History, Human Rights, Politics, recent

Orwell and the Anti-Totalitarian Left in the Age of Trump


In his review of Pascal Bruckner’s new book, An Imaginary Racism: Islamophobia and Guilt, Nick Cohen begins with a denunciation of the contemporary Left’s obsession with identity politics and “willingness to excuse antisemitism, misogyny, tyranny, and obscurantism, as long as the antisemitic, misogynistic, tyrannical obscurantists are anti-Western.” Cohen acknowledges that Bruckner has been among the most penetrating analysts of the Left’s moral and intellectual decline in the twenty-first century, recalling that he described Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism as a “brilliant defence of liberalism and a deservedly contemptuous assault on all those intellectuals who have betrayed its best values.”

However, Cohen now thinks Bruckner’s animus toward the Left has propelled him to the Right, arguing that he fails to “extend his opposition to Islamism to cover the purveyors of anti-Muslim bigotry,” uses the “language of demagogues and civil war,” and displays the “ethnic favouritism and intellectual double-standards of the counter-Enlightenment.” Cohen also laments Bruckner’s sparse commentary on right-wing populist and nationalist movements in Europe and the United States:

At no point would the uninformed reader [of An Imaginary Racism] guess that Law and Justice controls Poland, Fidesz controls Hungary, the Northern League is in power in Italy, and Donald Trump is president of the United States. Meanwhile, if Bruckner shows his concern about Marine le Pen making it to the final round of the French presidential election I must have missed the reference.

In his response to Cohen’s “caustic” and “intemperate” review, Bruckner explains that he doesn’t criticize the Left out of sympathy for the Right—he does so because he expects “more of a Left that was traditionally critical of religion and has now retreated into moral relativity.” Bruckner also points out that it’s possible to be an opponent of right-wing populism and Islamism at the same time: “To believe that we can combat one danger while surrendering to another is to nurse an illusion—this is not the first time in history that we have had to fight enemies on multiple fronts.” But he notes that “my new monograph is not about the rise of European neo-populism … Cohen’s complaint seems to be that I didn’t write a different book entirely.”

These are, to my mind, fair points. It’s misleading to say Bruckner has “accepted the identity politics of the Right,” and there’s no reason to believe he’s trying to “replace the slogan that ‘the West is the root cause of all evil’ with ‘the Left is the root cause of all evil.’” Cohen, meanwhile, is right that anti-Muslim bigotry has been instrumentalized by the Trumps and Le Pens of the world, but it’s also important to recognize that Bruckner’s objections to the misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of illiberalism in many Muslim communities are rooted in values that would (or should) find plenty of support on the Left, such as secularism and pluralism.

While the quarrel between Cohen and Bruckner may seem petty and personal, it highlights a source of tension that has existed for a long time on the Left. Bruckner refers to it directly:

Cohen’s approach to my book reproduces a tactic familiar from the Cold War. Just as we were once instructed that criticising the Soviet Union played into the hands of American imperialism, those who attack Ikhwani, salafi, Wahhabi, and Khomeinist fanatics today stand accused of promoting the interests of the nativist Right. This kind of Stalinist blackmail, as Cohen certainly knows, led generations of progressive intellectuals into cowardly silence and complacent appeasement of totalitarianism.

When left-wingers criticize their own side, they’re always vulnerable to the charge that they’ve betrayed their allies and defected to the Right. Bruckner is correct to point out that this accusation has been weaponized to suppress dissent, but he doesn’t seem to notice that he’s using the tactic on Cohen in reverse. He describes Cohen as an “enlisted journalist” who has abandoned his “eminent dissident’s position” and is now “anxious to reassure his readers that he is still on the Left.” And he seems to think Cohen has repudiated just about every critical word he has written about the Left over the past couple of decades: “Those who militated for 20 years against terrorism, obscurantism, and Islamofascism will be saddened to have lost his support, and may be left to wonder if it was authentic or just a posture.” None of this is true. Cohen is still a lacerating critic of the authoritarian Left, as he makes clear in the review itself.

It’s frustrating to watch two left-wing writers—both of whom have produced imperishable critiques of the Left—disparage and misrepresent one another in print. Despite the very real differences between them (I happen to agree with Cohen that Bruckner should devote more of his energy to resisting the authoritarian Right), they belong to an honorable and endangered political tradition that offers the best guide to maintaining intellectual integrity and moral clarity in the age of Trump and Corbyn.

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the term “anti-totalitarian Left” seems like a relic from a more heroic era—a grand anachronism that sounds out of place when most of the fascists in the world are tiki torch-wielding idiots in white polos and when most of the West’s remaining communists wear ski masks and throw bottles at Milo Yiannopoulos. But if you take a moment to reflect on a few of the most consequential political debates of the past 20 years—about, say, going to war to remove a genocidal dictator in Iraq, resisting theocratic violence and repression from Paris to Tehran to Nairobi, and responding to anti-democratic movements in Europe, the United States, and South America—you’ll see that the anti-totalitarian (or at the very least, anti-authoritarian) Left is far from irrelevant. Cohen and Bruckner should know: they’re both part of it.


Bruckner’s remark about “Stalinist blackmail” calls to mind a writer whose commitment to both left-wing politics and anti-totalitarianism never wavered in the face of threats and coercion from the Left.

In the summer of 2003, the BBC aired George Orwell: A Life in Pictures. About halfway through the documentary, Orwell (played by Chris Langham) says, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism.” This is a line from one of Orwell’s best-known essays, published in 1946, “Why I Write.” But astute viewers may have noticed that something was missing from the reference—eight words that the producers decided to leave out.

Here’s the original sentence: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.” After the sentence abruptly ends with the word “totalitarianism” in the documentary, Langham takes a long drag on his cigarette before jumping to a different passage of the essay. It was almost as if the producers wanted to accentuate the omission, taunting viewers with their own version of Orwell—one who didn’t have the courage to disclose his true beliefs.

There’s something simultaneously fitting and perverse about the manipulation of Orwell’s words more than half a century after his death (by the BBC, no less). Orwell’s anxiety about the falsification of history is one of the major themes of Nineteen Eighty-Four—as well as much of his other writing and later correspondence—and this is what the producers of the documentary were guilty of doing when they amputated one of his firmest ideological declarations and turned it into a much more palatable and anodyne comment on totalitarianism. No matter how badly some people want Orwell to be a polished and uncontroversial product for mass consumption, he was still the man who wrote these words as he speculated about the possibility of violent revolution in England: “I dare say the London gutters will have to run with blood. All right, let them, if it is necessary.”

Even when Orwell wasn’t in a mood that had him impatiently looking forward to the day “when the red militias are billeted in the Ritz,” he was always honest about his political beliefs. On November 13, 1945, Katharine Stewart-Murray, the Duchess of Atholl, wrote to Orwell asking if he would speak on behalf of an anti-communist organization called the League for European Freedom. This was a month after the publication of Animal Farm—a time when Orwell was worried that the book would be misinterpreted as a broadside against socialism instead of a narrower attack on Stalinism.

Given this context, it isn’t surprising that Orwell declined the duchess’s offer: “Certainly what is said on your platforms is more truthful than the lying propaganda to be found in most of the press, but I cannot associate myself with an essentially Conservative body which claims to defend democracy in Europe but has nothing to say about British imperialism.” Even though Orwell was a staunch anti-communist, his essential political convictions remained immovable: “I belong to the Left and must work inside it, much as I hate Russian totalitarianism and its poisonous influence in this country.”

Orwell was a socialist until the end of his life. For many people, this complicates his legacy and detracts from his pristine image as the twentieth century’s foremost foe of totalitarianism—an image that has been appropriated again and again over the past 70 years.

As John Rodden explains in George Orwell: The Politics of Literary Reputation, in the decades following Orwell’s death, there was an “increased number of claimants and the heightened determination of would-be political beneficiaries to gain exclusive possession of the Orwell halo.” Prominent conservatives and neoconservatives (such as Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol) were among these opportunistic claimants, and Rodden criticizes them for “downplaying [Orwell’s] pamphleteering for an ‘English socialist revolution’ during World War II and his expression of support for the Labour Party even after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, among their other omissions or distortions.”

It’s not mysterious why the Right is constantly trying to claim Orwell as its own. He pointed out that Stalin was a mass murderer and communism was a deadly sham even when the Soviet Union was aligned with Britain during World War II (which earned him the ire of his compatriots—particularly those on the Left—who thought he was hampering the war effort). He embraced the “patriotism and military virtues” that many “enlightened” left-wing intellectuals sneered at. He despised the “one-eyed pacifism that is peculiar to sheltered countries with strong navies.” And even in The Road to Wigan Pier—a book in which Orwell declares that “Socialism is such elementary common sense that I am sometimes amazed that it has not established itself already”—he excoriates socialists as a bunch of pompous social climbers and cranks who are completely detached from the actual working class.

But as Orwell was at pains to demonstrate (especially after the publication of Animal Farm), he would have firmly rejected the Right’s attempts to appropriate his legacy. While Orwell is rightly celebrated for his refusal to accept the dogmas of the Left when he was under tremendous pressure to do so, his independence of mind is only one of the reasons why he remains so relevant today. His ability to maintain that independence without sacrificing his most fundamental principles may be even more important.


Today, the Left could still use some serious Orwellian introspection. Identity politics is steadily eroding its commitment to basic principles like individual rights and free expression. Words like “fascism” and “racism” are on an endless high-decibel loop, driving many former allies (such as the now-reviled members of the white working class) toward populist and nationalist demagogues like Donald Trump. Celebrated cultural and political leaders like Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, and Cameron Perez (who organized the Women’s March, the largest protest in U.S. history) purport to be courageous opponents of racism and fascism while embracing Louis Farrakhan—a noxious anti-Semite who accuses “Satanic Jews” of controlling the media, the government, and…well, you know the rest.

Things are even worse on the other side of the Atlantic. Jeremy Corbyn (the leader of the British Labour Party and one of the most influential left-wing politicians in the world) trumpets high-minded left-wing ideals like solidarity and pacifism, but always ends up making excuses for Russian expansionism, jihadism, and other forms of naked aggression. And, like the organizers of the Women’s March, Corbyn can’t seem to stop defending and associating with anti-Semites. Corbyn’s communications director, Seumas Milne, meanwhile, is a pro-Russia hack who reflexively blames the West for every crime Vladimir Putin commits.

Despite all the evidence that something is very wrong on the Left, with so many right-wing villains like Trump, Viktor Orbán, and Jair Bolsonaro to resist, many left-wingers see no reason to turn their criticism inward. This is problematic precisely because the Trumps, Orbáns, and Bolsonaros of the world are so dangerous. They’ve cynically exploited racial and cultural grievances to attract millions of economically and socially disillusioned supporters. They tell endless lies about the economy (no, globalization and automation can’t be halted), immigration (no, George Soros doesn’t subsidize immigrant “invasions”), international institutions (no, the Paris Climate Accord wasn’t an elaborate scheme to humiliate and rob the United States), and just about everything else. And they have no respect for democratic norms and institutions, which is why their behavior is often overtly authoritarian.

These are all reasons why we’re in urgent need of a broad-based, principled, and rational critique from the Left. But this means we need honest criticism of the Left by the Left as well, which is difficult to come by in an era of bitter political acrimony and soaring polarization.

Recall what Orwell said in his letter to the Duchess of Atholl: “I belong to the Left and must work inside it…” While many on the Left regarded (and still regard) Orwell as a covert reactionary who secretly worked against his own side, this argument simply can’t be reconciled with his scorching rebukes of class privilege, economic inequality, and imperialism—nor can it contend with the fact that his ideological sympathies were evident throughout his life. As much as it annoys some cranky left-wingers, it ought to be clear that Orwell only criticized the Left because he wanted to strengthen it.


In his 2007 book What’s Left? How the Left Lost its Way, Nick Cohen revived this project for the twenty-first century. He asked why the Left—which used to regard international solidarity as one of its core principles—couldn’t seem to muster a whole lot of sympathy for, say, the women’s movement in Iran or the anti-Baathist socialists who had been suppressed and murdered by Saddam Hussein. He asked why left-wing intellectuals like Noam Chomsky always found a way to blame the West for the ghastly crimes of dictators and ethnic cleansers—from Pol Pot to Slobodan Milosevic. And he lamented the Left’s descent into identity politics at a time when the bottom of the plunge was still a long way off (it is possible that we still haven’t reached it yet).

Almost a decade before right-wing nationalist and populist movements swept across Europe and the United States, Cohen explained how identity politics was fueling this process:

In the twentieth century, the workers had been the exploited producers of wealth whose emancipation would herald a glorious future. By the twenty-first, its male members were sexist, racist homophobes; cultural conservatives suspected of harboring unsavory patriotic feelings. They went from being the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth in three generations, and as Thatcher and Reagan had shown, when the liberals despise the working class the opportunities for backlash politics are endless.

Even Cohen couldn’t have foreseen that this backlash would put Donald Trump in the Oval Office, but it would be difficult to find a more accurate analysis of the shifting political and social dynamics that made his presidency possible.

In 2008, What’s Left? was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize—an appropriate honor for a book so firmly rooted in the Orwellian tradition of left-wing self-criticism. Cohen’s critique is so powerful and enduring because he isn’t a David Horowitz-type radical-turned-conservative. When public intellectuals abandoned communism and socialism in the mid- to late-twentieth century, they often did so with the fiery ideological zeal of religious converts—they had seen the light, and it illuminated the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of their old ideas. This meant they were more interested in defeating the Left than improving it. Cohen, on the other hand, has publicly disowned the Left several times, but many of his attitudes and positions—from his castigation of the pro-Brexit Right in Britain to his condemnation of the nativist, authoritarian Right from Hungary to the United States—prove that he’s still an authentic left-winger.

