Review

‘Vice’—A Review

Vice should have been an interesting film. Its subject, Dick Cheney, spent close to four decades embedded in the leadership of the most powerful nation on earth. He was instrumental in orchestrating the War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq. A biopic of a man who has had such influence over recent historical events is a film worth making.

Sadly Vice is not an interesting film. Although it is filmed with Adam McKay’s characteristic wit and energy, ultimately it fails at both storytelling and political analysis. Its characters are shallow, its narrative is chaotic, and its representation of historical events is hopelessly biased. Despite all this, it has been showered with award nominations: eight at the Academy Awards (including Best Picture), six at the Golden Globes, and a further six at the British Academy Film Awards. By any objective measure it does not deserve this level of praise, but in this period of intense polarisation, Vice offers liberal filmgoers an opportunity to revel in what Philip Roth described as “the ecstasy of sanctimony.” The point of Vice is not to educate or persuade or encourage deep thought. What it offers audiences is the petty enjoyment of laughing at the out-group. It’s essentially a feature-length Saturday Night Live sketch in which an array of famous faces (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell) impersonate hated political figures for laughs. Some of the comedy is good. This is a funny film—sometimes very funny—but it’s also grotesque in a way that the filmmakers didn’t intend.

Vice ignores one of the key principles of storytelling: that is, as Aaron Sorkin puts it,  that “a protagonist has to be put through something and be changed by it.” The Cheney of Vice does not change. He becomes more powerful as he gets older, but in all other ways he remains the same. He begins the film as a callous power-hungry demon with no sign of an interior life, and ends it in just the same way. The narrative arc, such as it is, focuses around Cheney’s ongoing battle with heart disease, culminating in a heart transplant—a rather heavily laboured metaphor for his heartlessness. Cheney’s only redeeming feature is his love for his daughters, and even that is undermined by a cynical act of betrayal near the end of the film. Christian Bale has said that he modelled his performance on Satan, but fictional portrayals of actual Satan have shown more nuance than Bale’s representation of Cheney.

We never discover what truly motivates Cheney. As far as I can tell, his only drive is a lust for money combined with an even greater lust for power. None of his Republican allies seem to have any sincere motivating force either. In a particularly revealing scene, the young Cheney asks his mentor Donald Rumsfeld, “What do we believe?” and Rumsfeld simply laughs uproariously. Such naked villainy would be unconvincing in a Bond movie. Is this really how the makers of Vice view their political opponents? The neoconservative Republicans who led the Bush administration may have been duplicitous or callous or deluded—or possibly a combination of all three—but the idea that they believed nothing is absurd. This cartoonish representation of the Right would be funny if it wasn’t so widespread and eagerly applauded.

When Vice shows us ordinary voters, they’re portrayed as either morons or warmongers or both. “I want to fuck someone up!” yells one man in a focus group driven to rage by 9/11. In another focus group scene, the Republican running the session effortlessly fools the group into accepting facts that the audience (of smart liberals, of course) know to be lies. There is a scene in which Lynne Cheney speaks to a group of men at a rally. This is a “left behind” working class community, pushed to the edges by economic change—the soon-to-be inhabitants of Trumpland. Here is a moment that might have provided some insight into exactly why the Cheney project found such success. But, instead, we are offered a caricature. Lynne Cheney spits out invectives against affirmative action and bra-burning feminists to whoops of pleasure from her audience, some of whom are literally shirtless. As far as we can tell, such people are motivated by nothing more than a shallow hatred of liberals and everything they (or, rather, we) stand for.

Some critics have accused Vice of significant inaccuracies, and certainly the film makes allegations against the Bush administration that are controversial. Making serious claims about government wrongdoing within the context of a farce is risky, since the audience is left unsure of what to believe. For instance, in one comic scene we see Cheney advising President Ford and Henry Kissinger to go out on to the White House lawn, expose themselves, place tiny wigs on the tips of their penises, and then jerk each other off. The two men nod along, swept along by Cheney’s powers of persuasion. When these absurdist moments are followed by, to name one example among many, a scene in which Cheney appropriates Presidential authority to an alarming degree in the hours following 9/11, the effect is confusing. I can only assume that the filmmakers assume their audience will believe anything of Cheney, as long as it fits with his malevolent characterisation, and so see no need to clearly delineate between fact and fiction.

I’m not defending the behaviour of Dick Cheney, still less the Republican Party as a whole. I’m a liberal, for goodness sake—I’ve never voted for a right-leaning party in my life. My argument is simply this: Hollywood needs to try harder. These films ought to make some effort to understand people they disagree with, rather than just shoring up their existing reputation for sanctimonious snobbery. Contrary to the assumptions presented in Vice, right-aligned people are not lacking in moral values—rather, according to the moral foundations theory expounded by social psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt, their priorities are different. While those on the Left are primarily interested in the values of compassion and fairness, the Right consider national loyalty and respect for authority to be equally important, if not more so. You can disagree with that position (as I do), but it’s foolish to deny that there is a coherent right-wing worldview to which a great many people are attracted.

