. The remedy for abuse of executive power, for high crimes and misdemeanors, is impeachment. That is also in the Constitution. There is no other remedy possible within the framework of the Constitution. A president can only be prosecuted for criminal acts AFTER he is removed from office via impeachment. Any other approach would mean that a department of the government’s executive branch is not actually subordinate to the chief executive, which is both illogical and unconstitutional.

          One might aspire to an entirely un-politicized legal system but it is not always possible for reasons that are entirely reasonable.

          In the case of Nixon , it became understood that he ordered a burglary (a crime), and took measures to have that covered up (also a crime given his position as the nation’s chief law enforcer – for that’s what a president is), amongst other things. However, no one could indict him while he was President. So, impeachment was in the offing and he opted to resign. Once a private citizen, he was open to criminal charges and likely would have faced jail had President Ford not pardoned him.

          It’s worth noting that from the IRS, to the Clinton e-mail scandal to the “Fast and Furious” gun operation to not pursuing Hezbollah-fronted gangs that were using drug deals to fund their operations, President Obama either directed the government to do so, or for it not to proceed with charges. The first of these examples, and the last two were more corrupt and arguably criminal. However, at least in the last two instances, they were flawed but legitimate executive actions. President Obama could not have ondicted for those thing while in office. He could, however, have been impeached for them.

          I think you need to learn more about the Constitution before drawing conclusions ike this one.

          • P. K. Adithya says

            ADM64:

            My argument is not about whether the president has the constitutional authority to perform certain actions, such as firing the FBI director. It is about the principle that the president shouldn’t be allowed to obstruct justice.

            I disagree with you about whether Obama acted inappropriately in the specific instances you mentioned. For example, even the Trump administration’s Department of Justice has declined to pursue the IRS scandal, stating that there is no evidence Obama used it to target conservative groups. Also, the IRS had been using conservative and liberal search terms to find groups to audit from 2004 onwards, well before Obama.

            If it had been found that Obama had indeed been politicizing the IRS, that would definitely have been grounds to raise the alarm about Obama’s authoritarianism. In the end, of course, it would have come down to whether Congress could successfully impeach Obama. But there is no way that all the people here making excuses for Trump would have stood for the argument that Obama was president and he could therefore use the IRS as a political vehicle.

        • Officious Intermeddler says

          P. K. Adithya:

          Informing an off-the-rails Special Counsel that the Department of Justice is and remains subordinate to the president is not remotely analogous to the Saturday Night Massacre. And if the idea that law enforcement shouldn’t be politicized is one of the foundational principles of a liberal democracy, I trust you can provide links to your strenuous objections to Eric Holder’s nakedly partisan tenure as Attorney General.

          No? Then pound sand.

          • P. K. Adithya says

            Officious Intermeddler:

            “Informing an off-the-rails Special Counsel that the Department of Justice is and remains subordinate to the president is not remotely analogous to the Saturday Night Massacre.”

            Yes, what has been done so far is not fully equivalent to the Saturday Night Massacre. However, Trump has openly said that he condemns Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation, and wished he had appointed someone else as Attorney General. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is currently overseeing the investigation and shows no sign of wanting to shut it down. So if Trump fires Rosenstein in order to appoint a DAG who will fire Mueller, will you then accept that Trump has obstructed justice? Your argument seems to be that we had to wait until the Saturday Night Massacre happened in order to talk about Nixon’s authoritarian tendencies.

            By the way, a court ruled in 1973 that Nixon was NOT justified in firing Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox unless he had evidence of gross misconduct.

            “And if the idea that law enforcement shouldn’t be politicized is one of the foundational principles of a liberal democracy, I trust you can provide links to your strenuous objections to Eric Holder’s nakedly partisan tenure as Attorney General.”

            You don’t seem to understand the principle. Eric Holder was Obama’s nominee for Attorney General who was confirmed by the Senate and ran the Department of Justice in a way that you might disagree with, but was not blatantly politicized. I don’t doubt that Jeff Sessions is doing some things I disagree with as Attorney General, but as long as he’s not deliberately persecuting political opponents or shielding allies, I wouldn’t say democracy is under threat from him.

            Is there any evidence that Obama directly instructed the Department of Justice to launch his preferred investigations? No? Then eat dirt.

        • Chet says

          In this country we do not have a liberal democracy. And you don’t know what you are writing about concerning Nixon. He should have told the commies to FOAD. If he would have stayed in office the left would not be a powerful as it is.

          The commies need a good thinning.

          And as for Trump and the complete failure of the fbi, if Trump flushed the fbi tomorrow his approval rate would go sky high. We have sat and watched the fbi goons kill people in Ruby Ridge and Waco (twice). We watched as the dike AG Janet Reno use the fbi thugs to run rough-shod of many others. Me and many more like me firmly believe the fbi and possibly the cia are the ones responsible for all the school shootings, plus the theater shooting, the queer night club may have been sanctioned by the fbi.

          No P K Adithya, you don’t know what you are writing about. But you are Indian (dot not feather) and you have assimilated into the commie side of this country. If you have assimilated at all.

          Maybe you need to pack your grip Punjab and head back to your shithole before this place goes to war. We aren’t voting the globalists out of power. To take OUR country back, there’s going to be lots of blood in the streets. And you are on the wrong side.

        • GrantH says

          Sir: Two wrongs don’t necessarily make some-one an Alt-Right.

          I appreciate the tone of your article, but believe that the manner in which the Fourth Estate (deliberately) cast their investigative zeal aside when Mr. Obama was President (and no btw I am not a US citizen with a dog in this “fight”) ably demonstrates Orwell’s prophetical description of Newspeak.