Cohen isn’t the only critic of the Left whose left-wing principles remain intact. One of the most incisive chroniclers of the deterioration of the Left in the twenty-first century is Paul Berman, whose 2003 book Terror and Liberalism convinced Cohen to reevaluate his political allegiances. Berman has spent years confronting the Left about its failure to uphold liberal values in the face of “anti-liberal insurgencies”—particularly violent and repressive movements led by Arab nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists. He has argued that these insurgencies are almost always apocalyptic, antisemitic, and “entranced with slaughter for slaughter’s sake,” which is why he describes their leaders as the “heirs of the twentieth-century totalitarians.” Terror and Liberalism makes the case for treating them as such and resisting them without apology.

The late Christopher Hitchens supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he detested left-wing intellectuals (such as Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Chris Hedges, and Tariq Ali) who “masochistically” insisted that terrorist atrocities like 9/11 and 7/7 were ultimately the fault of Western foreign policy. But this didn’t stop him from lambasting the Bush administration’s use of torture or becoming a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit against the NSA for its Terrorist Surveillance Program. Hitchens was a lifelong secularist and atheist who spent decades fighting the religious Right. But his hostility to Islamic authoritarianism and violence didn’t prevent him from criticizing Mark Steyn for downplaying the fact that “many Muslims actually have come to Europe for the advertised purposes—seeking asylum and to build a better life.”

Even Hitchens’s support for the Iraq War was grounded in his solidarity with the Kurds—a longstanding cause of the Left—who suffered decades of monstrous abuse under Saddam Hussein, culminating in the genocidal Anfal campaign in the late 1980s (which saw entire towns gassed and left more than 180,000 dead). Despite all the attempts to portray him as a vicious reactionary for supporting wars that were unpopular on the Left, Hitchens’s left-wing principles were indisputable. Is it any wonder that Orwell was his biggest influence?

Norman Geras (1943–2013)

All of these writers—Cohen, Bruckner, Berman, and Hitchens—are part of what could be described as the contemporary anti-totalitarian Left. While the Bruckner-Cohen dispute proves that this group is far from homogeneous, its members share an essential set of convictions and goals that could reanimate a Left that has become increasingly alienated from its liberal traditions. Many of these convictions and goals were laid out over a decade ago in a document called the Euston Manifesto—an attempt to bring the modern Left into closer alignment with its “authentic values,” as well as a repudiation of “currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values.” The manifesto was written by the late Norman Geras, with assistance from Damian Counsell, Alan Johnson, and Shalom Lappin.

The Euston Manifesto provides an ideological framework that places anti-authoritarianism, internationalism, secularism, free expression, and the promotion of universal human rights at the center of left-wing politics once again. It also explicitly condemns the elements of the Left that accept moral and cultural relativism, offer an “apologetic explanation” for oppressive and reactionary movements and regimes, establish “disgraceful alliances … with illiberal theocrats,” regard 9/11 as “America’s deserved comeuppance,” and “entertain openly anti-Semitic speakers and … form alliances with anti-Semitic groups.” All of these critiques are every bit as relevant today as they were in 2006—perhaps even more so.

One of the Western Left’s greatest strengths is its inexhaustible capacity for self-criticism. While this has led to countless schisms and disfigurations over the decades, it has also prevented the Left from surrendering to its worst impulses and dogmas. There will always be someone who remains stubbornly committed to its older and higher principles—some dissident writer or politician who refuses to mindlessly adopt what Orwell called the “smelly little orthodoxies” of the day.

Many of the people who insist that the Left is irredeemable are happy to invoke Orwell. Here was a man who saw through the bloody lie of communism and loathed the hypocrisy and sanctimony of the middle class socialists who would plug their noses if they actually had to spend a few minutes with a coal miner or a tramp. A man who felt a “faint feeling of sacrilege not to stand to attention during ‘God Save the King’” and whose heart “leapt at the sight of a Union Jack.” A man who received a fascist bullet in the throat in Spain and barely escaped Stalin’s agents on his way out of the country. Yet he remained, until the very end, a man of the Left—a man who belonged to a noble political tradition that demagogues and ideologues like Trump and Corbyn are trying to extinguish.

Cohen and Bruckner should get back to the business of reigniting it. No matter how bitterly they attack one another, they still share many of the same principles and enemies—a fact that should be just as clear to them today as it was a few years ago. A decade after the publication of the Euston Manifesto, Cohen reviewed how well the attempt to “revive left-wing support for internationalism, democracy, and universal human rights” had fared over the years. After admitting that it had been a “noble failure,” he nonetheless argued that the manifesto’s signatories “were telling the truth when we warned that dark movements were rising across the Left.” They were, and those movements haven’t gone anywhere.

But Cohen’s Euston postmortem also included a line that he may want to revisit: “For all their professed principles, our critics believed that the fight against misogyny, tyranny, homophobia, racism, and theocracy was a fight no good leftist or earnest liberal could undertake without the risk of conservative contamination.” He should ask himself: Has Bruckner really succumbed to conservative contamination? Or is he still a good leftist, an earnest liberal, and a battle-tested ally in the fight to come?


Matt Johnson has written for Stanford Social Innovation ReviewEditor & PublisherSplice TodayForbes, and the Kansas City Star. He was formerly the opinion page editor at the Topeka Capital-Journal and, last year, the Kansas Press Association named his column and opinion page the best in the state. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjj89


  1. Sean Leith says

    Anti-Muslim should be a virtue instead a vice. Muslim as a religion is serious flawed. It followers are decisively violent, anti-women. They are not willing to tolerant to other beliefs.

    • Farris says

      According to the Left criticizing the excesses of Islam makes one a racist. Whereas criticizing Judeo/Christian excess makes one enlightened.

      • Scroto Baggins says

        This article is garbage. A critique of a critique of a critique of a ….

        The author buries himself in piles of gigantic, cloud-like, vaporistic terms and ruminates on them like a cow, while throwing out unexamined generalizations like “Donald Trump is a demagogue” as if such conclusions are self-evident or simple.

        The author has got it bass ackwards: these two bickering hyper-intellectual sideshow freaks are self-evident and simple. They aren’t worth the ink. What’s interesting is why somebody like Donald Trump is transforming the face of the planet. Call me crazy, but I think that guy is a whole lot smarter than anybody is giving him credit for.

        • Irrational Actor says

          This article probably just wasn’t particularly applicable to you Scroto; It is more relevant to those holding views aligned with the ‘original’ left, such as Hitchens et al. It also has relevance for those on the identitarian left, although they sure won’t like what the read.

          If you are a conservative (just a guess, apologies if I am wrong) then I can see how it all seems pointless. But to anyone exiled from the left for not being an identitarian, it is far from pointless.

        • Lightning Rose says

          Trump’s a pragmatist, pure and simple. In the real world, as opposed to intellectual air castles, pragmatic WORKS. To lift a pallet, use a forklift. He gets that. The rest is noise.

      • Lightning Rose says

        “Makes one a racist.” We can pop all of this crap like the silly soap-bubble it is the day we all just say, “So WHAT?” to being called “racist.” I mean really, who cares? Why is this the one insult capable of stopping every reasonable person seemingly in their tracks?

      • Stephanie says

        @David of Kirkland, the way you jibe that with typical American Muslims is by being brave enough to have real conversations with them. People on the left are terrified of saying anything that might make a Muslim blow up (not just figuratively). They have trivial conversations and think they learn something about them!

        If you ask them what they think about Jews, Israel, homosexuality, Sharia, ect, you’ll find many are surprisingly honest about it. I’ve had such conversations with both friends and strangers, and they straight up tell me Israel must be destroyed, Jews cause all the problems in their home country, Sharia is the only proper way to live, ect.

        The distinction between Islam and Islamism is the same as between Christians and secular Westerners of Christian descent. It’s about whether or not you believe in what is written in the text. It’s impossible to look at the life of Prophet Muhammad and what he commanded and not think waging war against the infidel is explicitly required. The inconvenient truth is that ISIS has the most historically and literarily accurate form of Islam.

        • Yes,I fear that’s true Stephanie, that’s the most pure, the desert form of Islam, it now even wins territory in the NLs. But there is also another, much more common form, the river or city form (I have this category from a Kenyan moslim scientist), which developed centuries ago in the near east’s cities and harbours ( and still is the normal one in many regions) together with jews and christians and others. Lamentably the identity form, the desert type thus, is these days more advancing and popular than the city form. But, same thing in the western world. Identity and roots are the name of the game now. In our dynamic 21st century.

          • Ray Andrews says


            Folks argue about the ‘real’ Islam, and whether or not ISIS are Muslims or NRMs (Not Really Muslims) as if the right answer mattered in the same way that the right answer to a mathematical equation mattered. If someone points out that ISIS is indeed the purest and most literal interpretation of Islam, they are quite correct, but it doesn’t really matter either way. What matters is how people actually behave.

            When it comes to questions of immigration and ‘Islamophobia’ and so on and so forth, there is only one question which need be asked: do we want our country to be more like the country from which this person comes? If we do, then welcome him, knowing that he inevitably brings his culture with him. If we do not — and we should be quite free to say so — then we should not welcome him since he inevitably brings his culture with him. There are already mini-caliphates in probably most major European cities. If this is good, then welcome more Muslims so that the caliphates can become even bigger and stronger. If it is not good, then stop feeding it. Simple.

          • We do not like our country to shift to the muslim type Ray, at the contrary, therefore, all immigrants have to pass an exam in which they are asked questions like this:- you see 2 males kissing one another in the park, what do you do?
            a)- you just pass
            b)- you tell them that this is not the right thing to do in a public place
            c)- you think by yourself, oh, is this the best thing to do? maybe, I have to educate my own sons to react the same way
            And many similar questions. The correct answer, you guess, is c). If you don’t have enough correct answers, you fail, and have to repeat (but they know fast enough what the expected answer is).
            And so, we think, naively, we are going to acculturate the immigrants and make them new Dutchmen, like we are.
            This is going on now already some 50 years, without much succes, they just seem to go their own way, also helped by the tele-disks that allow them to receive the Turkish and Maroc news and telenovels from home on their TV’s.
            I fear, this just simply is the future we have to reckon with. A nation (no longer Blut und Boden) but a place where many cultures are rooting and florish.

          • Stephanie says

            @dirk, yes, there’s certainly more moderate forms of Islam. When my grandparents lived in Morocco in the 1940s and 50s, the hijab was perceived as being for peasants. Only rural and lower-class people wore it. Unfortunately, discovery of oil in the Middle East put a lot of easy money into all the wrong hands, allowing religious fundamentalists to spread their (more accurate) form of Islam throughout the world, supplanting local customs and homogenizing the religion. The hijab was recast as an ideological symbol of anti-feminism and anti-Westernism.

            Because the fundamentalists have an unambiguously violent text to point to, it is easy for them to win the debate against moderate Muslims, so long as the debate is on the “true” nature of Islam. Muslims who’ve tried, such as Tarek Fatah in Canada and Imam Tawhidi in Australia are cast as Islamophobic, and sadly I think are shouting into the wind. Westerners have failed to throw their weight behind these liberal voices, something we will deeply regret.

            As for your comparison with the Western world, I haven’t heard of many rural Christians or Jews shooting up churches and synagogues of their rival factions. Until then, we should avoid false equivalents.

        • That’s interesting Stephanie, your Maroc history, I had the same experience when I traveled as a student in the hinterlands of Turkey, no hijabs, only in peasant villages, the studying sons apologised for their mosques, yes, they said, but we like the beatles more, islam is just a thin layer , we are all westernizing quickly now. In Iran, same happened. Just go there now! Our prof Islamologie doesn’t see much difference between turning to saIafism, or to communism by the intellectuals in the west mid 1900s. I agree completely with your analysis, I mentioned the identity in the west to stress that it’s also our problem now, oppressed against (felt) oppressors. The german politicologist Enzensberger explains the jihad and salafism due to the feeling of total loss in the Arab world now, decolonized but humbled, not knowing which way to go, and often falling back on identity (the wrong type of, the ethics and beliefs of the literal Koran). It’s the easiest way, possible by all that oil money. Half of our mosques here in the NL are of salafist colouring, also financed by Qatar. We don’t know how to react, forbid the niqab?? Protests of the christian (freedom of religion) and left parties!! But I also know the tolerant form, the river islam, from my work in East Africa. Alas, journalists prefer to report on the desert , polarising form. Logical:
          free speech means always: noting polarising, violence,intolerance.

          • Stephanie says

            @dirk, yes, I put a lot of blame onto Western journalists and governments. They’ve absurdly sided with the most extreme form of Islam, promoting the hijab and justifying the niqab. Meanwhile only conservative publications the general population thinks are extreme will publish the work of liberal Muslims! So much for “empowering the moderates”…

            It is sad because they were Westernising so quickly in places like Turkey and Iran. They could have kept a diluted form of Islam, much like most Christians have only a diluted form of their faith. Sadly they’ve been going towards the pure form for some decades now, and I don’t see the tide turning on that any time soon. Worse, the West has lost the moral courage to reject those values and maintain our own.