There is a reason why the Left keep losing, and it’s not because the likes of Cheney are charlatans who have fooled millions of idiots into voting for them. It’s because the Right tend to do a better job of persuading people than the Left do. Showering a film like Vice with award nominations suggests that Hollywood have not accepted this reality. If Republican voters go to see this film (which they won’t), they are unlikely to come out of the cinema convinced that they were wrong all along about that dreadful Dick Cheney—they’ll be offended, alienated, and even more resistant to voting for the Democrats in 2020.

It is possible to create interesting drama about recent political conflict. In the UK, James Graham’s Brexit: The Uncivil War (Channel 4) attempts something similar to Vice. Brexit follows the figure of Dominic Cummings (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), who was the lead strategist behind the Leave campaign. Both films document a pivotal moment in political history; both follow a “puppet master” figure; both adopt a darkly comic tone; both are intended for a Left-leaning audience—but Brexit is an immensely better film. Dominic Cummings is not portrayed as an evil mastermind who single-handedly engineered Brexit. Instead, he is a channel through which the grievances of the “left behind” bloc of voters are run. A theme throughout the film is the quiet roaring that Cummings hears coming from the ground, the sound of tectonic plates moving in advance of a political earthquake. His brilliance is in recognising this coming shift and harnessing it to his own ends.

As a Remain-voting member of the Liberal Cosmopolitan Elite, I should have hated Cummings for the havoc he wrought, but he is far too complex a character to be hated. This is an emotionally complex drama that has serious things to say about our political times, but it does so with compassion. Like Vice, Brexit features recurring scenes of focus groups, but these actually give us real insight into the reasons why the Leave campaign won. In one climactic scene, a woman reveals her reasons for voting Leave as she sobs “I’m sick of feeling like nothing, like I have nothing! Like I know nothing. Like I am nothing.” Brexit asks us to empathise with our political opponents, while Vice asks us to despise them.

I’m not asking for a sympathetic portrayal of Cheney, or any other right-wing politician for that matter. It’s perfectly legitimate to criticise and mock any political figure. All I’m asking is that liberal filmmakers show some interest in what their opponents think, rather than just dismissing them as hateful or stupid or both. After all, if the Right really are as clownishly demonic as Vice would have us believe, then why do they keep beating us?

 

Louise Perry is a freelance writer based in Oxford, UK.

Featured image courtesy of Annapurna Pictures

156 Comments

  1. Spacious Fort says

    The filmmakers most likely live in a bubble, unaware of anything thought or believed elsewhere. If so they can only produce a projection of who they are and of whom they fear they might be.

    • Heike says

      Yes, the Left actively ostracizes people who don’t agree with them. Banning, shadowbanning, deplatorming, outrage mobs, getting people fired…all of it designed so that they don’t have to listen to anything they don’t agree with.

      The essay hits the nail on the head: the Right is the Left’s outgroup. And why do you need to spend any time understanding The Other? You just mock them and have a collective laugh that reinforces that We Are All Us.

      For an in-depth look at the Left otherizing the Right: http://archive.is/QRJ6m

    • SeanV3 says

      “Is this really how the makers of Vice view their political opponents?”

      Yes.

  2. codadmin says

    The producers of Brexit are liberal. The producers of Vice are leftists.

    Leftists, like all fundamentalists, will never change. No point appealing to their better natures.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Oh, the irony. You didn’t feel that giant kettle that just bounced off your thick skull? Any other ridiculously broad generalizations you’d like to make that confirm your absolutism (or unchangeable fundamentalism, as you’d surely put it)?

        • codadmin says

          @Michael Kennedy

          Conservatives are generally good people, so don’t see leftists as evil. They see the world through themselves.

          Unfortunately most conservatives still have a very antiquated view of the left.

          They can’t distinguish between the fascist left, and the moderate liberal ‘left’.

          • @codadmin, There is no evidence for your assertions. In fact, some evidence exists to the contrary. Conservatives are slightly more well informed than leftists. They are more accepting. I can document these with data. Don’t set up straw men, it is an unworthy form of discourse.

          • codadmin says

            @DocJ

            What assertions are you referring to?

            Conservatives are more accepting than leftists, I agree. And I said as much.

            The problem we have is the labels we use. If we say liberals and conservatives are moderates, and leftist and rightists are extreme, then everything becomes bit easier to understand.

            I never, equate leftism with liberalism, because it’s not the same thing.