          This article is worth reading in its entirety: https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/06/obama-trump-administrations-elites-value-style-over-substance/

          Indeed – thanks to incidents like Ferguson, or Tripoli, or “Echo-Chamber/Iran” – I have to wonder whether the feeling amongst the progressive left that “history is on our side” is that not of right action, but moral validity. How else would one describe the contempt of Louis Lerner or her boss? Or the manner in which Andrew McCabe demands immunity from prosecution (and yet no Federal judge is sitting ala Judge Sirica to determine whether indeed on both of these issues a “conspiracy” existed at the highest level). And that doesn’t even begin to address the occupants of two private jets meeting on a tar-mac to discuss a current investigation.

          Apologies – I don’t mean to wander off into the corruption thickets – but my point is simply this: the press has done MORE to undermine the Constitution, the (mis) application of the law by the authorities, and the undeniable politicization of Federal agencies (Justice, IRS, Dept Homeland Securities, FBI … ye gods how is THAT list for one) … by avoiding tabulation of the Facts and substituting opinion for accountability.

    • BtheQ says

      Lord forgive me for a tl;dr comment, but I swear nearly every sentence from this person drips with the impenetrable smugness and assertion of Leftist echo chamber dogma as facts in evidence that it is a pitch perfect example of the tendencies the article criticize, and it deserves some rebuttal.

      “Trump’s legal team just submitted a letter to the Special Counsel claiming that the president has the right to order the Department of Justice to shut down any investigation and open any others.”

      Oh no! They are making a Constitutional argument! Therefore the republic is under threat? You don’t seem to know what you are talking about, but are convinced Trump is a grave threat to the country: thank you Leftist echo chamber!

      For your information, the DoJ is an executive agency, and the President is at the top of that pyramid, so to speak. Apparently you are not familiar with Article II or the Unitary Executive. Well-intentioned and informed people can disagree on specific cases of the exercise of Presidential powers under Article II, but the fact that you consider the argument of the President’s legal team impossible to cover except as a grave threat to the country just shows how effective the Left’s ignorant and perpetual hyperventilating from a position of full-spectrum media dominance is to persuade those who are only tangential followers of politics (i.e. most people) how “beyond the pale” Trump is. Sad.

      I also find your casual dismissal of the Left’s weapinization of charges of racism and sexism as downright bizarre. In your experience, do “ordinary people routinely joke” about racism and sexism in public? On the job? Actually most people are scared to death of touching any topics around race or sex with a 10’ pole. They see how easily one can be turned into an unperson, cast out from polite society, rendered unemployable—literally losing his livelihood, with no recourse to any semblance of fair judgment or even to objective reality confirming his comments or actions. Look how effective the Left has been in regard to illegal immigration—er, undocumented citizens. The Left has arrived at a rhetorical position that any effective enforcement of the current, already-on-the-books immigration laws is per se racist, and gratuitously employs that slur in arguments about immigration policy.

      The is a wide divergence between what people say in private and what they will venture even to intimate in public; academics are afraid to research certain Verboten topics; people have become adept at reading news articles for the real facts behind the sanitized presentations, etc. The parallels with totalitarian states are patent.

      Finally, I must take exception to your comments characterizing the current relative positions and vectors of different types of conservatives and people on the Right. You pronounce on this stuff with the air of authority: “it needs to be understood”, “more extreme views are ascendant”, etc. as though you are just describing obvious reality. But from what you write it appears you don’t know anything about “the Right” or really anyone outside your Leftist bubble—you’ve read Leftist blogs where someone mockingly, tendentiously explains what those nasty conservatives are up to and you dutifully integrate that into your view of reality based on nothing more than hearsay. Well I’m calling you out: you are totally ignorant about those arrayed against transnational globalism because you haven’t taken the time to acquaint yourself with their arguments firsthand. That is weak, but fine, until you get on the internet and start acting like an authority on what “the Right” does. You should take a step back in silence and ask yourself if you truly understand your opponents and their arguments, or have you just been smugly dismissing straw men from your bubble? It’s obviously an easy trap to fall into with the media and liberal arts academia so monolithically anti-Trump and anti-conservative.

      You seem to understand reality through the prism of political websites, and in particular the tendentious comments from people on Left-wing sites about “where people opposed to the Left go.” I submit that you don’t read any of the sites you mentioned and have liberally no idea what you are talking about. And you lazily engage in the same tactics this article identifies: “extreme” conservatives are racists and “white nationalists.” Your equating of terms like “globalist” on the Right with “racist” on the Left is frankly pathetic: which one of these epithets gets one banished (and even airbrushed from history, in some cases) and which one gets you fêted at elite cocktail parties and Hollywood awards shows?

      • P. K. Adithya says

        BtheQ:

        See my reply to ADM64. I don’t believe that Obama actually politicized the IRS during his tenure, but let’s assume that he did. Why was there such an outcry from conservatives if he was only doing something that was within his constitutional authority? You realize that norms and principles on not politicizing law enforcement are important too, yes?

        For some reason, you seem unable to process my arguments regarding rhetorical smears on the left and the right. No doubt conservative magazines like National Review and The Weekly Standard do not engage in name-calling. But these are not the gold standard for the right-wing base any more. If they were, the base wouldn’t have voted for Trump. The base is much more likely to be found at Breitbart and various blogs, where politicians (including Republicans) are routinely labeled “anti-white” and “globalist” and “warmonger” for not being entirely anti-immigration and isolationist. This is the equivalent of the name-calling on the left, and no amount of outraged denial will help you.