    • northernobserver says

      Anti Islam not Anti Muslim. Anti Muslim goes to the person and that is illiberal and defeats the argument at its birth. Anti Islam focuses on the doctrines and practices and allows you to parse the various sects and practices of Islam, identify the toxic ones and encourage the ones most compatible with Western values and practices. By starting off anti Muslim you magnify your enemies and the burden of proof. By focusing the rhetoric on anti Islam you expose the details and get down to the real debate on values, behaviors and beliefs instead of hitting the wall of “racism”

      Just my observation having debated these issues over the last 15 years.

      Put into concrete terms if all of England’s Muslim immigrants were amadi Muslims instead of the Deobandi, Barelvis and Salafi Muslims there would never have been a terror attack in London or Manchester. We need to ponder the significance of this fact.

  2. What would Hitchens think of all the goodness in the middle east now that we’ve brought them democracy and liberalism, with the happy and now safe lives of Kurds and other Iraqis?

  3. Farris says

    Is the argument between Cohen and Bruckner or between the author and himself. Mr. Johnson documents and criticizes the hypocrisies of the Left and then rationalizes these hypocrites as a necessary response to Trump. The Left derides populism but fails to come to grips with its anti-Western populism.

    • Irrational Actor says

      I don’t think that is quite accurate Farris. You are right that Johnson documents and criticises the hypocrisies of the left, but I did not see him rationalise them in any way. Quite the contrary, he seems against them right until the end.

      In fact the take-away for me was that the response to Trump / right wing populism is to be found in the anti-totalitarian left, not the regressive identity-politics left.

      • Farris says


        Thank you for your response. The following appears to me as a slight justification for the hypocrisies of the Left:

        “Despite all the evidence that something is very wrong on the Left, with so many right-wing villains like Trump, Viktor Orbán, and Jair Bolsonaro to resist, many left-wingers see no reason to turn their criticism inward. This is problematic precisely because the Trumps, Orbáns, and Bolsonaros of the world are so dangerous. They’ve cynically exploited racial and cultural grievances to attract millions of economically and socially disillusioned supporters.”

        Why would self examination be problematic? In my opinion the author comes very close to saying two wrongs make a right. Admittedly reasonable minds could differ on this interpretation.

        • Irrational Actor says


          Thanks for sharpening this one up. I think this is precisely a case of (mis)interpretation. Johnson is (in my reading of it anyway) literally stating that it is the *lack* of self examination that is problematic.

          It would be great if he could come along and clarify this himself, but I do believe this is his point, and it aligns well with the rest of his narrative in the article.

          • Farris says


            I agree with your assertion regarding the point of the article. The portion I referenced appeared to ever so justify or excuse some hypocritical behaviors, albeit ever so slightly. This was but one small unnecessary cloud in an overall fair critique.

  4. Owntown Dart Scene says

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find value in work like Orwell’s because of the clarity of his insight into the totalitarian manipulation of language, among other things. That is, not because it’s somehow a legacy of mine as part of some “honourable and endangered political tradition”. The man was not free of the foibles of his time, as evident in his devotion to the chimera of “Democratic Socialism”. Surely sharing such a sentiment is no prerequisite for benefiting from his work?

    With that in mind, why is it we should be this preoccupied with adjudicating whether criticism of “The Left” is coming from Inside The House, horror movie style? Because that’s what it appears we have here. That’s not the question that should matter.

    I do understand the sentimental attachment to a label, having been there for too long myself. But really, if the coordinates no longer make sense of the terrain, maybe it’s time to conceive of some more useful ones.

    • Breakfast Bear says

      Because the Left cannot be solved by the Right.

      Jordan Peterson has asked the question, and it’s a good one that no one in the Left wants to answer: *How do we know when the Left has gone too far?*

      The Right knows its answer to that problem. Fascism is when the Right goes too far, although fascism has a lot of Leftism in it.

      But the Right can’t solve this problem, because it’s us-versus-them tribalism. The folks in the Left are going to have to get vocal and say “Yeah, uh, I’m for change, but this is getting nuts.” The Left has to fix its own house.

      • @B.B: how can somebody just only stay halfway in the middle of something, and say, I,m done, I don’t like togo any further?? Are you not at least a little bit a psychologist? Everybody (at least, if you are young, at that’s what most people like to stay as long as possible) wants to go to the limits, the utmost borders, whether left or right. There is nothing like balance or harmony in mankind, yes, maybe in nature, but certainly not in culture and politics!

        • Breakfast Bear says


          People establish limits all of the time through policy or mission statement or whatever. But it requires coordination, discussion and debate. You set your bounds before you start your activism. But this requires work and curtailing emotion. This has been done in history, but oddly enough, by mostly Right-wing folks.

          Another good place to start is to be clear in your goals. This is something that the Left does not want; the Left hates goals and definitions. They do not want to define basic things, nor publish clear goals (as much as ‘eradicating inequality’ is not a goal). I’d say they purposefully obfuscate. But this makes sense. If the Left’s goal is constant change, their goals and definitions would constantly need to change.

          I disagree that most people want to take things to the ends of the spectrum. I think 80-90% of people are happy with the status-quo and will accept minor tweaks.

          • Of course, that’s also playing, and maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but I see many people around that, just to -epater la bourgeoisie-, to defend their person and territory, go much further in their PCness then they really, and at heart feel and think.

          • Irrational Actor says

            @ Owntown
            “The man was not free of the foibles of his time, as evident in his devotion to the chimera of “Democratic Socialism”. Surely sharing such a sentiment is no prerequisite for benefiting from his work?”

            I agree, you can be anywhere from a Democratic Socialist to a hardened conservative and still benefit just as much from his work.

            @ Breakfast Bear
            “Because the Left cannot be solved by the Right.”

            “But the Right can’t solve this problem, because it’s us-versus-them tribalism. The folks in the Left are going to have to get vocal and say “Yeah, uh, I’m for change, but this is getting nuts.” The Left has to fix its own house.”

            Spot on.

            “Jordan Peterson has asked the question, and it’s a good one that no one in the Left wants to answer: *How do we know when the Left has gone too far?*
            The Right knows its answer to that problem. Fascism is when the Right goes too far, although fascism has a lot of Leftism in it.”

            Perhaps I am particularly ignorant of something here, but the answer to this question seems trivially easy to me… If Fascism / Nazism is when the Right has gone too far, then surely in the same spirit Communism / Stalinism / Maoism is when the Left has gone too far? For all of what I like about Peterson (and there is a lot), sometimes he strikes me as having fallen so far into contortions of his own making that he cannot see the obvious. But, he is a far smarter human than I, so again perhaps I show my ignorance in this view.

            “People establish limits all of the time through policy or mission statement or whatever. But it requires coordination, discussion and debate. You set your bounds before you start your activism. But this requires work and curtailing emotion. This has been done in history, but oddly enough, by mostly Right-wing folks.”

            As someone that could be loosely described as coming from the ‘old’ left, I think this is a valid point. In fact, I constantly find myself wishing this could have taken root in the left before it became the monster it now is.

            “Another good place to start is to be clear in your goals. This is something that the Left does not want; the Left hates goals and definitions. They do not want to define basic things, nor publish clear goals (as much as ‘eradicating inequality’ is not a goal). I’d say they purposefully obfuscate. But this makes sense. If the Left’s goal is constant change, their goals and definitions would constantly need to change.”

            This is mostly a problem of the Regressive Identitarian Left. But as for the Left that Johnson champions in the article, the purpose of change is to bring about a fairer world without wrecking it in the process. This is the ideal of the moderate left, as opposed to the Regressive Left’s ideal of change for change’s sake, and going at it like a wrecking ball.

          • Jim Gorman says

            @ Irrational Actor

            “But as for the Left that Johnson champions in the article, the purpose of change is to bring about a fairer world without wrecking it in the process. ”

            You are doing the same thing by not defining “fair”. What is a “fairer world”. Example, I work 80 hours a week and you work 40 hours. A lot of people on the left would say that the wages I accumulate are not “fair” because not everyone is either willing or able to work that much. When I’ve posed this some of the answers I get say my excess wages should be given to the “government” so that they can be redistributed among those who don’t work so much. Not a good way to make the Left popular!

            I have yet to hear a rational argument for fair and equal outcomes that make sense in regard to human nature. Fair and equal opportunities, yes, but not outcomes.

  5. Circuses and Bread ?? -Solutions, not politics says

    I got a dark chuckle out of this article. Why is it that political cultists can never see that the problem isn’t with specific political philosophies or actors, but with politics itself? Even Orwell, brilliant as he was, never made the intellectual leap of seeing that the evil, the hate, the authoritarian and totalitarian outrages were all part and parcel of politics.

    Yet here we are, once again, with another political thinker telling us how if we just made this tweak, and made that little adjustment, then this politics thingy would work out great!

    Now don’t mind those 200-300 million killed as a result of democide in the 20th century. That was just a, well, an aberration. It won’t happen again. Don’t you worry. The political cultists have politics down pat.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Yes, I got the impression that what the author was really describing was two bald men fighting over a comb. Here are these 2 old lefties who have been left behind as the left ditches the working class (whilst still taking their votes for granted) and chases after more exotic fruit in the shape of identity politics.
      The fact is that in the left/right divide the right takes in all those who are apolitical or indifferent. If we on the right get involved in political discussion it is to remind others that government and the state do not provide workable solutions to all our problems. Life is for living, not for talking about living. Politics is talking about living.

      • Circuses and Bread ?? - Solutions, not politics. says

        @ Peter from Oz

        Thanks for the comments. As usual, you’re far kinder and more eloquent than I am. I liked your quote that life is for living, not talking about living. And politics is talking about living.

        Nicely put. I’ll probably steal it. ?

    • Evander says

      CaB, you’re the beneficiary of a liberal political order. Don’t say politics is broken; just say that you’re a non-participant, inasmuch as you might not vote or pay any attention to media coverage of political phenomena.

      “I got a dark chuckle out of this article. Why is it that political cultists can never see that the problem isn’t with specific political philosophies or actors, but with politics itself?”

      And your substitute system is what? You’re suffering from Socrates’ disease: fingering what you perceive is a problem, but shrugging at a solution.

      • Peter from Oz says

        The answer is less politics and more living.
        Those who are always seeing things through the prism of politics are stuck in a permanent adolescence. They are so busy debating definitions that they forget to take part in life at all.

        • Evander says

          Government should bugger off as much as possible. I agree.

          I’m just over CaB repeatedly posting ‘politics is broken’, as if the reality and need for social organisation and collective decision making can be cynically waved away and ignored. It can’t. And smugly asserting ad nauseam that apoliticism is the way to go, especially when it’s self-evidently impossible for a society to adopt, doesn’t seem to me to get us anywhere.

          Happy to discuss exactly how politics is broken and what alternative to the present system is better. But this mantra stuff bores me stiff.

      • Circuses and Bread ?? -Solutions, not politics says


        Thanks for the comment. Sorry to disappoint, but I am an active participant in both my community and my culture. I’m also probably better informed than average as to what is going on around me. I just don’t bother to waste time and resources on the pit of despair that is politics. While we’re at it, I should note that I’m very thankful that I live in a country where I don’t get frog-marched to the polls, nor where I have to be seen blubbering in public when one of our dear leaders meets his maker. Thank God for the very American right to be a nonparticipant! Pardon me whilst I digress and take the opportunity to get in a shameless plug for the red, white, and blue!??

        You see involvement in politics is neither a wise use of resources nor is it even patriotic. It accomplishes little but the theft of resources that would be better used elsewhere. It leaves hate and misery in its wake.

        As for a solution, I offer one: any moral endeavor other than politics. Politics is so ineffective that you would have a hard time figuring out a worse way to spend time and resources. Want some specific ideas? Why not take the $50 you would spend on a contribution to some worthless political party or candidate and go buy a decent quality sleeping bag. Take that sleeping bag and give it to some unfortunate who is sleeping rough tonite. I dare say you will accomplish far more for society and for that person than you would accomplish with 10 times that amount spent on politics. Don’t want to spend money? How about taking a few hours out of your day and work with kids? (personal favorite of mine). Again, you will accomplish far more to benefit society and kids than you would prognosticating over which set of politicians are slightly less awful. Plus working with kids just happens to be fun.

        Thanks again for the comments.

        • Evander says

          I get your point but I don’t think you get mine.

          You individually can live an apolitical life because you’re shielded from actually bad politics. Do you live in a high-crime neighbourhood? Is large-scale immigration negatively impacting your district? Are any of your civil liberties effectively impinged through stigma or regulation? Those are problems for authority to deal with; and exercise of authority entails politics. If politics were to impinge on your liberty and lifestyle, I’m assuming that you would involve yourself in the political process.

          In Oz right now, two citizens, with a small army of attorney-generals arrayed against them, have brought separate cases to the Supreme Court over recent legislation. ‘Safe access zones’ – 150m protest-free public space – around abortion clinics are now guaranteed by state laws. Free-speech advocates, not least conservative Catholics, aren’t happy with civil liberties being eliminated; they can’t even offer to console a woman entering a facility. I’m not happy with the idea of a right to protest being curtailed in my country. On your view, is supporting the legal fight of these individuals ‘a waste of time and resources’?

          One of my close friends is a young up-and-comer in centre-right politics in my state. He’s a sensible conservative from an immigrant background – exactly the kind of person that this country needs. At a time when selfish dolts and amoral foxes are crowding the parliamentary benches, we need multiples of this particular person. By endeavoring to enter politics, is he wasting his time and resources?

          The Labor Party is making a vote on Australia changing from a Constitutional Monarchy to a Republic part of its federal election platform next year. That significantly changes our governmental framework and processes. Is voting on that question a waste of time and resources?