        • Jeff Denton says

          @Michael Kennedy

          Oh, I don’t know about that. I grew up in a very religious, politically conservative environment where the Left was widely seen as populated exclusively by murderous reprobates. Abortion was the main cause of this perception. Throw women’s lib, evolution and Marxism on top of that and lefties were completely beyond redemption. This is the main reason I abandoned the Right 15 years ago.

          • Fundamentalist Christians may be an exception to my opinion. They have been steadily losing the culture war and made a leap in the dark to Trump, which has turned out pretty well for them, The extremism of the left on infanticide will turn out well for the “Religious Right.”

          • Marian Hennings says

            There is intolerance on both sides. I am politically left of center and have been called a traitor and a “libtard” by people on the right. The left formerly was more tolerant, but lately some leftists have been at least as nasty to those who disagree with any of their views. I have not yet seen “Vice” and am disappointed that it is, apparently, too heavy handed in its portrayal of Cheney. I do think that anyone who could vote to defund the Head Start program, as he did when in Congress, is a pretty stingy, unsympathetic character in real life (most of his fellow Republicans supported Head Start). In my opinion he has little to commend him, although he did perform reasonably well as Defense Secretary during George H. W. Bush’ presidency. I may still see the film, but am more likely to skip it after having read this review.

        • Kyle Smeby says

          If you spend much time listening to what people on the right (say on the FoxNews.com comments system) have to say about people on the left, it’s a lot more than just “they are wrong.” They have no end of suggestions for what should be done to them or where they should “stick” or “shove” things. I’ve known more than a few liberals that I’m assuming are the one’s they are talking about, but neither side seems particularly concerned with specifying who exactly they are referring to when demonizing people they believe constitute the “other” side.

      • codadmin says

        @Nakatomi

        Liberals, who I disagree with strongly on many issues are good people. Leftists, on the other hand, are fascists.

        If you are too thick to distinguish between the two, then you must agree with them. You fascist.

      • Hamilton Sunshine says

        Oh the irony. Projection and sweeping statements about conservatives are all Nakatomi deals in. Not nice is it?

  3. E. Olson says

    Get Woke, Go Broke – another movie that got lots of positive free publicity from the Leftist mainstream media and was a total dud at the box office. I often wonder if anyone in Hollywood besides Clint Eastwood is interesting in making movies that won’t offend the 75% of the potential audience that isn’t far Left and keep them away in droves.

    • Angela says

      The one exception to that was Farenheit 9/11 back in 2004. That movie did abaolutely unheard of sales for a documentary. I was a lefty back then and even in the suburban area of a deep red state I saw it in the theatre was completely packed. Michael Moore’s more recent offerings havent done shit though.

      • Angela says

        Although thats really pre woke. That was just anti war and anti neocon especially. SJWs and woke culture didnt exist to anywhere remotely near the same degree back then.

      • Asenath Waite says

        @Angela

        Interesting to hear you say you were a lefty back then. I wonder how many people used to consider themselves liberal and now no longer do. I’m in the same boat. I always am wondering if I’ve become more conservative due to bitterness in middle age or if the left just really went crazy. It certainly seems like the latter to me, but I can’t be sure. Hearing other people report similar experiences makes me feel a bit better.

        • Another Former Lefty says

          I’m also in that boat. For reasons I don’t understand, around 2015, the left started radiating hatred–both in general and specifically towards white men like me. The right, on the other hand, continued to graciously welcome all comers. Baffling, and I’m not sure why the left continues to do even as well as they still do.

          • BrianB says

            2015?
            They’ve always radiated hate; they just dropped the mask that filtered it a bit.
            They did so for two reasons. They believe themselves to be tantalizingly close to consolidating an unbreakable grip on the US and someone they loathe pathologically rose up and improbably blocked that path, even if only temporarily.

            The present Dem party is owned lock, stock and barrel by the 1960s New Left movement that was overtly socialist, authoritarian and implacably hostile to the American Experiment, self governance in general and ultimately Western Civilization.
            Much of their base isn’t nearly so radical and some of their leadership isn’t. But they are kept around more as fig leaves than leaders; token figureheads tolerated for the purpose of reminding people of a more reasonable, historic Democratic Party that the left pays lip service to but loathes nearly as much as they do political and personal liberty. Those few reasonable leaders are functionally powerless and when push comes to shove do what they’re told.

        • Barney Doran says

          I have said this on other sites but feel it is appropriate here: The further left the Dems go (and how they are going), the less I hate Trump. Yes, it pains to say that, but I am not leaving liberality; liberality is leaving me.

          • Dan Love says

            @Asenath

            I was apolitical. Whenever I was political I leaned liberal or populist. However, I primarily had contempt for all sides and had no interest in caring about any of them.

            That remains in me, and I do still believe politics is the lowest form of human interaction. However, I would be lying if I said I don’t oppose the left the most now, and liberalism gets some of that too. The left went absolutely bonkers in the last 4 years.