        However, yes, it is also true that the left is currently much more powerful than the right in the cultural and academic sphere, and their smears carry more power. So we can continue to attack their monopoly by pointing to their flaws, and hopefully get to a better balance of power. But in that process, how does it make sense to pretend that the right is full of innocent people who would never engage in what the left is doing? That will only make you sound suspiciously partisan to someone who is not already inclined to your point of view. See the pushback that this article has received, from commenters other than myself.

        • augustine says

          @ P.K. Adithya

          I’ve enjoyed reading your comments here. You show how it is possible, and desirable, to engage an opponent with exemplary thoughtfulness. Your spirit of curiosity is particularly welcome.

  7. Johnny says

    This article lacks any balance and I am intrigued to learn more about these conservative ideas alluded to but not mentioned. “The left exists as a unified utopian vision built on abstract ideals that are deemed so pure they must never be tested”, the article, ironically, reinforces the very narrative it is attempting to critique by offering up such fleeting and ungrounded statements. Easily, the least useful article to date I have read on Quillette. FYI, Jordan Peterson, his views and this article share a common standard of waffle and incoherence.

    • Joshua says

      The concept of a polemic article seems to have escaped you. Also seeming to escape you is the irony of complaining that an article provides no grounds for its statements, and then providing no grounds for your own statement about Jordan Peterson. This all said, I hope reading Quillette makes you feel smart.

  8. Shenme Shihou says

    “Perhaps the left is more of a continuum whereas the right is composed of disparate factions, but that doesn’t make it any more fair to blur the distinctions between “Hope and change” and “One million deaths is a statistic”.”

    You may be right, but I can see where this thought comes from. For instance, Obama’s spokeman hangs Soviet propaganda in his home and its treated as no big deal or surprise. Many University professors, who campaigned for Bernie or Hillary, are outspoken communists. I had a lacturer at my University who was a Bernie supporter that told us to “go forth and become revolutionaries like Lenin. That is Vladmir, not John.” As the work of John Hayes, Harvey Klher and Ronald Radosh show, plenty of mainstream left-of-center academics and government officials have been apologetic for Soviet communism (if not outright employed by them).

    The same cant really be said for mainstream right academics and fascism. The Trumpites that are fascist apologists are fringe internet types and not very mainstream. You wont find swastikas in the homes of Ben Shapiro or Thomas Sowell. And when those on the mainstream right do show signs of fringe tendancies, such as Steve Bannon reading Julius Evola, it gets nation media attention in New York Times articles (remember too that the NYT published work by Walter Duranty who was a Soviet apologist and denied Soviet famines and genocide).

    That being said, does Trump have some authoritarian tendancies? Eh, the example you gave could be used as evidence of such. But its also nothing particularly meaningful in terms of presidential overreach. If you remember, Obama sent a drone strike to kill two american citzens. Neither were charged of a crime and one was a minor who was not even suspected of a crime. I would say that is also pretty authoritarian. Which is worse is a matter of opinion, but if Trump is evidence of an authoritarian streak then the other has to be as well. Keep in mind, no one was accusing Obama of being a threat to democracy.

    • Shenme Shihou says

      This was a reply to a reply, I dont know why this posted here.

  9. Dan says

    This article strikes me as too one-sided, bordering on irrrsponsible. I agree with a lot of this article with 2 major exceptions: 1) The right has been in an ideological echo chamber for at least 2 decades, utilizing many of the same rhetorical devises you (accurately) accuse the left of using. You clearly have’t listened to Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity. It has a de facto state propaganda machine in Fox News, and is even more truth averse than the left, and 2) Donald Trump, with his endless corruption, aversion to the truth, and willingness to sidestep democratic norms, really is trying to wrest authoritarian control of the United States. Just because the radical left has made its own authoritarian overtures doesn’t mean you should ignore the more robust authoritarianism on the right.

    • Oh, please, is anyone ever going to dump the “Trump is Hitler” meme? It didn’t work, it’s time to give it up and move on with life.

    • What authoritarian control is he trying to wrest? And from whom is he trying to wrest it? Who now has that authoritarian control he’s trying to get his “tiny little hands” on? How can he be authoritarian when he is trying to make government smaller, not bigger? Were Obama’s executive orders “authoritarian”? Was Fast and Furious “authoritarian”? The “Dear Colleague” letter that got boys kicked out of universities on girls’ mere accusations? The matter of Spygate? Hillary’s uranium deals? The way Bill Clinton’s victims were handled?

      Before being accused of “whataboutery,” the point is that while I do see Trump’s “bad boy alphaness” and willingness to hedge some in order to get his way with journalists (I think he plays them like a fiddle), I’m not seeing his alleged “authoritarianism” — but I do see plenty on the left, and it goes totally unnoticed by the media and other leftists who do things like accuse Trump of trying to “destroy freedom of the press” by simply (and correctly) criticizing what the media types do with their endless propaganda and lies. Seriously, there is a Trump Derangement Syndrome going on out there bigly.

      • P. K. Adithya says

        Dear roccocannoli:

        This is an extract from the letter that Trump’s legal team sent to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

        “The President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations.”

        In other words, the president has the authority to shut down investigations harming himself and his allies, and open investigations into his political opponents. There is no such thing as obstruction of justice or perversion of law enforcement.

        Sound authoritarian enough to you? Or do you need soldiers in the streets?

        • 1) He *is* the head of all that; he’s the head of the Executive branch, as was Obama in his time. Congress has its powers to act if it wants to, and can amend the Constitution. If you want truly authoritarian, look at Waco and Ruby Ridge or the undeclared, unconstitutional de facto wars and military actions started by Presidents of both parties.