          Voluntarism, community service, charitable giving are all good things. And maybe some individuals would be better served by devoting less time to politics – whatever that looks like – and more to their own private lives.

          But your strident evangelism for apoliticism comes off as head-up-your-arse idealism since politics impacts the normal, private lives of people for good or ill. If apoliticism suits you, fine. But it’s not a practicable position for many others, whose outlook is otherwise very similar to yours.

          • Circuses and Bread ?? Solutions, not politics says


            Thanks for the comments and detailed criticism.

            I realized that I had missed your point when I saw your comment to @Peter from Oz. But it was late and I figured I’d respond later. Glad I did as you provided much more detail.

            OK. Where to start? If I’m understanding your point in your second paragraph, you’re of the position that while it’s possible to be apolitical in the individual sense, doing so in the more macro sense is extremely problematic. Further, the only reason someone can be apolitical is they have the luxury of living a sort of limousine libertarianism where they’re shielded from the consequences of that course of action by the political efforts of others.

            I disagree that the average non elite individual is capable of having any meaningful impact on politics. While we really like to tout this idea of every voice and every vote mattering in politics, that’s a myth. With the exception of hyper local elections, individual participation in politics as measured by voting is usually meaningless. Ultimately a vote only really matters if there would otherwise be a tie and yours is the deciding vote. The chances of that happening are slim indeed. In the last US national election, there were roughly 139 million votes cast. Are we really going to suggest that my one little vote matters one iota in determining the outcome? If I were to persuade 10 or 100 people to accompany me and vote the same way, it still wouldn’t matter one iota in determining the end result.

            But let’s shift a bit to non participation in the macro sense. If I understand your position correctly, it is critically important in the macro sense to participate in politics because that’s determinative of whether or not liberty and liberal governance continue. I disagree. Not just because I think politics is a waste of time and effort, but because I don’t see that politics is the determining factor in deciding whether a nation or city has liberal or autocratic governance. Rather it’s a function of the larger culture. Or said another way, the US is not liberal, pluralistic country because of its politics, but because it’s culture is liberal and pluralistic. Similarly, countries in the middle east tend to be theocratic and authoritarian because their culture is that way. This is not to say that politics over time can’t have an influence on culture, it does, but it’s less important and more the tail wagging the dog.

            That the culture is more important in determining outcomes is actually very good news for individuals and small groups as the opportunities for influence in the culture are much more evident than they are in politics. So to answer your oft repeated question of whether politics is a waste of time and resources, it almost always is when considering the opportunity cost of politics versus other alternatives. But note, I qualified that with an “almost”. I do think that there are historical, once-a-generation times when participation in politics is not a bad course of action amongst available alternatives. One example of a scenario where political involvement might make sense was one that you mentioned: deciding whether Oz will be a republic. I see the logic of participation in a plebiscite for something of that magnitude given the long term consequences. But for the typical electoral contest, no.

            I’ll close by noting that anti politics is not particularly idealistic. It’s not about standing aloof, it’s getting your hands dirty and doing things within the culture that have direct, positive impact. It’s the road less traveled to be sure, but gratifying nonetheless.

            Thanks again for the critical and honest feedback. It is very helpful in refining my message.

        • Jim Gorman says

          @Circuses and Bread

          I agree wholeheartedly Circuses and Bread. When I read the phrase “social organisation and collective decision making”, I thought, yep more government and politics. The example that came to mind was a hobo coming to your backdoor asking for a meal for raking your leaves. What is your first thought? How can I and my neighbors help this person? Or was it, how can I get government to help this person so I won’t be personally bothered

          The parable of the Good Samaritan wasn’t about society or government, it was about individual initiative in helping people!

          • Evander says

            @Jim Gorman

            You agree wholeheartedly with CaB about what? Multiple points are being debated here.

            “When I read the phrase “social organisation and collective decision making”, I thought, yep more government and politics.”

            I was merely pointing out that in democratic societies people have a stake in the political process. The state exercises power with people determine its use through their elected representatives. CaB is disavowing participation in this system as a futile waste of time, except for the odd occasion when the issue at play is especially vital because politics is then justified.

            “The example that came to mind was a hobo coming to your backdoor asking for a meal for raking your leaves. What is your first thought? How can I and my neighbors help this person? Or was it, how can I get government to help this person so I won’t be personally bothered.”

            I’ll play. My first thought might be the person’s name, seeing as I volunteered in an inner-city soup kitchen run by my last church for seven years. They’ll receive a meal, donated by one of numerous small-business partners, clothing and peaceful company. Or do you only encounter the homeless on an irregular basis, not seeking to meet their needs actively and systematically?

            ‘The parable of the Good Samaritan wasn’t about society or government, it was about individual initiative in helping people!’

            Ah, yes, individuals – who emerge through a process called society, and who need to form government to secure rights and serve their citizenry.

            The parable of the Good Samaritan was secondarily about altruism and firstly about the selfish, racist heart of the lawyer who tested Jesus, who in fact had missed the whole point of the law and couldn’t fulfil the law. It was to demonstrate that the legal, effortful path to righteousness with God was impossible.

            It’s worth pointing out, since you brought up scripture, that government in the Bible is a Good Thing. It’s subject to corruption, true. But ideally it should do justice and serve its citizens. The libertarian ideal of a government buggering off while muscular self-reliant sovereign individuals do their own thing isn’t self-evidently a Christian ideal; nor welfarism of all degrees somehow degrading of the individual.

            My sense is that some Yanks struggle to comprehend critique of their system and the viability of other social models. Australian democracy is in many respects more caring and more democratic than the American system, and I can see no reason why I would want to make a swap.

      • peanut gallery says

        A smaller federal government would reduce the scope and power of politics and politicians, which would be a net good for all citizens.

        • Evander says


          The vote is one form of political activity, and, yes, it matters. Whatever your opinion, Brexit et al. occurred contra mainstream expectations because of the vote. Last year, Oz voted in favour of SSM. Next year the centre-right party will get creamed at the federal election because they’ve sucked at governing since 2015. A corollary of that outcome will be that Labor will gain power and the nation will vote on the republic question. The vote keeps cropping up as an important determinant of society’s direction.

          Saying your vote doesn’t count among so many is fallacious; your vote doesn’t determine the outcome; the plurality does – which isn’t a culture process, but a political one. Doesn’t that clash with your point that culture is more determinative? In our societies, culture doesn’t elect legislatures or appoint judges; the ballot box does.

          “I don’t see that politics is the determining factor in deciding whether a nation or city has liberal or autocratic governance.”

          Your patriotic forebears created the USA through a combination of revolutionary violence, liberal theory, and thoroughgoing debate, i.e. politics, politics, politics.

          If everyone decided to minimise politics, I would be happy. But the fact is that politics is so big and bossy, it needs collective anti-big politics resistance. You’ve made a wise calculation to spend your time more profitably in pursuit of life-enhancing activities, individual and communal. Fantastic. But others – like me – like to get their hands dirty doing their small bit as citizens, believing that change genuinely happens through political processes, as well as through the cultural route. (Another point is that the culture is largely captive to politics, and therefore to participate in culture is to participate by proxy in politics.)

          According to your philosophy, my friend is wasting his time preparing for a career in politics, and so are those two defenders of civil liberties and the pro-life philosophy, pleading a case against an exquisite team of Crown lawyers. Or would you support them?

          I think we have deeply similar political outlooks: we value and prefer life outside of politics. We just disagree over how much politics needs to feature in life to ensure that life is maximally good.

          • Circuses and Bread ?? - Solutions, not politics says


            Oh I’m certain we’d be good friends IRL. We’d just fight like cats. ?

            As for your friend, I don’t know him. I don’t know whether he has gifts such as the ability to organize and lead that might be better used say in running a company and creating jobs or leading a charity. I suspect he probably does, but who knows? I can only convey a general view that politics is a waste of time, resources, and (perhaps) potential.

            One added observation. I’m aware that in Oz voting is mandatory and has been for many years. I wonder if your views are indirectly influenced by the fact that voting is compulsory? There are no such laws in the US, and there is a long cultural history of political abstention. Our participation rate in Presidential elections somewhere around 48-58% of adults and it’s much lower for state and local elections. Indeed a 20% participation rate is typical of local elections. We are usually reflective of our culture.

    • northernobserver says

      Your moral idealism is brave, noble, and just; it’s also a death wish for any community that practices it en mass. I prefer moral realism and the compromises it requires, I don’t believe in superhumaness, whether is it libertarian or communist and I have a healthy suspicion of those who do.
      That said I wish you well and may your faith lead you to the best life possible.

  6. Peter from Oz says

    I’m sure that Orwell, if he had survived into a ripe old age would have moved to the right, like Malcolm Muggeridge. The latter had turned rightwards as a consequence of seeing at first hand the horror of the USSR in the 30s. One of the quiet influences on him was the great Tory novellist, Anthony Powell. They used to go on long walks together, talking endlessly over all sorts of subjects.
    Powell became very close to Orwell in the last few years of his life. (They were at Eton at the same time but had not known each other well) It is tempting to think that once again, Powell would have talked a left-winger around to toryism. Powell noted that Orwell was very interested in social traditions. It would appear that he would have been open to Powell’s type of conservatism.

    • Farris says

      “One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.”—Orwell

      Orwell would find little has changed with the modern Left. True Orwell remained a democratic socialist until his death. However he most despised the elitist socialists with their contempt for the lower and middle classes, reliance on aristocratic jargon, virtue signaling and admiration for prestige while decrying privilege.

      Mr. Johnson is equally contemptible of theses “baskets of deplorables” who deigned to vote for the “nationalist populist” Trump.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Mr. Johnson is trying to avoid the fact that most of the true elites voted for Trump too.

        • Irrational Actor says


          That is a great quote, I hadn’t read it before and it really made made laugh. Perhaps my ability to resist the sugary delights of Socialism is that of all those things, I am only guilty of occasional nudism now that my sex mania is now mostly under control…

          But as for Johnson’s contempt for the deplorables, again I did not see this in his writing. I have not read any of his work before, and perhaps I am projecting, but I get the impression that his view here is similar to mine – that one of the goals of the left is to stick up for the working class, particularly the working poor, no matter which way they actually vote.

          Personally I can always find common ground with such deplorables, even when we have some strikingly dissimilar politics. They have some very genuine grievances, and are hurt the most by identity politics. I may not spend a lot of time socialising with the disgruntled labourers of the world, but I do respect them and I will always fight for their perpetually diminishing right to earn a decent living no matter what work they do.


          Do you think perhaps he just didn’t write about that specifically, or do you genuinely think he is avoiding it? I don’t think it would really detract from his point at all, hence my question.

          • Farris says


            Thank you for your response. True Mr. Johnson does not specifically denigrate Trump voters as deplorable or anything else. However I think it a fair inference as he labels Trump a villain. Surely Mr. Johnson would not think honorable or intelligent people would vote for a villain?

      • Charlie says

        Good points. Orwell’s view change from 1936 to 1950; read his collected essays. Orwell has this to say about middle socialists who he despised : they despise physical courage, British Culture and patriotism, they take their politics from Moscow and cooking from Paris, , was impressed by the physique of the Royal Marines, HG wells was describe as a boiled rabbit and criticised him for being anti-buccaneering. Orwell said Socialism was based on fair shares for all and common decency. Orwell respected ordinary practical down to earth people endowed with common decency and wanted a better quality of life for them. Orwell was against censorship.

        Orwell was critical of a ruling class which had become effete. He respected the aristocracy because they died in high such numbers in WW1, they led from the front. He criticised Colonel Blimps for a lack of intellect (but respected their strength, courage and patriotism) and the puny Middle Class Socialists who had criticised the Armed Forces and patriotism and opposed conscription. Orwell died in 1950 at the age of forty seven. Orwell would have criticised the Left and businesses for supporting immigration for undermining the working mans wages. Orwell recommended Muggeridges’ book “The Thirties “. Orwell enjoyed traditional British Culture and he spoke seven languages. He was a man who had travelled widely,worked overseas and because of that respected the culture of ordinary British people.

        For the last two years of Orwell’s life he is very ill. Orwell despised the effete, the impractical ( he was keen gardener and owned a small holding in Scotland) the pretentious, those who are a waste of space. There is no-one on the Left who does not possess one or several of the characteristics which he despised. Orwell said “patriotism is the respect for one’s culture with the desire to impose it on others. Nationalism is the belief in the superiority of one’s culture with a desire to impose it on others. ” Orwell respected clear and concise writing and therefore would despise the flatulence of the Left. AS the modern middle class left supports censorship; despises the common man, is effete, impractical( basically useless), is possessed of shallow self righteousness, only capable of carping criticism, have a highly developed totalitarian streak, despises physical courage, patriotism and British Culture : he would loathe and despises them.

        Trump has done more to increase the wages and employment of the ordinary American than any President or Democrat for decades. The Democrats have run New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit , St Louis, New Orleans and delivered high crime, high unemployment, poor education and housing, an absence of well paid skilled jobs which are the antitheses of Orwell’s belief in common decency and fair shares for all.

        The left despises the honest hardworking practical patriotic ordinary person and they in turn despises the effete, impractical, self righteous middle class Left: civilization cannot do without the former but it can the latter.

        The irrelevance of the Left was shown by their unwillingness to protect young white working class girls, many who were in care and vulnerable, from Muslim men of mostly Pakistani decent.

        • Irrational Actor says


          Actually I would disagree with you again here; if Johnson is anything like me he can simultaneously contend that Trump himself is not necessarily good but that good people can and did in fact vote for him.