            This identitarianism and embrace of identity politics is the most extreme political ideology I’ve ever witnessed. I thought the Tea Party was the lowest our country could get, and the left said “Hold my beer…”. SJWs make Tea Part activists look like Albert Einstein by comparison.

            @Another and Barney

            I share both your sentiments. I used to be disgusted by Trump. Now I understand why we need [someone like] him and even admire his modus operandi.

          • Marian Hennings says

            Barney, some former Republicans have expressed to me the same sentiment about their party, i.e., it left them, not they it. I ask that you not hate Trump any less, as his policies are just as bad and he is just as dishonest as ever. The fact that some on the left seem to have gone overboard does not mean that there are not still rational people among the Democrats. Some of them are, in fact, former Republicans who were driven away when the religious fundamentalists and science deniers took over the GOP.

  4. It’s weird how being center left (or orthogonal to left-right, i.e. classically liberal) in today’s political/cultural climate can lead you into positions where you are practically defending people who you would rather spend time criticizing. The left and the right have moved so far from the center that I end up looking like an extremist to both.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @GL

      Yes, the dark danger at the center of the center. The heresy of trying to be reasonable. If there is one thing that all fundamentalists believe it is that, first, the center must be destroyed because reason is toxic to all fundamentalism. The ultra orthodox Jewish settler and the Hamas jihadi will of course try to kill each other, but neither threatens the other’s certainties. The reasonable person is the enemy of both.

    • Nate D. says

      @GL

      In the same boat here. I’m too liberal for my right-wing friends, and too conservative for my left-wing friends. Fortunately, I have a 2 close friends that are center-right and center-left.

      For better or worse, Cheney has lived an incredibly interesting life within the inner sanctum of American politics. Shame his was simply re-spun as a ham-fisted propaganda piece.

  5. Winston Smith says

    As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m simultaneously fascinated and dismayed by the Liberal’s need to apologize for being a Liberal. Conservatives don’t feel the need to criticize the Republican party in order to prove that they’re not TOO conservative. And that is why they always win. They don’t waffle. They don’t dissent. They have no shame and no doubts. They toe the line, even when they know their candidate is a complete asshole and dumpster fire of a human being. If the Democrats want to win they need to stop being afraid of being Democrats. Say what you believe, stand up for it and stop apologizing!

    And sorry Louise Perry, but there are SHIT TONS of people who vote Republican for no deeper reason than the fact they they fucking HATE liberals. I ought to know. As an Italian-American from a Catholic working-class family in New York, this description fits half of my family!

    • DiamondLil says

      If you’re honest, I think you’ll have to admit that there are equal shit tons of people who vote democratic for no deeper reason than that they hate fucking conservatives. Where does that knowledge take you? Where does it take any of us?

      • K. Dershem says

        In his book _Against Democracy_, Jason Brennan estimates that about 5% of voters are “Vulcans”: they educate themselves about the issues and vote on the basis of the policies they support. The remaining 95% are split between “Hobbits” (apathetic, indifferent, and uninvolved) and “Hooligans” (rabid and largely ignorant partisans who vote to support their “team” and defeat their opponents). I think Democrats are just as likely to be “Hooligans” as Republicans.

        • scribblerg says

          Spot on, and well on evidence just in this thread.

    • Stephanie says

      Sounds like you’re a darling at Christmas dinner… You might have a better relationship with your family and get over your hate for half the country if you stopped seeing them as caricatures.

      Trump is an asshole because Republicans learnt that running wholesome people doesn’t prevent Democrats from accusing them of every -ism and -phobia in the book. Against such tactics you need someone with no shame. Democrats have reaped what they have sowed. Who really cares anyway, when the economy is doing great again, finally?

      Of course self-awareness requires you to acknowledge that the Democratic candidates of late have been assholes, too. Hillary Clinton’s main qualification was she married a guy for power and slut-shamed his rape victims. Obama espoused radical BLM rhetoric at the funeral of police officers assassinated by a BLM activist. He chose to fan the flames of intersectionality even though it has made the US more divided.

      Democrats are certainly not afraid of being Democrats. The news media, Hollywood, the academy, ect are hostile to anyone not a proud Democrat. Not being left enough isn’t a problem most Democrats are having, but sure, move your party further to the left. Cede the centre. The Republicans will be grateful.

    • Defenstrator says

      I think you may be viewing life through s fairly extreme lens. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the left won the culture war. That’s why all the censorship is coming from their end.

    • Winston, what? The right “always” wins? And despite the fact that half the Republican establishment or more makes no secret of their TDS, you see the right as united and non dissenting? What?

      And if libs are apologizing too much, it’s probably to the SJW mob that has taken their party hostage.