          2) How does his having that sort of authority lead to “soldiers in the streets”? Does the FBI have platoons of soldiers? And what would those soldiers be doing? Taking away our guns? Throwing Jews into camps (he’d be arresting his own daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids)?

          Maybe he’d be taking away the businesses of Christians who don’t want to bake cakes for gay weddings, force-feeding their kids LGBT propaganda in schools, using powers like Google and Facebook to get his way, and dictating talking points to CNN, MSNBC, and the NYT. Ha.

        • Officious Intermeddler says

          “In other words, the president has the authority to shut down investigations harming himself and his allies, and open investigations into his political opponents.”

          Precisely.

          “There is no such thing as obstruction of justice or perversion of law enforcement.”

          …and there’s where you go off the rails. The implication isn’t that there is no remedy for abusive conduct by the chief executive, but rather that the remedy is impeachment, not indictment.

          This isn’t difficult. It just requires you to cease hyperventilating about authoritarianism and threats to democracy simply because you can’t use the Department of Justice to overturn the results of an election.

        • TarsTarkas says

          Yes he has that authority because the Justice Department is part of the Executive. Period. And the antidote for perceived Executive overreach is impeachment and conviction, by Congress. Don’t like it? Write a Constitutional Amendment to make the structure of government conform to your wishes and get it passed.

  10. P. K. Adithya says

    Listen, Richard Nixon was impeached for interfering with the Department of Justice. He fired his own Attorney General in order to seize control of an investigation and shut it down. This was seen as obstruction of justice, and it got him impeached. People like you would happily allow presidents to abuse their powers.

    Let me put it in plainer terms for you. “Spygate” isn’t a thing – Carter Page had been under FISA warrant-authorized surveillance long before he joined the Trump campaign, and the FBI had every right to launch a counterintelligence investigation when they saw this suspicious activity. Trump’s defenders know this, which is why they’ve backed off the claims about “Spygate” after the initial propaganda. But if the FBI was spying for political purposes rather than investigating, and if Obama ordered it, then what’s wrong with that, according to your view of executive branch privilege?

    Soldiers in the streets was a hypothetical to show the extent to which Trump supporters make excuses for authoritarianism. You realize that according to the powers Trump claimed for himself, he can order an investigation into whomever he wants to harass? You seem happy to import the Third World model of governance into the United States.

    • P. K. Adithya says

      Sorry – this was meant to be a reply to roccocannoli.

    • P. K. Adithya says

      Also – Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. Sorry! These comments need an edit feature.

    • Canuck Sailor says

      Of course Trump can order an investigation into whomever he wants. He has Obama’s example to follow: James Rosen of Fox, and the illegal records’ seizure for 20 phone lines of the Associated Press.
      Don’t talk to us of cherry picking, when there’s red juice dripping down your chin.

    • “People like you would allow presidents to abuse their powers.”

      That’s rich! You’ve just handwaved off Obama’s use of drones to assassinate two American citizens (never mind indefinite detention, his war on whistle blowers, and FBI spying on journalists). If Trump’s presidency is characterized by authoritarianism (and it’s not at all clear to that it will be), he has Obama to thank for laying the legal framework and setting executive precedents for it. Oops. I guess it’s OK when your guy is in office. Let’s all pray Trump uses some restraint. And the next guy. And the next guy. And the next…

      • P. K. Adithya says

        Dear K:

        I waved away Obama’s drone strikes on Anwar al-Awlaki and his son because they were in Yemen giving material help to al-Qaeda, an organization that the United States was at war with. If the Trump administration killed American citizens who had joined ISIS using drones, would it be considered authoritarian? Most definitely not. I attack Trump for his claiming unreasonable powers as president, not for prosecuting the War on Terror.

        I’m also not sure what innocent whistleblowers Obama prosecuted. Do you mean like Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden? There have to be consequences for leaking US government secrets, or else anyone will be able to release them at any time claiming to be a whistleblower because there were actions they disagreed with. This is incidentally why I regard Chomsky, Hedges and Greenwald as lunatics. They believe that anyone should be able to penetrate the US government and leak its secrets in the name of transparency.

        Obama never declared that he was allowed to run the Department of Justice as he saw fit. He never said that he could shut down the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email server if he wanted to. Is it really your position that Obama could indeed have done so? That you wouldn’t have been up in arms about politicization of law enforcement if he had? Would you have been sympathetic to excuses involving Bush?

    • Officious Intermeddler says

      “You seem happy to import the Third World model of governance into the United States.”

      Says the guy manning the ramparts in defense of President Pen And Phone. Spare me.

      Just be honest, P.K.: for you this has nothing to do with principles, and everything to do with principals.

    • A FISA warrant that was gotten because of a dossier that had been funded by Hillary’s people and the DNC, something the FBI didn’t bother to tell the Court.

      “Soldiers in the street” is the sort of language that fuels “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and over-protection on the part of some of his supporters. Keep talking that way and watch some Trump supporters become willing to overlook any foibles or mistakes or out-and-out wrongdoings on Trump’s part should they happen.

      I’m not seeing this “authoritarianism” that you claim to see. But you’re characterizing rather than giving real examples. All you’ve come up with is the idea that he can stop investigations, which isn’t “authoritarian” but how our Constitution’s written. I’ve not seen him do things like use the IRS to punish conservatives, like Obama did. Maybe he’ll do something like that some day, but if he does, you can bet that a lot of people won’t believe anything the media say about it since all they’ve done is lie about the guy for a few years now. That’s the problem with crying wolf.