          I am no fan of many things about Donald Trump, but when faced with choosing the lesser of two evils, which is worse – Trump, or an Identitarian Left hell bent on wrecking the western world that allowed them the freedom to exist in the first place? Not only do I not blame people for voting for Trump, I am constantly faced with the difficult position that perhaps they made a good choice, considering the alternative.

          • Farris says


            It is rather a pleasure to be disagreed with by someone who doesn’t use epithets like, racist, sexist, homophobe, ect.. I wholeheartedly agree with your lesser of two evils assessment. However, I also wholeheartedly believe based on Mr. Johnson’s writings he would demur to the notion that Trump was the lesser evil.

  7. Stephanie says

    The implication that you need to be of the left to hate the genocide of the Kurds is disgusting. The author seems eager to redefine the left and the right to justify calling himself a left-leaning person, even as his positions stand in stark contrast with the left on every fundamental issue. Vilification of conservatives or anti-leftists is as necessary to the author’s goal as it is childish and unjustified.

    This article made me lose some respect for Orwell. How someone could so famously portray the evils of socialism, but think adding a “democratic” prefix would make for a utopia, is mind-blowing. “Democratic socialism” is just socialism with extra steps. You’d think the democratic election of the National Socialists in Germany would have made that point clear.

    Sadly, the left only ever listens to itself, so perhaps it is not surprising that Orwell was a leftist himself. The only “proud tradition” I see here is of people foolishly espousing dangerous ideas, and when those ideas pan out exactly as conservatives predicted, they fail to make the connection between their values and the consequences thereof. It’s sad to see such old people in such an arrested state of development. I’d like to think in another 5 years these contributors will make the mental connection, but it seems unlikely.

    • Breakfast Bear says

      Orwell was a Leftist of the 1930s. His brand of Leftism would match up with the politics of today’s hard-core conservative, so it’s best to keep context in the equation.

      The Left wants change, the Right wants conservation. That’s how it boils down. Insomuch that he wanted change, no big deal. But he at least drew a line somewhere, and that’s something most on the Left are unwilling to do.

      I don’t think it’s good to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A glass or two of wine is good; 3-4 bottles will ruin your day. Just because something has the potential to be toxic when taken to the Nth degree doesn’t mean we should ignore it altogether.

      • Irrational Actor says

        @Breakfast Bear

        Thank you, great response and it saved me typing one that would have been less concise.

      • Charlie says

        Orwell was socially Conservative. He believed in the ordinary person should be treated decently and fair shares for all. He said it did not fear the dictatorship of he proletariat, only that of the intellectuals. Orwell judged character and he loathed that of the middle class socialist intellectual.

        In the 1930s, after 1939 most leftists were puny cowards , many were ” of the Pansy left – Auden and Isherwood who fled to he USA. It was generally assumed by intellectuals that Orwell would be the only one who would fight. Orwell despised the weak cowardly impractical effete socialist intellectual who evaded fighting in WW2 and especially in elite volunteers units – aircrew and commandos for example. Orwell had more time for the Colonel Blimps who could and did fight in WW1 and 2. Orwell had contempt for those who lived on dividends from businesses created by their forebears. To understand Orwell one needs to read his collected essays and writing, in 4 volumes plus his books.

        The Right does not just want Conservation. British Conservatism is based upon keep what works and change what doesn’t and character is more important than brains. Someone who is courageous, honest and hard working is worthy of respect: someone who is bright but a coward is worthy of contempt. The English aristocracy has always inter married with the mercantile classes which did not happen in Europe and fought alongside people of all classes be it Crecy or today. The development of Parliament, Naval Sea Power, Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, absence of social /class war in the 19th and 20 th centuries, shows how adaptable British Conservatism can be. There were Indian MPs in Parliament in the 19th century, African Bishops by the 1860s, Nehru went to Harrow , many wealthy people from the Empire, attended public schools and universities; Indian Princes played cricket for England there were Indian officers in the Indian Army and from 1919 attended Sandhurst. By 1947, there were Indians with the rank of Brigadier in the army. As GM Trevelyan said ” If the French aristocracy had played cricket with their tenants , there would have been no revolution”. In the countryside land owner and labourer played for the village cricket team and probably had boxed against each other as boys.

        No Conservative stopped someone attending public school or university because of their colour and many prided themselves on their knowledge of foreign languages and customs. There were probably more Conservatives who could speak foreign languages in 1918 ( The Indian C S required fluency in 4 ) and understood foreign customs than middle class left wing intellectuals today. Those who worked overseas – colonial civil servants, police officers, planters, engineers, merchants and bankers all had to learn languages and customs and their employment contacts insisted upon it. The Box Wallah, the British clerk who only lived in the urban areas and did not learn and did not go up country, was despised. The greatest respect was for those who could pass themselves a local, such as Richard Burton. True Conservatives have always respected other customs and learnt them, that is why there are the Royal Asiatic and African Societies and so many books were written by these people. an ICS Officer , who spent 30 years working , say in the NW Frontier took pride in their knowledge. Until recently there was an ex WW2 commando who was running a school in NW Pakistan who was highly respected.

        Conservatives have always respected the Yeoman Framer, hence the phrase ” That person has done Yeoman Work ” . The Yeoman was associated with robustness, being down to earth, producing hard work of a high quality and common sense. The Yeoman drew the bow in the Middle Ages and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.

    • Ray Andrews says


      ” How someone could so famously portray the evils of socialism, but think adding a “democratic” prefix would make for a utopia, is mind-blowing.”

      Is Denmark such a terrible place? That’s democratic socialism.

      • Stephanie says

        @Ray, Denmark isn’t really socialist. It has a capitalist economy with some redistribution thrown on top. That redistribution depresses growth and wages, which is why Danes in the US earn more than in Denmark, but they find it acceptable out of social solidarity. This solidarity is only feasible in a small, homogenous country, where everyone feels that recipients of government care are truly needy. Recent immigration will likely erode that solidarity. They’re already swinging to the right on immigration.

        Europeans have looked down on the US for decades, but a small taste of the social problems the US has will likely make Europe change drastically.

        • Ray Andrews says


          Not really socialist? As the word is used, Denmark is held up as the textbook example of democratic socialism. ‘Real’ socialism is whatever people point to as socialism. Yes of course they’ve kept capitalism, democratic socialists always do. As you say, it is a question of adding a bit of compassion to the dog eat dog world of capitalism.

          “This solidarity is only feasible in a small, homogenous country, where everyone feels that recipients of government care are truly needy.”

          I quite agree. Socialism requires social cohesion, and multicult, especially of the Muslim variety will destroy that.

      • 1. Denmark is not democratic socialist. That is a myth. It has no basis in reality. Look it up. Don’t repeat other people without doing due diligence yourself .The Danish PM objected to this description of his own country: “I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” Rasmussen said.

        “The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish,” he added.

        2. Even if it *were* a socialist country – which it isn’t – I find it fascinating how the Left is so desperate to find a working example of socialism in the entire history of socialism in the entire world, that it has to resort to a fiction, and even there, must use as its fictional example a very white very tiny homogenous countries as though their model can be expanded to diverse huge economies.

        • Irrational Actor says


          Unlike your original comment, I mostly agree with this one. However, I do think that with appropriate modification some of the working parts of Scandinavian redistribution could be scaled well to larger countries. But I would hardly say this modification and scaling would be easy to navigate or would have any guarantee of success.


          My reply to Stephanie obviously applies to part of your comment as well, but elsewhere I would make the distinction that it is the Socialist Left and the Identitarian Left (mostly one and the same) that resort to the fiction you accurately describe, not the free market moderate Left Johnson seems to me to be espousing. A moderate, true liberal should be just as annoyed as a conservative when Socialists make such claims, if not more so.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Irrational Actor

            It does not help that the label ‘Left’ refers not to any political point of view but only to the fact that the ‘left’ is somewhat contiguous over time with the folks who have always been called the Left. This in spite of the fact that what we now call the Left would be hardly recognizable to the folks who used to be the Left in the same way that Abe Lincoln would not recognize the Republican party of today. So yeah, the Identitarians are considered Left, by virtue of not being Right, but there is nothing in that philosophy that is anything remotely resembling classical socialism.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Irrational Actor

            “For some reason I cannot directly reply to your reply to me,”

            Yeah, I dunno why that is. I’m having to reply to you ‘way up here’ rather than down there where you posted. Claire says she’s working on the coding of the site, so maybe that will be ironed out.

        • Ray Andrews says


          This is a sort of inversion of the fallacy of guilt by association. The Nordic model ‘works’ and therefore you refuse to associate it with the word ‘socialist’ because you do not want anything labeled ‘socialist’ to be successful. But virtually everyone calls the Nordic countries ‘socialist’ and words mean what they are used to mean. That it is also a market economy is not a contradiction, every classical democratic socialist knows the value of the market.

          “a very white very tiny homogenous countries as though their model can be expanded to diverse huge economies.”

          That’s another issue, and I’m inclined to agree. Socialism does require social cohesion, but given social cohesion it can and does work. At least it is a viable model, tho one might still prefer others. Whether it can be exported is very debatable, nevertheless it IS socialism. Now, there has never been a successful communist country, I agree with that, but communism is a different animal entirely from democratic socialism. I find it strange that they are considered to be close to each other. Nazism is closer to communism than is socialism.

          • Irrational Actor says

            @ Ray

            For some reason I cannot directly reply to your reply to me, only to this subsequent one. I see that is the case elsewhere in instances someone has replied directly to me as well, might be some reason for it?

            Anyway, just wanted to agree with you entirely. The Regressives have done so much damage that I cannot place myself on what people perceive to be the Left anymore, notwithstanding the fact that even before the lunacy set in I had views on certain issues that were more Centrist or Right anyway.

            Moderate, old school Leftishist of a sort is the best I can come up with…

          • Charlie says

            The Denmark and Norway suffered little from the war apart from occupation and collaboration: no massive bombing ,no war economy no massive debts from W1 and 2. Finland fought but did not suffer massive bombing. The Protestant Work ethic was strong from 1945 and only started to be eroded from the late 1960s. Sweden sold iron ore to Germany in WW1 and 2 and so by 1945 as very wealthy. These countries contributed little to the Korean War and NATO. Also, they did not have massive amounts of heavy industry – coal( deep coal ), steel and shipbuilding which by themed 1980s was largely uneconomic in Western Europe unless very modern. German opencast coal is cheap.

            Each country has a different welfare state and national health service. What makes a difference
            1. Is there self respect to return to work/
            2. Is there limited time on unemployment benefit ( say 2- 5 years)?
            3. Is housing benefit for over 25 s and married mothers?
            4. Is there training for the unemployed to get them back to work?
            5. Is there a charge to visit the doctors or A and E to deter time wasters ?
            6. Is there a combination of national insurance and private medical insurance?
            7. Do people look after themselves ?
            Where the answer is No as in the UK, welfare expands. Where Yes , welfare is largely controlled. In general look at what the UK has done and avoid the many mistakes.

            There is a saying ” One can take the man out of the slum , but not the slum out of the man ” . Welfare has be designed to take the slum out of the man and as Schumacher said ” teach them to fish ” not have a sense of self entitlement and be reliant on the State.

          • Stephanie says

            @Ray, even the Danish PM does not agree that Denmark is “democratic socialist.” The only people who believe that are those who either don’t know what socialism is, or who do, but want to use the Scandinavian countries as an “in” to justify a socialist takeover.

            Redistribution on its own does not make a country socialist. Socialism is an economic system where the government has complete control of the means of production. Adding “democratic” to that only implies the government in control was democratically elected.

            This is an important point, because you have Democratic Socialists who hold up Scandinavia as their ideal, but who’s own party website makes it clear that government control of the means of production is the goal. This (purposeful?) obfuscation is deeply dangerous. They tell voters they want Denmark and tell party members they want the Soviet Union.

  8. Tome708 says

    They never admit they move to the right, they can’t. Most liberals spend great efforts demonizing their characterization of the “right”. When they recognize that leftism is the real danger, they then claim this wishy washy “classical liberal” or “center left”.
    The “right” they avoid is a boogeyman that was so easy to pontificate against while at University.
    Suck it up, take a deep breath. Liberalism leads to leftism when unchecked. Apologize to all of them “alt right” “nazis” that you helped demonize.
    Admit to yourself that you were fighting windmills. It really is liberating. You do not have to accept Jesus as your lord and savior. You just have to say “I was kind of wrong about some things and about some folks”. Maybe you helped establish this monster. Trying to see how close you can walk near it without it lashing out at you is foolish

    • Ray Andrews says


      That is classic. You reject moderation and centrism even in principal, as do both the fundamentalist lefties and the fundamentalist righties. Thus we see, IMHO, that the enemy is not the lefties or the righties, it is rather the fundamentalists of every persuasion, none of whom can see that the only decent societies that we have seen in the last few centuries have all been ‘wishy washy classical liberal’. It is a good thing to be wishy washy.

      • Peter from Oz says

        ” It is a good thing to be wishy washy.”
        Good point. Unfortunately, there are times when wishy washy doesn’t cut it and some hard-nosed action is required. Britain was the classic example of this. All that wish washy consensus in favour of socialism and Keynsian economics contributed to a terrible decline. It took Margaret Thatcher and a dose of reality to re-invigorate the British.