    • Craig WIllms says

      @Winston
      So that’s the way you see it? Plenty of us on the Center/Right see the mainstreamed conservatives as the wimps. There is a moniker the right-wingers call the wimpy Repubs – GOPe. The ‘e’ standing for Establishment. Backstabbing their fellows is standard practice and compromise always means capitulating to the left. The notion that the right-wing is a solid, unflappable block is WRONG.

      Hating liberals??? My God I’ve never seen such unbridled hate as liberals have for conservatives, I don’t even see it being a close call.

    • Charlie says

      There used to be two types of left of centre voter: those who had been born into poverty and knew real suffering and those born into an affluent lifestyle and had Marxist views. Many blue collar workers born into poverty were influenced by Christian ethics and wished to make practical improvements to the quality of peoples life – better homes, better schools, better pay, safer working, shorter hours, paid holidays, etc, etc . Modern day Liberal Democrats are largely born into affluent families and wish to impose cultural Marxist/post modern ideologies on the World. In fact they despise the character of traditional blue collar Christian inspired Democratic voters and the feelings are reciprocated.

      The Locke/Descartes/ Newton/Darwin/Mill/Gladstone/ S Smiles Liberal is largely extinct. For a start the modern day Liberal lack the intellect and scholarship of those such as Locke and also the toughness and practical skills of the blue collar voter.

  6. Winston Smith says

    @Diamondlil I was responding to this specific quote:

    “As far as we can tell, such people are motivated by nothing more than a shallow hatred of liberals and everything they (or, rather, we) stand for.”

    I have friends and family members who represent both parties. In my experience, the Democrats I know talk about specific policies that they are voting for or voting against. The Republicans that I know rarely talk about public policies or even seem to know much about them. They talk about people that they don’t like (specific Democratic candidates or liberals in general) and why they don’t like them.

    Do some Democrats hate conservatives? Absolutely! But in my experience, they can usually articulate a reason for it that coincides with a public policy. With Republicans it’s just name calling or superficial observations. For example, a coworker of mine voted for George W Bush because Bush is the kind of guy he’d want to grab a beer with, while Kerry was not. A remake relative of mind voted for Dubta because he’s “cute.”

    This is my personal experience. Perhaps the people you know are different. I don’t claim to possess accurate variable statistics about American voters; I am neither a statistician nor a pollster.

    • Dan Love says

      @Winston Smith

      You claim Democrats tend to talk about specific policies while conservatives “talk about people that they don’t like”. What have you done here? You talk about no policies and exclusively talk about people you don’t like.

      Just delicious.

    • Lack of intelligence is often a charge leveled in correlation with the “other’s” political leanings. This brief article shows that a lack of intelligence is more correlated with an extreme political view (either right or left), and that those holding centrist positions are generally more intelligent. The left can be as ideologically rigid (and unintelligent) as the right.

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/unique-everybody-else/201305/intelligence-and-politics-have-complex-relationship

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @Isaac

        Interesting article. While I’m inclined to think libertarian views would correlate with higher levels of intelligence before either conservative or liberal political views, this may in fact just be a function of their tendency towards systematizing thought. In other words, it may be the case that while intelligence doesn’t correlate with political view, one’s personality profile does.

        For example, we know that while the average intelligences of men and women are essentially the same, the average personality profiles (Big 5 traits) of men and women are quantitatively different, if only in subtle ways. And I believe there’s literature that suggests these personality differences account for at least some of the differences in party affilation (Dem vs. Repub) we see between men and women, i.e. Dem/women & Repub/men.

        Of course, two things can be true at once (barring mutual exclusivity), so it could also be the case that both intelligence and personality profiles correlate with a given political view. Actually, just to continue this thought out, if the transitive property holds, it would follow that intelligence should also correlate with certain personality traits. This is speculative, of course.

    • E. Olson says

      Winston – research doesn’t back your experience or viewpoint. Democrats rely very heavily on low-information voters, which is why they have to put so much effort to get out the vote (i.e. free buses to polling stations, picking up ballots and helping them fill it out “correctly”, efforts to let felons and illegals vote, etc.). Research also finds that Republicans on average are more likely to know how parties/candidates differ on various issues, and who their representative, governor, and senators are. Part of this is the gender difference in voting, as single women are more likely to vote Democrat and are also less likely to have much political knowledge, while men in general have significantly better political knowledge and are more likely to vote Republican. Low information voting is largely driven by the desire for “free” stuff typically promised by Leftist candidates, but unfortunately it seems that only Republicans understand that “free” stuff isn’t actually free.

      https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-low-information-voters-3303622

      https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/gender-society/gender-differences-political/

  7. Winston Smith says

    That was supposed to read “a female relative of mine”, not “a remake relative of mine.” IPhone autocorrect strikes again!

    • Farris says

      @Winston

      Are you certain you are paying attention?

      Republicans typically run on low taxes, smaller government, strong military and border security.