      • P. K. Adithya says

        roccocannoli:

        Your first sentence is utter rubbish. Carter Page had been under FISA surveillance since 2014. His warrant had been renewed every month since then. In a later justification for renewing the warrant, the Steele dossier was mentioned. The funding of the dossier is irrelevant – what’s important is its credibility, which the FBI conveyed to the court according to its best intelligence.

        https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/former-trump-adviser-carter-page-under-fisa-warrant-since-2014-report/article/2630576

        Also, how many times does it need to be said that the IRS used conservative AND liberal search terms in order to find groups to audit, both during AND before Obama’s terms?

        https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2017reports/201710054fr.pdf

        People like you are willing to tune out negative information about Trump and spread misinformation about Obama. I get that. I will continue calling out your ilk and there’s nothing you can do about it.

        • People like me? What people am I like, and how would you know?

          Anyway, FISA warrants aren’t renewed every month; they’re typically issued for 90 days. He was investigated in 2014, and was investigated *again* later.

          The funding of the dossier isn’t irrelevant — says you.

          Finally, yeah, a few liberal groups got targeted by the IRS, too, but not nearly at the rate conservative groups did. Read page 8 of the Linchpins of Liberty vs. the United States case:

          “The Senate Finance Committee reported that “[W]hile the bucketed applications were from groups on both the political right as well as the left, the majority of the applications were from right-leaning organizations.” To support this conclusion, the report cited IRS
          correspondence, which stated:

          Of the 84 (c)(3) cases, slightly over half appear to be conservative leaning groups based solely on the name. The remainder do not obviously lean to either side of the political spectrum.

          Of the 199 (c)(4) cases, approximately 3⁄4 appear to be conservative leaning while fewer than 10 appear to be liberal/progressive leaning groups based solely on name. The remainder do not obviously lean to either side of the political spectrum”

          That’s 10 out of 283, so stop with the “but liberals were targeted, too!” routine. Doesn’t fly.

          • JWJ says

            Exactly correct. Either Mr. Adithya is woefully ignorant about IRS targeting conservatives by a large margin or is a liar. Either way, his credibility is damaged. Simply embarrassing.

            And then to say that one political party using the intelligence agencies to spy on the opposition party during a presidential campaign is simply not “a thing”. Wow.

            Who but a rabid partisan could possibly think that?

          • P. K. Adithya says

            So now we’re doing the “disparity of outcome means discrimination” argument? How delightful. Are you sure there were an equal number of liberal groups and conservative groups applying in the first place?

            What matters is whether the search terms were reasonable and fair. Both “Tea Party” and “Occupy” groups were targeted for further scrutiny, during the brief heyday of these movements. However, it’s certainly to be expected that after the Republicans lost the 2008 election, there was more enthusiasm on their side to organize and apply for tax-exempt status under the banner of the Tea Party.

            In case you aren’t aware, the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions has found no reason to reopen an investigation into this “scandal”. Perhaps Sessions knows a thing or two about the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition, which he got into so much trouble with the left for bringing up.

          • P. K. Adithya says

            By the way, the sources of funding for the Steele Dossier were mentioned in the FBI’s application for the FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page:

            https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/05/fbi-footnote-carter-page-warrant-390795

            Why is the source of funding for the dossier important when the FBI can analyze the value of its intel? You’re making an ad hominem argument. You realize that the FBI used some material from the book “Clinton Cash”, written by a partisan conservative, in order to further its investigation of Hillary Clinton?

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/02/why-an-anti-clinton-book-from-breitbart-got-the-fbis-attention/

        • Linda Mae says

          PK, yes there is something we can do about it! Call you out. You are resorting to name calling and with each post you are being exposed. Rocco is playing you like a fiddle.

          • P. K. Adithya says

            Some updated information about the IRS “scandal”, which supersedes the previous claims about only 10 of 283 organizations being liberal-leaning:

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/liberal-groups-got-irs-scrutiny-too-inspector-general-finds/2017/10/04/e9b6e3c4-a929-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html

            Plenty of groups had their applications delayed for having ties to ACORN, a liberal-leaning group that was forced to disband after a fake sting operation by conservative provocateurs. These groups’ names may not have been obviously liberal-sounding, but they should certainly be taken into account when considering whom the IRS flagged up for scrutiny.

            Linda Mae, please do keep trying. Your side is all bluster, no arguments. You will lose.

          • JWJ says

            This is actually to Mr. Adithya. First, regardless of my differences with your “facts”, major kudos for coming into the peanut gallery to engage with the online peons. Heckuva job.

            Now, given that:
            The WP article you link to covers 2004 to 2013 AND it has this quote “It does not characterize the politics of the groups that were selected for scrutiny, a TIGTA spokeswoman emphasized Wednesday.” Does NOT characterize the politics. The issue is around the 2010 to 2012 time period. C’mon man !

            From another commenter elsewhere: “The complaint was never that only tea-party groups got extra scrutiny and no groups on the left did. There were policies in place that were supposed to result in extra scrutiny. For liberal groups these were applied as written. For tea-party groups they were applied every time with them going to a special group where they never got processed.”
            And the requests for background info (web pages, donors, etc.) was very one-sided.

            Also, Sessions dropped the ball. The supposed reason for not going forward with prosecuting the criminal Lois (where is my hard drive??) Lerner was the DOJ underlings said they could not be sure . Hooey on that.
            The Inspector General declared the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” with additional scrutiny based on policy positions; substantial evidence of mismanagement AND “disproportionally impacted applicants with Tea Party groups and similar organizations.