        • Irrational Actor says

          @Ray and Peter

          I agree with both of you. Peter, to be fair to Ray I think his point was not to actually be wishy washy, it was to stay from the fundamentalist edges. I imagine he would agree the Centre (from the moderate Left to the moderate Right) needs to be tough and decisive at times, he was just using the wishy washy term to make a point. And you are right Peter, that we do indeed need to be very clear and decisive, and accept and deliver doses of reality more often than we might like.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Irrational Actor

            Right. Staying away from the zealots on the lip of insanity is the thing. So yes, ‘wishy washy’ was a poor choice of words. At times we must be fanatically sane.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Peter from Oz

          Sure. Our natural instinct to civility, compromise, even retreat when it seems prudent, can go too far. There are times when a hard stand must be taken. Churchill vs. Chamberlain, no? But most of the time good government is a plodding, sober, dull sort of business that seeks a sensible middle path between competing utopias.


      They never admit they move to the right, they can’t. Most liberals spend great efforts demonizing their characterization of the “right”. When they recognize that leftism is the real danger, they then claim this wishy washy “classical liberal” or “center left”…

      Dave Rubin!

  9. Tome708 says

    By the way. I honestly believe people’s lives depend on this. If we keep dancing with this progressive left monster things are going to go horribly wrong. I can guarantee it. It might be meant to be. I don’t know.

  10. Michael Reed says

    While some of this adds up, and I can honestly agree with, there’s glaringly biased and confusing inconsistencies, starting with the accusation of bad intent in truncating Orwell’s statement in the documentary and the resultant tangent about Orwell’s dedication to “the Left.” While it was truncated, the author here also truncated, by totally ignoring the full thought expressed by gliding right over his appositive clause about democratic socialism “… , as I understand it.” From that point on, the author proceeds as though he knows exactly what Orwell meant by that and expands that knowledge into an entire essay in support of the damaged “true nature” of socialism, which becomes much more of, ” … , as the Author understands it.” From there forward we see cautious, halting criticisms of the author’s “bad Left,” always salted with plenty of references to how much worse and more dangerous the “Right” was, is, and will be, inserting an entire paragraph to describing the horrors & villains he sees as existential threats to humanity on the Right. As I read through this I kept finding myself agreeing whole-heartedly with sections, then being thrown a curve by phrases that more or less excuse or explain away the foibles and faults that had been clearly describe and condemned previously. Also, another entire paragraph is devoted to obsequious purple prose praising the Left thus; “One of the Western Left’s greatest strengths is its inexhaustible capacity for self-criticism.” Really? After all else written here, this seemed appropriate to include? In the end, this is a tossed salad of excellent insights cancelled out by what appears to be a constant compulsion to undermine them with knee-jerk defensiveness of an idealized “true & good” Left, and equally reactionary condemnation of the bugaboo “always bad” Right. I would suggest to Mr. Johnson that if it were not for the evil ones on the Right having adopted Orwell, he would have been expunged from literary & political history by his far-Left attackers long ago. As would, and may yet, be all those other critics (apostates?) of the Left, within the Left. This reinforces, rather than allays the fear that honest self-criticism is ever truly recognized or taken to heart by anyone who declares themselves to be on the Left. It also reinforces, for me, why you should never, ever trust either the Left or Right to be honest, even with themselves.

  11. D.B. Cooper says

    …it would be difficult to find a more accurate analysis [backlash to identity politics] of the shifting political and social dynamics that made his presidency possible.

    Quite so, Mr. Johnson. I agree, much of the “shifting political and social dynamics” are the likely result of identity politics, but to say that the “Left’s descent into identity politics” is at the root of today’s changing socio-political landscape is to explicate an effect of this descent (i.e., shifting socio-political landscape), not the reason for the it. You may just as well have diagnosed a disease without thinking to ask what caused it.

    The reason for this descent is the salient question, is it not? How could one ever hope to understand a thing without first knowing why and from where it manifested? One explanation for this new ‘illiberal’ Left – and one that I believe deserves serious consideration – is as follows:

    A cohort within the Left (likely a majority of the Left post-1960s) has found the failure of their “authentic values,” so thoroughly displeasing, so troublesome, indeed, so maddening that to continue on under the courage of their former convictions is, at best, untenable and at worst, morally depraved. In effect, this new ‘illiberal’ Left is hoping to excise the necrotic conditions of their once-prescribed liberal values by fraudulently imbedding their preferred and long-sought socio-political outcomes, either through government intervention(s) or societal pressures (mobbing, de-platforming, etc.).

    Of course, this begs a second question: What outcome(s) did these “authentic values” (of the traditional Left) fail to produce?

    In a word: PARITY

    It’s hardly a secret that underlying the ideological framework of much of the traditional Left’s values was/is the premise of John Locke’s tabula rasa. Among the Left, there has always been – and emphatically so, I would say – an unreasonable allegiance to the presupposition that under equal conditions and in the absence of all forms of prejudice/bigotry, political and socioeconomic parity would be realized REGARDLESS of a person or group’s sex, race, culture, [fill-in-the-blank]. If ever the Left could rightly be accused of having a blind spot, their unremitting belief in the tabula rasa of all men (and women) would qualify in a walk.

    Ask yourself, what else would account for the Left’s devolution into moral and cultural relativism? The Left presupposed the validity of their prescriptions, and when the “authentic values” of the Orwellian traditional Left didn’t produce the goods (read, political socioeconomic parity) – they (the new Left) decided that instead of rejecting their tabula rasa premise, they would ditch their old values for ones that would get the job (parity) done. Enter: moral and cultural relativism.

    One need not look far to see the Left’s aversion to the idea of inherent differences between people/groups. Even entertaining the question of inherent differences along gender/ethnic/cultural lines will immediately be met with an onslaught of accusations (sexist, racist, homophobe, etc.).

    What’s more, there’s little use in appealing to data or rational discourse for their belief in the biological equality (sameness) of all men (and women) has become an article of faith for the Left. In their eyes, there is no legitimate reason for these differences in outcomes nor can there be, someone (usually the white man) must be causing this inequality whether implicitly or (but usually) explicitly.

    The new Left’s equality sycophancy cannot and will not reconcile their vision of political and social equality with the implications of biological inequality, precisely, because their belief in equality has no limiting principle, e.g., evolutionary biology. For them, to believe otherwise is a non-starter, full stop. To take one example, simply consider their sinister insistence on there not being a biological difference between men and women. Only taken as an article of faith can one believe something so divorced from reality.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @D.B. Cooper

      There is never one single starting point for anything, or one absolute cause — we’d have to regress back to the big bang — but we can identify salient memes or events. I like your analysis, but I identify another starting point or meme:

      In a word: IMAGINATION

      As exemplified by St. John’s song of that title. Under the influence of their drugs, and helped by certain Eastern philosophies, and living in a time of material prosperity where someone like St. John has no real notion of work or scarcity everything seems dreamy. What one does is pop some LSD and Imagine. Imagine free love without VD or fatherless children. Imagine prosperity without work. Imagine drugs without addiction. Imagine, as you say, PARITY (tho I think ‘Equity’ is the better word). Imagine strawberry fields forever. This is the new mystic religion and one does not question it. Are the races identical? Yes, we Imagine it so. May we in effect remain children our whole lives? Yes, the nanny state will look after our every need. Is there evil in the world? Yes, but it is all the fault of the new Satan, the Great Satan, yes the white imperialist patriarchy. Once it has been smashed, then women will be as good at math as men, and women will no longer need to sit down to pee, either. Imagine it.

      • RA

        Good choice – “Imagine there is no . . .
        Imagine there is no . . .
        Imagine there is no . . .”

        “Imagine” is the Nihilists Anthem

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @Ray Andrews

        There is never one single starting point for anything, or one absolute cause — we’d have to regress back to the big bang — but we can identify salient memes or events.

        So, I take it you’re a causal determinist, is that right? That is, the notion that everything that happens is caused, necessarily, by prior states, or antecedent conditions that stretch back to the origin of the universe. If so, would you also contend that what exists, exists necessarily, and could not exist otherwise – in the sense that nothing (me typing this sentence, for example) is arbitrary or contingent, i.e., it could have been otherwise? This line of reasoning seems a bit too fatalistic for my taste but, admittedly, it is a leading contender among such views.

        Having said that, I admit, my use of the “root” was probably a poor choice in retrospect, but sloppy language aside, let’s not be pedantic here, Ray-Ray. Clearly, I was not intimating that a provincial such as myself (one from ‘Honky Town’ as you say) could adjudicate a regress to the absolute cause of… well, anything; much less something as intemperate and capricious as a neoliberal. No, what I was hoping to get at might best be described as the ‘proximate cause’ of this neoliberal manifestation, rather than the ‘root cause’ as I seemed to have incorrectly implied in my original post. In my defense, I would ask that you consider the plan fact that if causal determinism is true, as you seem to suggest, then it necessarily was the case that I could not have done otherwise in my original post, eh?

        Having come hat-in-hand in full penitence (never mind my inability to do otherwise), I do have a question or three concerning your “starting point or meme” for today’s neoliberal views. Putting aside their apparent affinity for illicit drugs (LSD), esoteric philosophies (mystic religions), and rampant apathy towards basic economic principles (scarcity) including anything that resembles ‘gainful employment’ (prosperity w/o work); what exactly catalyzed this current rendition of neoliberal values?

        I know you said, “IMAGINATION,” but what was the inciting incident that brought about this imagination? Surely, you’re not suggesting St. John and Ono, the madonna, were the catalyzing agents for this level of crazy? So, what, in your estimation, “caused” the Left’s devolution into moral and cultural relativism? And further, what would you suggest is the panacea for these ills?

        • Ray Andrews says

          @D.B. Cooper

          Thanks for a probing reply DB. I hope Quillette becomes more workable as a conversational space, it’s the back and forth that helps us make progress.

          Not an absolute determinist, but a partial one — we can see cause and effect, but humanity is not really a determined system. And I believe in the religious interpretation of Free Will — with capital letters.

          “I was hoping to get at might best be described as the ‘proximate cause’ of this neoliberal manifestation”

          Sure, and you did well. I moved the pointer back a bit further/deeper looking for a more fundamental vector. It’s not a competitor to your idea any more than soil competes with the plants it grows. Anyway, all these things are just attempts to gain some insight. There are always infinitely many vectors and memes, we just try to point out the important ones.

          “what exactly catalyzed this current rendition of neoliberal values”

          Well, digging even deeper, I’d say spoiledness, laziness, too much comfort. And some have said that, digging deeper yet, there was a sort of cultural PTSD after the war that made all our leading lights go boneless in the 60s thus yielding the floor to the hippies. Peace and Love seemed like really good ideas.

          “Surely, you’re not suggesting St. John and Ono, the madonna, were the catalyzing agents for this level of crazy?”

          Heck no, but they made an archetypical and very visible ‘contribution’. I think we’d have had hippies in any case.

          “And further, what would you suggest is the panacea for these ills?”

          Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out. Read Quillette! Watch Dr. P’s videos. There is enough sanity left to figure it out, I’d be pleased to make the tiniest contribution. Your suggestions?

          • D.B. Cooper says

            @Ray Andrews

            Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out. Read Quillette! Watch Dr. P’s videos. There is enough sanity left to figure it out, I’d be pleased to make the tiniest contribution. Your suggestions?

            Indeed, Sir, that is what we are here to figure out. I take your point on Quillette and Dr. Peterson. In your search for truth, you could do worse than making either (or both) of those your keynote speaker(s).

            As for my own suggestions, well, that is a question with considerably more external than internal utility by some order of magnitude I care not discuss. But having asked, I will oblige as best I can; although I offer no assurances of wit or erudition.

            The short answer is truth. Or the adherence to truth insofar as it can be reasonably identified. I should note that my justification(s) for “truth” as a telos or maxim, is meant in a more descriptive rather than prescriptive (normative) sense. While I fully acknowledge there is a strong moral argument for the adherence to truth, that is not my aim here.

            With respect to the Left (or far Left, more generally), if I had to isolate their single biggest problem it would be a propensity to protect their core narrative above all else, even at the expense of truth itself. And this narrative, more often than not, takes the form of an unwavering allegiance to equality; hence my original post.

            To understand why this is a problem, first consider that for better or worse it seems to be the case that the facts of life are, by and large, manifestly conservative. If one doubts this, look at the underlying tenets that govern a majority of our lives. Just to give three examples: (1) Our interpersonal relationships are to a large extent shaped by social hierarchies (#Peterson). (2) Our economic systems are built on and sustained by self-interest – at least the successful economic systems (market economies), the unsuccessful systems are built on hope, fairy-dust, lies, and authoritarian strongmen (planned economies). (3) The driving mechanism of evolution, natural selection, is born out of a competition for resources. It seems that even at a cellular level, our adaptive fitness operates by comparative advantage. I may be wrong, but as I said, in my experience and from what I understand of the human condition, this seems to be a “brute” fact about how much of life operates.

            In the interest of brevity, I’m not going to waste time explaining how and why reality can be brutal when you insist on ignoring or rejecting the facts of life for too long, i.e., ignore/reject what is true. But to give you idea of where this ends, consider the precept (on loan from MLK) that Obama was fond of discreetly vomiting up from time-to-time: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It’s said, the man even had it sewn into a rug that he placed in the oval office. I’m not sure that this will make it to the oval office (though it should), but I’ll do the Left one better: the arc of what is truth is long, but it bends towards reality. That is to say, the facts of reality do not cease to exist, simply b/c we would like to believe otherwise. Eventually, everyone gets mugged by reality/truth. My advice? Adhere to truth as best one can and you won’t be surprised.