      Democrats typically run on republicans are evil racists. Do you recall Hillary’s “deplorables” comment? Some democrats run on universal health care. But if pushed on the numbers, they respond by saying their opponents wish to push old people off cliffs.

      Ask conservatives if they believe in free market economics and you will receive a resounding “yes”. Ask a progressives if they believe in socialism and you will get equivocation.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

        @Farris

        I must agree, @Winston got it backwards. Democrats run on sentiments. The sentiment of the evil Republicans vs. their own warm and fuzzy policy of unconditional love for all the world’s Victims. As St. John said: “All you need is love, da da, da da da da daaaa, all you need is love.” That’s what the left has: love. Well, unless you are a Deplorable or an Oppressor or you Hate. Then they don’t love you, but that’s because you are not a nice person.

      • Winston Smith says

        @Farris you’re talking about the candidate’s platforms. I’m talking about why ordinary people chose the candidates they voted for. Those are two different conversations.

        To reiterate, my observations are based on my personal experiences, which are a product of who I am, where I live, and who I know. Your experiences may be different.yoh May know people who said “I voted for Trump because I believe in supply side economics.” I personally don’t know anyone who said that. I know people who said things like “she’s a bitch (Hillary)” and “I’m tired of these whiny liberals!”

        • Farris says

          @Winston

          Thank you for your response. Of course I am unable to speak to your acquaintances. I would point out they are voicing their own independent opinions. However, as the party nominee Hillary Clinton spoke on behalf of the entire party when classifying an entire group of voters as deplorable. This reference was not debating the issues
          or advocating at platform. Ms. Clinton may have been more eloquent than your republican acquaintances but her reasoning was the same of which you complain.

          • Marian Hennings says

            I must agree with Hillary Clinton that women who wore shirts with arrows pointing toward their crotches which read “Trump can grab my …” ARE deplorable. That is the best that can be said of such crass people.

        • D-Rex says

          Everything I’ve seen about American politics suggests that conservative generally have a live and let live attitude but the far left in particular are full of unbridled hate. It was perhaps ironic when after Trump was elected, a large sign reading ‘love trumps hate’ was hung in front of an effigy of Trump being hung with a noose.

      • scribblerg says

        @Farris – Fun fact. 90% of Hillary’s ad’s were negative.

  8. Zimzam says

    I like Quillette taking an interest in other media types, I think this kind of thing is really import. Portraying political figures honestly is the only way to create debate rather than further division

  9. beyondyesandno says

    “After all, if the Right really are as clownishly demonic as Vice would have us believe, then why do they keep beating us?”

    The Left seem to believe it is a simple weight of numbers – that if they “cure” enough “bigots” by lecturing and shaming them the Left will be victorious. Which would explain why the Left always doubles down, and why the Right regards the Left as idiots.

    George Orwell wrote something to the effect that Socialists are very poor at gauging the motives of their opponents, while they themselves are understood far more easily. I regard this as generally true of the Left and Right.

  10. Winston Smith says

    @DiamonLil In the interest of having a more robust debate, I will point out that the Democrats and Republicans that I know personally tend to differ in educational attainment.

    Most (not all) of the Democrats I know are college educated and have white collar jobs. Most (not all) Republicans that I know do not have college degrees and have blue collar jobs. Therefore, I could give the benefit of the doubt to you and say that it’s possible that the disparate approach to politics that I’ve observed has more to do with education than party affiliation.

    Perhaps if I knew more well educated Republicans I’d know Republicans who vote based on more substantial principles than hating “fucking liberals”, and Hillary being a “bitch.” Then again, I suspect that there is a verifiable college education gap between the party bases.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Winston Smith

      There seems to be some statistical truth to that. But given what’s being taught in uni for the past several decades, one has to wonder if the more educated are not also the more deluded. It would be interesting to break down the ‘more educated’ category into people who have degrees in, say, engineering vs. those who majored in victim studies. I’d expect the latter to be almost 100% leftist but what about the former?

      • Dan Love says

        @Ray Andrews

        Your comment is particularly relevant to postgraduate degrees. The conservative elite (“enterprisers”) do not tend to get postgraduate degrees because the business world does not value postgraduate degrees as much as on-the-job experience and internships. This is common knowledge in the business world.

        It’s not all that common for engineers to have postgraduate degrees either. 5-year undergraduate programs are become increasingly common for them.

        Meanwhile, no one can go anywhere in the humanities, by far the most liberal academic field, without a Ph.D.

        Moreover, some of the most bullshit fields, like feminist dance theory, offer Ph.D. degrees. Meanwhile, accounting, for example, doesn’t. An associate’s degree in nursing requires more intelligence and thoughtful consideration than a Ph.D. in Queer Theory or Women’s Studies. Educational attainment, especially in the humanities, does not correlate with intelligence.