            At least you are now admitting that conservative organizations were targeted by corrupt IRS employees by referencing Sessions not prosecuting. Just that this fact can supposedly not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Sort of why Hillary was not prosecuted for mishandling classified information by certain partisan FBI / DOJ employees.

          • JWJ says

            To Mr. Adithya:
            “the sources of funding for the Steele Dossier were mentioned in the FBI’s application for the FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page:”

            I’m sorry, where in the article you linked does Politico mention that. I believe you made a false statement (did I miss where it was explicitly stated to the FISA court that Clinton was behind the false Steele dirt?).
            All that was mentioned in the warrant to spy on the opposition party by the Obama administration was that the FBI had a footnote referring to a political entity connected to the dossier. No mention was made that the Clinton / Democrats paid for made up “information” from foreign anti-Trump political operatives. That detail was left out. The Obama FBI went out of their way to NOT mention the source of the dirt.

            C’mon man

  11. Other than true believers, does anyone take the language of the left seriously? It’s all preaching to the choir with little impact otherwise. One of the reasons for Trump’s success is that he attacks the left and their media drones without giving a damn what they call him…. and to the media that’s his biggest sin.

    • I think we shrug it off to our absolute peril. Jordan Peterson’s fame can largely be attributed to his stance on compelled speech laws in Canada. The grooming gang cases in Britain are at least partly the result of the fear of the label “racist” on the part of the authorities and public. The refugee crisis in Europe, for that matter, seems to come down to a war of words (“refugee” vs. “migrant”, perhaps in some cases “invaders” is even appropriate).

      No, I think we would do well to mind the language the left uses, to take it seriously, because it is having an effect on not only the culture but policy as well.

    • TarsTarkas says

      When the choir includes high-ranking entrenched bureaucrats in all levels of government from municipal to US who are willing to act on their beliefs, yes, there is an impact, and we’re seeing it every day. How do you think the recently ruled on cake case came about?

  12. Canuck Sailor says

    Our friend, PK Adithya, offers a number of fine examples of leftie Newspeak. I would go so far in fact as to say he’s a greater danger than many others on the left, because he presents himself intelligently and dispassionately, but like the snake in the grass, quiet and unmoving, his bite is still poisonous and needs to be avoided. I will bring up one example, because I am working from my phone and this effort is thus overly time-consuming. Once you have seen what he’s doing, I think all readers here will catch many other examples of his disingenuousness.
    PK states: “You might think “Social Justice Warrior” is way too generous as a label compared to “racist”, but it has managed to acquire significant negative connotations and is a powerful term of abuse on the right.”
    What PK does not state however is that nobody wants to be called a racist, whether on the right or the left, whereas those on the left wear the social justice warrior label as a badge of pride. Thus, the term ‘social justice warrior’ avoids general social opprobrium, whereas the term ‘racist’ is a badge of dishonor to whomever it’s applied to.
    Thus we take the two extremes, on the left and right, SJW and racist… And once again the conservative side loses because of how the terms are defined.
    That is just one example. As you read PK’s comments, you will see others.

    • P. K. Adithya says

      Canuck Sailor:

      Social Justice Warrior is the term for a particular phenomenon that achieved critical recognition and stuck. Somewhat similar to Intellectual Dark Web. I don’t particularly like either of these terms but there’s not an obvious replacement that will catch on. In any case, like I said, SJW has plenty of negative connotations and nobody running for office, or trying to build themselves an audience of any decent size, will proudly identify as an SJW.

      If you’re looking for the equivalent of “racist”, which a right-winger can sloppily apply to someone on the left, I would say it is “socialist” or “communist”. Note that in the 2012 election for instance, neither did Obama call Romney a racist, nor did Romney call Obama a socialist. However, there was plenty of liberal propaganda making Romney out to be some kind of racist, and conservative propaganda about Obama being a socialist. This is how discourse has been dumbed down and there’s no point fuming as though it’s only one side that does it.

      • Chris Hill says

        You make Canuck’s point. If “socialist” is such a term of opprobrium, why do so many on the left proudly embrace it? And we’re not talking fringe-loonies, here – we’re talking scads of middle of the pack college professors I’ve worked with since grad school. How many people in positions of responsibility proudly embrace the term “racist?” Or, to put it another way, I’ve seen an awful lot of kids wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Che Guevara’s mug. I haven’t seen many Hitler shirts. None, in fact.

  13. Andrew Roddy says

    With a penchant for the paradoxical I will simple venture that this piece is not worthy of comment.

  14. Canuck Sailor says

    OK, another example because the more I read of our PK here, the more annoyed I become with his deceptions.

    “, it’s not unreasonable for me to think that moderate intellectuals like Jordan Peterson who focus on criticizing the left are just seen by the right-wing base as useful idiots who can be jettisoned should they ever start to seriously attack the alt-right. I am appealing to people to not be naive about this.”

    Would we be talking about people like Alan Dershowitz, or Mark Penn, Candace Owens and that rapper whose name escapes me now, all who used to be faithfully on the left and who now are vilified by the left for presenting reasonable and factual opinions of what is going on.
    One of the primary tactics of the left that we’ve become aware of is that they consistently accuse others of what they are doing. Or as the French would say, “Qui s’accuse, s’excuse”.

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  16. Zack says

    Great advice at the end – I once challenged my outspoken Communist friend to explain what he was saying without the -ism suffix, and the debate ended.