            Again, none of this is what I would describe as particularly insightful, and assuming a normal state of affairs, the material facts, as stated, would be sufficient to prevent the coalescence of such an accompaniment as the illiberal Left; but we can hardly claim to be in any position that approximates to a normal state of affairs. When what is “true” is no longer the same for everyone, then we’ve arrived at a place of nihilistic relativism. And as we sit, I’m not entirely sure the Left hasn’t arrived. Of course, this has a corollary, which would be something on the order of a chronic mental health disease with tendencies toward destructive behavior on both a personal and social level. Admittedly, my concerns lie more so with the latter.

            But as I’ve said (and for the final time, I swear), reality is often brutal to those holding beliefs that are not supported by the weight-of-evidence, or in this case, in spite of the evidence. Equality cannot exist within a “fair” system, where people naturally exhibit variation in effort, ability, moral standing, and so on and so forth. Equality and fairness are mutually incompatible in this sense. Thus, the overvalued idea of equality or anything nearing is no more likely to manifest itself than are my chances of riding a unicorn into work tomorrow. In fact, given the history of socialism and the differences that I can plainly see in people, I like my chances with the unicorn, eh?

            And, herein, lies our dilemma. Given the Left’s noble lie that, if not for the intransigent racist white males, gender/racial equality would be realized, a significant segment of society is primed to believe what they feel is true, not what is objectively true. For those in the lower SES quintile, the Left’s socialistic tendencies masquerading as enlightened self-interests looks more like pay dirt than racist whitey’s hyper Lockean independence. If your relentless individualism is earning you $10 an hour, it’s not hard to divorce yourself from it. And considering the mob’s latent frontal lobe development, we will have to contend with such a state of affairs. But worry not, reality will win out, but the ‘arc’ is long, my friend. Good luck and God speed.

            Apologies for any/all typos. I was rushed…

    • James Lee says

      Good post DB. I think you hit it right on the nose. Their religion is equality, and it lacks any understanding of biology or history.

      As pointed out by the leftwing professor Adoph Reed and others, I think we should be mindful that this new religion of Equalitarianism and Identity Politics serves the needs of the elites and the billionaire class. As the elites have increasingly shifted the tax burden away from themselves and as inequality continues to rise, the masses are kept busy in a horizontal zero sum religious/culture war.

      I don’t believe its a formal conspiracy, but the new religion suits their agenda and is extremely cheap for the elites to personally adopt. Sure, there have been documented brutal working conditions in a variety of overseas factories that produce Apple products, now let’s all watch High Priest Tim Cook demonstrate his moral character as he recites the official catechism from the church of Social Justice.

      Nike has been routinely called out for sweatshop conditions in their overseas factories, but look– they just hired Colin Kapernick as a spokesman!

      The new religion demands no real sacrifices from elites. I would also guess that the great majority of Western billionaire/hundred millionaires would self-identify as atheist, and many probably feel some sense of guilt for their wealth.

      By adopting the new religion and parroting the dogma they get to feel like they are good, moral people with a renewed sense of purpose. You just have to accept your original sin and become woke again.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @James Lee

        I think we should be mindful that this new religion of Equalitarianism and Identity Politics serves the needs of the elites and the billionaire class.

        While I am not, normally, given to claims with a conspiratorial bent, either; I am, truth be told, somewhat sympathetic to this view. I would like to say, that as a matter of principle, I do not begrudge anyone for the amount of wealth they have (or don’t have), no matter the degree – assuming, of course, said wealth was procured via legitimate (legal) means, e.g., inherited, commerce, speculation, lottery sweepstakes, etc.

        Having said that, there is something particularly contemptible about tax avoidance via bureaucratic fiat. Speaking of my aversion to conspiracy theories, here’s another one that I shamefully happen to hold. While I’ve always been a proponent of a ‘flat-tax system’, I know the likelihood of realizing such a system (in the U.S.) is somewhere between nil and your average SJW cohort entertaining the idea of biological inequality as a reason – rather than say, I don’t know, racism – for political and socioeconomic equality in the West. So, basically, no chance at all.

        And why is this the case, you might ask? Put simply: if there’s anything a congressman can do for you, it’s get you or your business a tax break – assuming you have sufficient funds to donate, of course. But let me be clear, I strongly believe the politicians (as well as the political system itself) are far more culpable for this type of behavior, than is the man/woman seeking the tax break. He/she is, ostensibly, ‘legally’ working within our current political paradigm. In other words, it is the system itself that not only allows, but incentivizes this type of behavior. If doubt this, tell me, have you or anyone you known ever tried to pay more in taxes than you could otherwise legally not pay? Has anyone ever consistently tried to not not lower their taxable income? In truth, I write-off everything and some that I possibly can, and if, I could lower my taxable income even more, I would; so, how could I – by which I mean, “on what grounds” – object to another man/woman doing, precisely, what I would do given the opportunity/ability? To complain, would then be something closer to jealousy or envy, than moral posturing, no?

        There’s more to say, of course, but I’ve likely said enough. At any rate, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on… well… my thoughts on your thoughts.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @D.B. Cooper

          Nosing in here, I agree with both of you. My grand conspiracy candidate goes something like this: Global Money has wisely diverted the attention of the Left. Whereas the latter previously concerned itself with the welfare of the working class, the Globalists have very cleverly diverted their attention to more fun projects like abolishing gender and getting more women (people who have selected that gender) into math and engineering. This has worked so well that the Left now openly despise the mere vulgar working class. The Globalist have funded all this because by weakening the working class, they … the rest is obvious. Follow the money. Thus in effect the Left (as we have it now) is either conspiring with the Globalists, or they are the useful idiots of the latter.

          • Stephanie says

            @DB, Ray, Cooper, you guys make Quillette one of the few outlets where the comments are more insightful than the article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

          • D.B. Cooper says


            That’s very kind of you to say. I’ve read some of your comments as well; and I have yet to find one that hasn’t added value to the conversation taking place. I look forward to seeing more from you. Thanks, again.

            p.s. there wasn’t a “reply” option under your comment, so I chose to reply to you using @Ray Andrews comment just above, hoping that if it was his comment you replied; then this one (mine) will correctly fall below yours in chronological order. As you can see, I’m making one assumption based off another – which as a matter of practice, probably rivals a psychic palm reading in accuracy. There’s no telling where this thing is gonna end up!

        • James Lee says

          I’m with you. I don’t begrudge anyone their wealth, provided it wasn’t acquired through rent seeking, gross cronyism/nepotism, etc. Unfortunately, in the US at least such behavior is fairly common at the elite level, with (for example) financial regulators revolving to the financial industry and back.

          Nassim Nicholas Taleb has a good idea to forbid government officials from working in the same sector in the private sphere for at least 10 years after their service.

          I also agree with your idea of a flat consumption tax. I’m not a fan of the fact that a trust fund baby who lives off his inherited investments is taxed at half the rate of a working person with an income. I believe Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate was around 12%.

          As pointed out by the evolutionary anthropologist Peter Turchin, the growing inequality in much of the West is destabilizing (not to mention the additive effects of mass migration, rapid technological change, etc). As the gini coefficient grows, expect more Paris style massive unrest.

          agreed- the left used to care about the working class and were rightly suspicious of corporate power. Those days appear to be over. Occupy Wall Street seems like an age ago.

          In general, Globalists and corporate oligarchs are on board with the New Left… they want free movement of labor and capitol to keep increasing their profits. I’m sure many oligarchs genuinely believe in the new religion of Social Justice (Tim Cook convinced me with his recent sermon, egads), so i’m not saying they are necessarily inauthentic. I’m just saying that the religion absolutely serves their ambitions. It can’t be repeated enough that those “rightwing” Koch brothers support mass immigration as does George Soros.

          Also, per Charles Murray’s thesis, never before have our elites been so isolated from the common folk. They are mostly raised in upper middle or upper class enclaves, are in classes with other cognitive elites, go to elite universities, etc. They feel little to nothing in common with working classes. Many openly despise such people. Our intra-society cooperation has declined to dangerously low levels.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @D.B. Cooper

          The above was an essay in itself.

          “The short answer is truth.”

          Yes. What is the opposite of imagination but reality? And what is truth but a value system founded on reality? But truth is the very thing that the post-modernist types say does not exist — except to perpetuate your Privilege of course — so why should the Oppressed give it any credence? So yes, truth is normative and an ideal as well as being merely descriptive reality. But both are attacked by our enemies.

          “to protect their core narrative above all else, even at the expense of truth itself”

          Yes, the meme is the important thing (as with all religions). But in this case the word ‘even’ is suspect because they do not ‘sacrifice’ truth (a sacrifice has value), they renounce truth itself while (as Peterson explains so well) proclaiming that they *have* the truth.

          “takes the form of an unwavering allegiance to equality; hence my original post”

          Yes. Equality is the imagined thing, and imagination replaces reality.

          “this seems to be a “brute” fact about how much of life operates”

          Yes. And we must come to grips with these cold facts. Imagining them away will not work.

          “the arc of what is truth is long, but it bends towards reality”

          That’s a keeper. Reality does not go away, face it.

          Eloquent DB, that was a pleasure to read.

      • Lightning Rose says

        Here’s how I dismantle them in 3 sentences:

        Your Phi Beta Kappa son is now a neurosurgeon pulling 300 grand. How wonderful!

        Way more than he needs. So, let’s take 200 of it and give it to a meth-cooking wastrel.

        You don’t like that idea? Gee–I guess maybe you’re not really a Lefty after all!

        Fun to do at parties . . .

  12. Loïc Hoguin says

    “They tell endless lies about the economy (no, globalization and automation can’t be halted)”

    [citation needed]

    The most dangerous people in the world are those who think they’re on the right side of history, immediately followed by the people who merely think they know where history is going.

    This keeps happening in Quillette articles, is there a word for these matter-of-faith statements dropped in otherwise unrelated articles? It often accompanies criticism of right-wing populist movements as well.

    The article fails to recognize that it’s not only the ideological failures of the left that put Donald Trump into office, but also the corruption of the Democratic party. People’s voices didn’t matter, the Democrats had already chosen their candidate (yet somehow Trump is the enemy of Democracy). Without this, the election would have been Sanders vs Trump. I can’t help but wonder what kind of anti-populist rhetoric would have come out if that was the case. Perhaps Steve Bannon’s claim that we’re at the start of an era of populism (of both left and right) against globalism would have been more self-evident.

    I would also be wary of drawing too many parallels between US and EU populists, the circumstances and the movements are very different. There would probably not be a rise in populism in Europe had the EU project remained on the Europe of Nations track. Populist movements in Europe want to move away from the Federal EU project and back to a Europe of Nations. They want sovereignty of their own nations. This is not something that the US had to worry about in recent memory.

    • I whole heartedly agree with your statement that the blame for the election of Donald Trump lies at the feet of those on the left:
      1. The corruption of the DNC primary process disenfranchised and suppressed the votes of many of their base constituency. Once they realized the “scam” that was the primary election between HRC and Bernie they were genuinely depressed and revolted.
      2. For decades the DNC candidates spoke to their base but never actually acted to them. They spoke down (as the Yale study found) to them and never delivered. They were the party of the working class and minorities who never did a thing for them. Why not? Why should they? They were a locked in voting block. With limited capital available you spend it where it may influence a swing vote.
      3. Because of the corrupt DNC primary process, MANY Dem voters in states with open primaries crossed over to vote in the GOP primary specifically to vote for Trump. The idea being that they could torpedo the GOP by getting the “non-electable Trump” to face the pre-ordained HRC rather than a perceived tougher opponent like Rubio or Cruz who could turn the 2016 Presidential election into one based upon substance.
      4. During the run up to the 2016 election, post-primary, the DNC focused almost solely on personal attacks on Trump while ignoring the problems with HRC. In essence, this was a flip of the Obama/McCain election where everyone assumed the “old McCain” would be the opponent. It is my belief that Obama beat HRC in that primary NOT on substance, but as a token. They felt HRC would lose to “old McCain” so they threw out a sacrificial lamb, a “feel good” candidate in the form of Obama. They were wholly unprepared for him to win. Remember how in 2008 there was all the talk about how President Elect Obama did not have a slate of cabinet choices and such ready to go for confirmation immediately? When the same happened to Trump (for the same reason), Trump was demagogued, but there was little substantive reporting on the same situation in Jan 2009.

      In 2016, the blue-collar “voting bloc” (as if people were monolithic) was lost by the DNC in the Rust Belt. As a result, in 2020 the DNC must actually address them. If the minority blocs did the same in 2020 there might actually be a positive net effect in the long run. The parties would no longer ignore those blocs as “locked for the Left” resulting in BOTH the GOP and DNC courting those voters and finally delivering the change everyone expected after the 2008 election.

  13. I notice Nick Cohen in the run up to teh Iraq war we he enthusiastically promotted. In doing so he claimed that ‘the left’ had lost its way and was morally bankrupt in opposing the war. He went further to claim that opponents of teh war were closet anti-muslim racists. From this article he does not seem to have learnt much. He still treats ‘the left’ as if it is an actual identifible entity and not a term whcih refers to a huge number of people with diverse and different positions. He still claims a special moral authourity for himself and that those whose opinions differ are not just wrong but morally deficient. He still implies that those of the left have some priviliged moral position compared to those of the ‘right’, a moral position from which misguided members of the left can fall by disagreeing with Nick Cohen. If he recognised that there is huge uncertainty in the consequences of any policy or action and that people may disagree with him based on a good faith believe that the outcomes will be better rather than through malign intent, then he may become an author worth reading. At the moment he is just another example of the poisonous polarised nature of modern political debates eeking to brow beat opponents into agreement rather than persuading through arguments that recognise complexity and uncertainty.