        Finally, a Ph.D. is usually required to become a professor. Professors, who lean left, push leftist ideology onto Ph.D. students, who then become professors. This keeps the ideology sealed in, much like a fart in a hermetically sealed jar.

        • Stephanie says

          Dan and Ray, people tend to get more conservative as they age, but staying in university for post-graduation degrees extends the period of idealistic adolescence. The academy’s dependence on government funds nurtures a sense of dependence on the government, and only those who can tolerate being a mooch on the taxpayer stay in academia.

          The nature of academic study is around building arguments to support a case, even if you believe it not to be true. This means the successfully educated can convince themselves of things that defy common sense. When you’re in an ideological bubble, this pattern is self-reinforcing.

          I would also add that educated people tend to be proud of their intellect, and thus tend to believe they could successfully right all the wrongs of the world, if only they were in charge. Those that are both less educated and less intelligent focus more on their own lives, and thus are predisposed to letting others have the freedom to do the same.

          This is what I’ve gathered based on my own experience in higher education these last 10 years. Like everyone in that milieu, I was a flaming leftist, but I had the great fortune of being attracted to tough, conservative, working class men, and now I’m thoroughly red-pilled. I think education and leftism are highly correlated because of a toxic mixture of self-interest, arrogance, and brainwashing.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @Stephanie

            That’s a pretty decent summary of the case.

            “The academy’s dependence on government funds nurtures a sense of dependence on the government”

            Yes, the wheel goes around and keeps itself greased.

            Speaking of ideological bubbles, this stolen from Areo today:

            Take, for example, a 2016 paper linking gender theory and climate change, entitled “Glaciers, Gender and Science—A Feminist Glaciology Framework for Global Environmental Climate Change,” co-authored by a team of historians from the University of Oregon, and funded by the National Science Foundation. Here’s the abstract:

            “Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science and glaciers—particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge—remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.”

            I’m glad you’re enjoying the company of working men, we’re not so bad when you get to know us eh?

          • Craig WIllms says

            @Stephanie
            It is quite true that people become more ‘personally’ conservativeas they get older. Why do you think the leftists have taken over public education and have driven most universities hard left. They have to indoctrinate them when they’re young.
            .
            I think you are dead right about older adults who remain hard left. They are usually highly educated (and well off) and believe they see more clearly than the troglodytes on the right.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @Dan Love

          Yeah, that’s the sort of thing that could use a formal expose. Bottom line is that I suspect that whereas genuinely unintelligent people might be easier to suck into the Trump camp than the Hillary camp, as intelligence and education increase we will see an increase in conservative thinking, not the other way around. Indeed, a Ph.D in Intersectional Masturbation would not strike me as something that recommends the intelligence of the holder. Rather the opposite.

          • Stephanie says

            Ray, wow, how absurd. You can’t even parody these people, they’re already a parody of themselves. I lament how much taxpayer money has been spent sending these authors to lavish international conferences.

            I much prefer my husband’s working class friends to my rigidly orthodox, mind-numbingly predictable fellow students. How so many people from so many countries can think exactly the same things and share the same instinctive repulsion for the same specific heresies speaks volumes on the efficacy of university indoctrination.

        • i think the leftist trend in academics began in the Vietnam War as many anti-war students stayed in grad school to avoid the draft. Many then went on to academic careers and selected like minded students to continue the left shift in academia.

      • Higher education (apart from stem programs) is no longer a signal of intelligence. There are virtually NO hurdles left (in the US) that any person cannot easily overcome to become a full time student.

        Federally backed student loans don’t have an intelligence qualifier. Hell, they don’t even have a career repayment plan. I’d be surprised if any state or community school gave failing grades for poor performance in liberal arts programs. Also, how could you possibly fail a totally subjective curriculum like gender or race studies?

        The armed forces now have a higher bar to entry than most colleges. Physical requirements as well as minimum intelligence requirements that would leave a fair amount of our current crop of permanently outraged professional students in the dust.

    • Dan Love says

      @Winston Smith

      Bullshit, yet a common Democrat shibboleth.

      1) “The professional class, which is relatively evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, is among the…”

      2) “Education, up to the undergraduate level, increased a person’s chances of him or her voting Republican.”

      2 establishes the relationship between educational attainment and ideology is nonmonotonic.

      If you look at composition of liberals vs. the right…

      3) “Liberals have a slightly higher percentage of college graduates than Enterprisers; 49% of versus 46% of Enterprisers.”

      That is not a significant difference.

      The source explicitly states enterprisers are on the right…

      4) ‘The right comprises the highly pro-business “Enterprisers,” the highly religious “Social Conservatives”… and the “Pro-Government Conservatives”…’

      (Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_ideologies_in_the_United_States)

      Even if you were right, there was a time Democrats were proud to represent the oppressed working class. Now you support the affluent and well-off. You’ve become the very Republicans you once opposed.