    For a group – mainly the activist academic faction within the Left – that loathes “cultural appropriation,” there is very little concern over the rampant semantic appropriation you’ve outlined here. They bend words to their ideological will, most notably diversity/(social) justice/representation from your table, to insulate their ideas from criticism and demonize opposition. I would add two notable, recent appropriations: violence – words and ideas I find disagreeable; and trigger – to violate my never-before-challenged sensibilities I claim are on behalf of others less fortunate. One would certainly think twice about committing any sort of “violence” in the public sphere or in front of others, online or elsewhere. Likewise, we must avoid “triggering” the vulnerable and traumatized among us. These are effective deterrents of dissent, especially for young people just becoming politically and socially conscious, which explains the overwhelming majority of college students and young professionals being at least complicit in the imposition of modern day Newspeak.

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  19. Martti O. Suomivuori says

    You probably did not mean this: “A change that we like cannot be unchanged because we say so”.

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  21. Chip says

    It is astonishing in an article that purports to criticize the warping of political terms, that the author puts forward the idea that Trump is somehow in opposition to “the elites”.

    Apparently a Wall Street hedge fund manager is a regular joe, while a community college teacher is “the elite”.

    Doubleplus ungood, my friend!

  22. scuzzy says

    I am what used to be defined as a liberal – at least according to the definition of the word.

    And of course what passes for liberals these days twist words beyond anything resembling the true definition. I will no longer even bother to debate a so called liberal any longer. It is a waste of time.

    One of the alt-right acronyms comes to mind – it’s what I now use:

    BFYTW.

  23. Sylv says

    “Linguistic kill shots” is the term that Scott Adams, a Trump supporter, uses to describe Trump’s supposed brilliance at using loaded language to win. Adams claims that these techniques have their origin in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and various other schools of pop-hypnosis that have been around for decades, originally popularized in a host of mail-order “boost your sales” seminars or “how to pick up girls” handbooks that could be ordered from the back of certain magazines. (For some odd reason Adams fancies himself some kind of expert on these techniques.) It’s a little strange that you would seize upon this particular term to bolster your thesis.

    Your portrayal of a vast, monolithic, uniformly crazy and evil Left, complete with sweeping strawman characterizations of what they all supposedly think and what they all supposedly want (gulags!), either demonstrates that you have succumbed to your own ideological echo chamber, or else that you are engaged in exactly the kind of thumb-on-the-scales sophisic legerdemain that you claim to be exposing.

    Is there a trend of left-leaning scholars and activists trying to play these sorts of games with language? Sure, I’ll buy that. Is it a tactic confined to the Left? See above, re. the provenance of the phrase “linguistic kill shot.”

    It’s a tactic, not an ideology.

  24. Matt McManus says

    There is an irony here in saying that the monolithic, total force that is the Left wrongly believes that the Right is a monolithic, total force and then going on to create a straw man characterization drawing almost entirely on various conservative leaning sources while condemning your ideological opponents for doing the same. There are many good right wing criticisms one could make of the many variants of left and progressive thinking out there. Patrick Deneen has just published a widely praised book doing just that. This uncharitable article falls quite short of that standard.

  25. That table of newsspeak is awesome. I am copying and pasting into emails and sending it out to the few progressive friends I have left.

  26. markbul says

    ” Marxist philosopher, Louis Althusser, argued that people in the grip of ideology “believe themselves by definition outside ideology…ideology never says, ‘I am ideological.’”

    Actually, Hitler said that he respected the communists ‘because they have an ideology’ (like he did). Then again, when asked if anti-Semitism was his ideology, Himmler answered no, “anti-Semitism isn’t ideology; anti-Semitism is hygiene.” Nice fellow. There certainly wasn’t any shortage of pride in ‘Marxist-Leninist throught’ in the 20th century. Remember the bazillion Chinese holding up their Little Red Books?

  27. Have most of the people replying to P.K been paying attention to what was being said or are they just reading what is written whatever way they like? Yes, the left has plenty of flaws as the most of the articles in Quillette have pointed. Nobody is arguing this, what is said instead is that the non-left, the right if you want to call it that, is often equally guilty of the tactics used by the left. They are equally capable of hypocrisy and double standard. Just because the left has more followers doesn’t impact this.

  28. the time for erudite linguistic analyses is growing short.

    pretty soon

    we have to kill them all.

    or they will kill us.

    any number of tikkun ola Jews,

    from Sontag to Soros, have said so.

    and I believe them. And BTW,

    all those useless (((neo-conz))) and cuckservatives you cite,

    will be on the Bolshevik side of the firing lines.

  29. He’s quoting David Horowitz, the same nutjob who switched from radical Marxist to radical rightist and thinks Obama is a communist. Then he quotes the Daily Wire, hardly a bastion of good faith.
    This piece might as well appeared on Breitbart. Here is Newt Gingrich, creating an Orwellian list of words to describe Republicans as “Good” and Democrats as “Evil” (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm). Oh, but Quillette is a “platform for free thought”, a perfect example of doublespeak if there ever was.

    • Brick says

      ^ Guilt-by-association fallacy. Argue the points, do not try to smear.

  30. josh says

    Yes, sometimes liberal critiques of Trump are overblown and that is worth criticizing. Meanwhile, Trump is demonizing citizens for not displaying enough loyalty at football games, catering to hysteria over foreign hordes of rapists and gang members, subverting the justice system, lying constantly and feeding conspiracy theories, censoring inconvenient scientific findings, displaying dangerous incompetence across the board, and generally being as corrupt as possible.