  14. John V says

    If the prominent critics within the left who fight against the retrograde elements of their own side are now fighting against themselves, then I hold little hope for the left to correct itself from its current state of lacking principles, fragmentation etc. To one of viability and old school virtues. This unfortunately helps no one.

  15. Waterloo Sunrise says

    Here’s Nick Cohen showing how much he hates the totalitarian left:

    We can’t halt the spread of hate unless we get tough with technology giants, Nick Cohen

    Jo Cox’s murder was a warning but the online incitement to violence just goes on ignored


    I’ve never seen Nick write about Rotherham or Telford, where “groomed” girls were murdered by viciously bigoted Muslim patriarchs of just the kind you’d think he’d be ready to denounce in the sternest possible terms. Funnily enough, Muslim crimes against the white working-class don’t seem to bother him much. But Muslim anti-semitism — well, that’s a serious matter.

  16. roger tyk says

    Mr Johnson’s article shows the bankruptcy of the “intellectual” left.

  17. Breakfast Bear says

    “They’ve cynically exploited racial and cultural grievances to attract millions of economically and socially disillusioned supporters. They tell endless lies about the economy…immigration… international institutions…and just about everything else. And they have no respect for democratic norms and institutions, which is why their behavior is often overtly authoritarian.”

    And there it is. Matt Johnson claims the moral high-ground by becoming the monster he just criticized.

    Trump and the like have gamed the system because they may be willing to lie, but they are also willing to tell the truth. Trump et al are willing to say what no other politicians at the time wanted to say, and what the people in the world are seeing with their own eyes (when the Left is telling them it’s an illusion). Trump is simply Obama, but inverted. So Trump is telling all of the truths that Obama lied about, and vice versa.

    It blows my mind that people who want to shrink government get called authoritarian, especially when remembering that the opposing candidate literally bought and paid for her nomination, reducing the democratic process of the primaries into dust.

    And the current political norms and institutions deserve to get disrupted. They are nothing but corrupt systems that exist to keep the voter out of the loop. They are getting uncovered and recalibrated, and that’s probably not a bad thing. Maybe the incest and nepotism between government and media needed to be exposed.

  18. E. Olson says

    “Despite all the evidence that something is very wrong on the Left, with so many right-wing villains like Trump, Viktor Orbán, and Jair Bolsonaro to resist, many left-wingers see no reason to turn their criticism inward. This is problematic precisely because the Trumps, Orbáns, and Bolsonaros of the world are so dangerous. They’ve cynically exploited racial and cultural grievances to attract millions of economically and socially disillusioned supporters.”

    Why are Trump, Orban, and Bolsonaro dangerous villains? Is it because they want to put their own citizens ahead of illegals? Is it because they don’t want to let in criminals, unskilled, and violent people from failed cultures? Is it because they believe citizens should keep their own money and make their own decisions on how to spend it, rather than be taxed to death? Is it because they want to reign in their respective swamps that slow their economies? Have they arrested or spied on journalists like Obama did? Have they used the IRS, DOJ, and FBI (or their Hungarian/Brazilian equivalents) to harass and handicap political opponents like Obama did? Have they thrown homosexuals off tall buildings and condoned female genital mutilation, honor killings, and mandatory hijab use as is commonly practiced in the Muslim world? Have they set up concentration camps, “reeducation” camps, or death camps for scapegoat minorities, political enemies, or any other problem groups as has been commonly practiced by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, PolPot, Kim Il-sung, Castro and other left-wing heroes? Beyond Trump’s penchant to strut around like Mussolini at his rallies, and make some politically incorrect Tweets, it is hard to see how he has been dangerous – perhaps the author might explain.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @ E. Olson

      “Why are Trump, Orban, and Bolsonaro dangerous villains?”

      I was going to ask the same question in particular about Orban. He keeps winning elections that are agreed to be free and fair. It seems that PC orthodoxy has not penetrated the old Iron Curtain and the Hungarians decline to become an Islamic republic, and Orban is frank about that. The horror! He has withdrawn state funding for grievance studies. The horror! Every time I read of some new horror coming out of Hungary, I find myself, on the contrary, applauding them for their balls. Belgium and Sweden and Holland and Germany are in a race to see which of them will have the honor and pleasure of being the first European Islamic state. Marvelous, if that’s what they want. Hungary has made another choice, I really don’t see what’s wrong with that.

      • E. Olson says

        Yea – a really crazy idea – Hungary for Hungarians – except for the few who want to major in grievance studies and must now study abroad.

      • ganjagym says

        I am somewhat disappointed with some (Western/US) commenters’ infatuation with Orban. I understand you only see the facade, his antiimmigration (which I agree with to a considerable extent) and EU critical stance (which I partially agree with). But ‘Hungary for Hungarians?”. LOL. Rather Hungary for Orban, his family, friends and muppet oligarchs. He is the most corrupt leader of Hungary ever, and that is something to say. I hated the poscommunists, but Orban’s level is way above them. I mean there is a point in having a stable economic backround/funding for your political side, and creating that in a postcommunist era, when all the formal and informal power was in the hands of postcommunist elites certainly needed some creative and ballsy moves, but what is going on these days is pure feudalism, turning the whole country into his latifundium, bookies taking bets on when the ius primae noctis will be introduced. They are destroying many valuable institutions, dilapidating enormous human potential, stealing all the EU money, etc..They are a maffia, pure and simple. He keeps winning elections? Yes, he is a bloody genius, which is not a moral category unfortunately. And for Hungary -never have been a democracy and neither really a free market economy- maybe it was a necessary and logical step in its evolution to go through a phase like this and keep electing someone like him, I do not know.

  19. Johan says

    How much diversity can mankind take? From an evolutionarily (biological) perspective…
    That needs to be discussed.
    I am a well educated middle aged classic liberal man. I fear for the future of Europe. I am very pessimistic. I don’t think mankind is capable of infinate tolerance. Trofim Lysenko comes to mind…

  20. “Despite all the evidence that something is very wrong on the Left, with so many right-wing villains like Trump, Viktor Orbán, and Jair Bolsonaro to resist, many left-wingers see no reason to turn their criticism inward. This is problematic precisely because the Trumps, Orbáns, and Bolsonaros of the world are so dangerous. They’ve cynically exploited racial and cultural grievances to attract millions of economically and socially disillusioned supporters.”

    The problem with the Left – even well-meaning ones – is that they assert the above with literally zero proof. They simply assert it as axiomatic. He is a ‘villain,’ using comic book terms. Clinton isn’t a ‘villain” no one on the Left is; for the Left, when those who are on their ‘team’ do somethng wrong, they have made a mistake. They regard those on the Left as the “in’ group and fully human. They regard those on the Right as nonhuman and ‘villains.’ The whole way they view the world is childish at best.

    Trump is “dangerous” and a “villain”because –why? What has he done exactly? Yes, he is bombastic and egotistical and sometimes his Tweets are obnoxious. At the same time, he’s accomplished many things I’ve agreed with (looking at his actions). “A man can smile and smile and still be a villain…” Or does the author really believe that if you are good looking and smile and say Nice Things, you are a Good Guy?

    The author says Trump has ‘exploited grievances” and implies that the only reason he is successful is we disillusioned supporters are being manipulated into voting for him, that is, we are tricked, duped (at best) and racist pigs at worst.

    Again, this is axiomatic, with zero proof. I mean. he may have proof, but he regards it as such a given that he doesn’t need to give it. When pressed, in nearly every instance, I’ve found people resort to quoting out of context – eg if you ask, “When has Trump been racist” they will take quotes out of context. Even then they imply that words taken out of context in the history of your life (including 3rd grade) are what makes you a racist, as opposed to actions; they also imply that it’s fine if the ‘right’ sort of people say racist things (eg Clinton, who was totally happy along with her husband implying black folks were naturally violent.)

    What’s interesting to me is that Trump was a very public figure for decades, and during that time, was never accused of racism. This is proven by the very way the Left reacted when he ran—they laughed. John Oliver even begged for him to run because he was so sure Trump was a bombastic clown. If Trump were truly a racist they’d never have reacted that way. So the second Trump became an actual threat to Clinton, suddenly he became racist. How can they not see that *they* are the ones who are being manipulated? *They* are the ones who are being cynically exploited due to their ideological grievances?

    • Breakfast Bear says

      I agree with everything but your second paragraph. The Left is very willing to eat its own when the mob becomes loud enough that there is social coinage in tearing down the target (and the coinage surpasses that of leaving the target alone). Weinstein was great proof of this.

      Weinstein, Al Franken, Schneiderman, Conyers Jr… All taken down by their inner circle.

      • E. Olson says

        Imagine how this essay would be different if Trump has not switched parties in 2009 and become a Republican. Think of all the Leftist celebrities and journalists that were dying to get on his show, or have him come on theirs when Donald was riding high as a Democrat celebrity, or all the Democrat politicians that were continually asking for his endorsement and contributions, who started to laugh at him when he switched parties. What would they all be saying if Trump had won the 2016 Democratic nomination and was elected as the successor to the Kenyan. Would they think he was a danger to society? Exploiting grievances and racists? Think they would be talking about impeachment or Russian collusion? I think we know the answer.

      • @Breakfast Bear, yes, true, they are willing to eat their own. I’d have added another more thought-out rant but this one was long enough! The more complex issue is that they are so besotted with intersectionality hierarchies — a white man is very low down even if they are in the In club. Also they occasionally will throw people to the wolves to demonstrate they are ‘fair.’ They *only* do this if the person serves no purpose to them. Thus they waited until Weinstein was well past his usefulness and power. *Then* they threw him to the wolves. Whereas someone like Bill clinton isn’t thrown to the wolves (yet) because he is still very powerful.

  21. Jason Cooper says

    Curious as to the definition of ‘gloabalisation’ used by the author. We have global trade. Global travel. Multi-national citizenship and corporations. Is the presumption of inevitable globalisation that of a global government? If so, then it will necessarily be fundamentally dismissive of any regional interest in sacrifice to a ‘big picture’ bureaucratic efficiency, in disregard to democratic process in a centralization of power that will inevitably create more opportunity for abuse and oppression.
    It seems to me that the ‘strange bedfellows’ mentioned, appearing to have dissimilar motivations, are not united against the West…but are instead united to create that centralized structure, and once achieved, willing to contend with the other as to what form of totalitarianism reigns supreme. I find just laying down and assuming an inevitability to that, regardless of your seemingly ‘centre L’ position to be the exact depiction of Fabian Socialists first symbolic offing…a wolf in sheeps clothing.

  22. Andrew Simpson says

    1. The further you stray from the centre line, the more chaotic things become, ultimately leading to catastrophe.
    2. Constant zig-zagging between left and right means no vision further than the term of office.
    3. Once you adopt an ideology, you lose half the solutions for any given problem.
    4. Career politicians are rarely interested in the benefit of the country, but only in their own careers.
    5. The great filters of national interest and national values are the two sides to be debated; all else is short-term, half solution, deception.
    6. The current politik is confined to PPE graduates, red book readers and myopic voters.

  23. thecw says

    The author starts off his piece with the flawed assumption that the left is anti-totalitarian. A simple study of history will show where the leftist ideology will take us. Socialism to Communism(Dictatorial Socialism).

  24. It’s also possible to simultaneously criticize Islamic Jihad and understand that it is a minority view in Islam. It’s similar to understanding that there are racists in the US but everyone who voted for Trump is not a racist, but I digress.

    Islamic Jihad literally (literally!) behead and burn people alive and it is sanctioned by their leaders, give the death penalty to homosexuals, and oppress women in a manner that exceeds the west by magnitudes. The more obscene this behavior gets the more harsh the criticism is for simply pointing it out. Perhaps that awe inspiring capability to understand and grasp facts might come into play here.

  25. One idea you get from reading the comment boxes in right leaning publications, is that if there is something we share with the modern is left it’s the lack of self awareness and self criticism.

  26. tim s says

    Matt’s claim that it is the right that has “cynically exploited racial and cultural grievances to attract millions of economically and socially disillusioned supporters” shows his own inability to examine himself, or the current left on one of their most obvious ploys.

  27. James Smith says

    Excellent website! Yes I did not know I am a Left Wing Rebel (Old style please modern ones are totalitarian) I just wrote the gun control idiots esp. in D.C. and accuse them rightly I believe of plain hatred of freedom, and rape of the Constitution! I am for rights and a going back to the old days of common law and public executions of certain real criminals (Child molesters etc. Thrill killers etc.)We need a real Constitution that specifically states Capitol offense ignoring the real original intent! Kill the commies and the Constitution states Commerce is BETWEEN STATES Not citizens (so called) as for totalitarians kill them all let God sort them out!

  28. Daniel says

    “Many of the people who insist that the Left is irredeemable are happy to invoke Orwell.”

    Well, the regressive Left IS irredeemable while they’re committed to being Orwellian! Stop the Orwellianisms, and then we’ll decide what is redeemable.

    This article seems to be about the hypothetical benefit of including classically Left viewpoints in today’s political debate. Such a point is utterly irrelevant in the presence of the Left’s doublespeak, of their celebration of Hate Week, and of their “2+2=5” gaslightings. These things are problems; the fact that people have lost sight of the political benefit of many Left positions is irrelevant.

    This article is as inappropriatly irrelevant as walking up to a village decimated by a malaria outbreak, and explaining that the presence of mosquitoes is beneficial for biodiversity. It’s a debatable point to begin with, and utter nonsense in that situation. Furthermore, to assert it torpedoes any credibility you might have.

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