    Trump isn’t HItler but he is certainly a demagogue and he is by far the most Orwellian phenomenon I’ve seen in the US. Remember when he tried to turn the Boy Scouts into a political rally against his enemies? And the Trumpian fixation on Hillary Clinton was the closest thing to a real two-minute hate I can think of. it persists even after she lost and became politically irrelevant, *except* of course that it is useful propaganda.

    This whole article lacks any such awareness, it just reads as cut-rate right-wing hyperbole. A coherent critique of the left shouldn’t double down on the style of exaggerations and omissions of which they are accused. A few examples:

    “the 2016 US Presidential election did not produce the result that the elites wanted”
    Many ‘elites’, from corporate donors to right wing opinion-makers backed Trump, who is himself the definition of ‘an elite’. But more importantly, Trump won among people making over $50,000, it was the low side of the income distribution that tilted toward Clinton, and as we know, this was the majority of people. Trump is a product of the elite, even if he isn’t popular with some newspaper opinion pages.

    “They call us racists, sexists, homophobes, and selfish pigs, and we call them … liberals.”
    Baloney, you call them snowflakes, communists, parasites, traitors, baby-killers, perverts, spoiled children, etc., etc. I’ve seen people on the right unfairly tarred, but it’s a major industry from the right as well.

    “What all brands of leftism seem to share– whether that of Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Fidel Castro, or Joseph Stalin – is a tendency to speak of what ought to be, as opposed to pragmatically dealing with what is, while then seeking to implement their utopian vision using the instruments of the state.”
    As though people on the right don’t speak of how things “should” be done, and don’t try to implement their policies using whatever power they have, especially the state. Really, Obama and Clinton aren’t pragmatic? They were centrist technocrats. Trump, on the other hand, wants Mexico to pay for a wall. UKIP wanted Brexit without considering any of the practical implications. Bush thought Iraq would be a short, easy war.

    If Quillette is serious about raising the level of dialogue I hope we can get better offering than this article in the future.

  31. Bill Setser says

    This comment was made by a friend to my Facebook share of this article. Shared here, and slightly edited with his permission.

    It is a good article, as far as it goes. It is yet another article that edges up to the real understanding of what those who oppose collectivism in all its myriad of forms must recognize and do; but does not cross the line and spell out what must be done…hints yes, but nothing one can call direct action, tactic, or strategy……well it comes close to strategy in a couple of places, yet makes no commitment.

    I have somewhat a “come’on guys, for Christ’s sake, call a fukking spade a spade” reaction to some of the article.

    You’re uncomfortable talking about a left-right paradigm….well com’on, what else do you call it? The left is happy being the left, so if you oppose them what are you? An “Abover” or a “Belower”….maybe a “Behinder” or a “Fronter”? Recognize for christ’s sake, that the left is comfortable being the left, they and their sycophantic media just will never attach a negative adjective to that as they will to the right. You never see or hear of a “Radical” left, a “Violent” left, an “Extremist” left, a “Hateful” left, a “Racist” left, never ever will the media attach any denigrating adjective to the idenity “left”. Why? Because the left (of which the sycophantic media is definitely a member) is correct in their beliefs, their dogma, and in the vision of the left, whatever they do is rightful and beneficial to mankind.

    We in opposition to the left are stupid in order of magnitudes to let them get away with it. In any writing or speech where it is appropriate, label them as they are…..radical left, violent left, extremist left, hateful left, and stick in in their faces, make it stick, do not back down. This goes doubloe for the label progressive. We know fukking well that they are regressive to the bad old days and dogma of Stalin and Mao…..so why the fuk are our “spokespersons” still meekly letting them clothe themselves in the mantle of superiority of “progressivism”? Gutless whimps.

    The article talks about how the left speaks of the right as we are homogenized like the left…..well I am sorry dudes we are homogenized in one respect and ti is the main respect, that is the opposition to collectivism and the proven idiocy it is. This is why I have created and posted the “Conservatarian” little meme about being willing to work with the good (others in opposition to collectivism) while working for and waiting for the perfect.

    My God, in my mind the difference between a true conservative, a Tea Party member, and a dedicated libertarian are far more insignificant than the differences between the looney lefty and the libertarian or conservative. We need people to wake up and make alliances based on practicalities not emotions, not the dogma that cannot see a tomorrow.

    Capitalism. As I have said before why shy away from the label just because ignorant assholes created a negative context to teach to even more and thorough ignorant kids? We are not going to expunge the word from the American lexicon, ain’t gonna happen.

    Instead, why not thoroughly understand what capitalism is, who does it, why they do it, the results of doing it, the benefits of doing it, and the utter inevitability of practicing capitalism? Then use that knowledge to debate, explain, and promote WHAT AIN’T GONNA FUKKING CHANGE NO MATTER HOW MUCH STUPIDITY ABOUT ECONOMICS IDIOTS COME UP WITH!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You own your life’s force, your labor, it is your capital good, and we each are better off deciding for ourselves how to invest that capital good in a competitive market to receive profit or loss as we do well or poorly.

    The idiots coming through universities since WWII are mostly utterly ignorant of the fact that capitalism results in loss as often, or more frequently, as it does profit. And, they have no idea of how many “corporations” they brush up against in their daily lives, and so have no idea of how stupid it is to rant against corporations as if they are all GMC, IBM, Boeing, etc.. They forget that muffle shop on the corner is a corp. and it employs 12 people who do well…..a scenario which repeated in the hundreds of thousands across the USA. Those small corporation keep millions and millions in a good lifestyle and off the welfare rolls.

    Let me close with this: If I were going to define greed as the left see it, I would say the looney left sees greed as meaning:
    People who are more interested in providing for themselves than they are in providing for me.

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