    • scribblerg says

      Could you be any more of a rude, preening hack? Wheeling about generalizations from your tiny little world, it’s really quite astonishing to listen to you. I find myself wondering if you have any self-awareness at all?

      Let me give you a different explanation as to the differences on policy matters between the Left and Right. Leftist politics and social values saturate our our institutions. Children are taught lies about climate change, for example, in grade school now. Do you think they are shown what a partial birth abortion looks like? Or how to think about the impact of a federal govt that is 22 trillion in debt and racking it up faster and faster, that they will be responsible for paying?

      Conservative kids, whether from conservative families or not, have to shield themselves from the onslaught of agitpop and outright social stigmatization they experience. They learn to be resilient, independent, to be optimistic and to problem solve. Not to feel sorry for ourselves. We also ‘find our level’ in life, and focus on family and career.

      Conservatives and most Republicans aren’t on a “campaign for justice”. You see, the Republican party was the party that started the Civil War to end slavery. That had more support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than the Dems gave. The KKK itself was started at first to fight back at white Republicans who went down South to register blacks to vote. It was only later that the KKK focused on blacks.

      Given the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage, go back and look, you’ll see there was more Republican support for it than Democratic – it was passed under a Republican administration. Republicans also supported equal pay laws passed in the ’60s – this is why I scratch my head when hearing about the Lilly Ledbetter Act that was proposed – pay equality is already the law.

      We believe we’ve done much to heal our society. We see the left inflaming absurd levels of sensitivity about oppression and demonizing our entire society that are completely out of step with the occurring reality in our society. We don’t want any part of your policies. We think govt does way too much, and we don’t spend time fantasizing about how to use govt to fix the world.

      I’ll stop now. But wow, you are really a piece of work, bunky. I’m going to go get some dinner now.

      Happy to argue policy when I get back though…Bring it.

  11. Winston smith says

    @Dan Love do you think the Republican party represents the interests of the working man? That’s hilarious. Last I checked, the Republicans broke the unions under Reagan and the last two Republican administrations have cut taxes for the wealthiest and done nothing for anyone else. You are correct in stating that the Democrat have long abandoned the working class. But don’t pretend the Republicans care about the working class.

    • Dan Love says

      @Winston Smith

      Can you point to where I implied the Republican Party represents the interests of the working man? I don’t think you can, because I wouldn’t say that, because I don’t believe it.

      Saying Democrats do not represent the interests of the working man does not imply saying Republicans do.

      • peanut gallery says

        It’s also a common canard of left/democratic leaners to assume Unions are automatically for the working man. Unions can be a force for good, but they can also act like competition smiting racketeers. There are some absolutely ridiculous union stories and one shouldn’t assume union = good for the common man. I get so tired of hearing unquestioning love for unions. Sometimes they act like the mob and the common man pays the price for their “protection.”

        • jakesbrain says

          Indeed, the conservative argument is that the labor unions in their present form have, by and large, betrayed those they were intended to support — if the working man is to be protected, the unions must be burned to the ground and started over again.

          • When the Japanese built the first auto plants in the South to avoid Reagan’s import restrictions, they expected the plants would be unionized. There is a reason why the remaining unions are public employees’ unions which do not have employers that need to make a profit. The few remaining unions in the private sector are craft unions that include apprenticeships.

    • E. Olson says

      Winston – you seem to believe that the “interests of the working man” is all about the government giving them “free stuff” and supporting unions. On the other hand, employment and wage growth for the working man has been highest under Reagan and Trump. I suspect most working men (you know the guys that were Reagan Democrats and now wear MAGA hats) would rather have a good paying job than a welfare check and food stamps.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        Wages have been relatively stagnant since 1970. You can spin the stats however you like, but you’re really swimming upstream if you’re going to try and argue that Reagan and Trump give a shit about working Americans. There aren’t good paying jobs, and that’s exactly the problem.

        And how about taxpayers subsidizing Walmart and Amazon by providing food stamps to their employees because those companies don’t pay a living wage? Please, I’d love to hear your justification for that. You’ve been brainwashed by the myth of trickle-down.

  12. Stephanie says

    Winston, the percentage of the population unionised is negatively correlated with wages in Canada (see: Alberta versus Quebec). Allowing the wealthy to keep their own money translates to more investment, increasing everyone’s standard of living and creating new and often better jobs.

    You have to get past what a policy makes you feel, and see what the actual outcomes are, if you want to understand the appeal of conservatism.

    • K. Dershem says

      Stephanie: I think you’re cherry-picking data. It’s likely that the higher average wage in Alberta derives from the presence of lucrative extraction industries, not lower unionization rates. Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact of labor unions on wages. See, for example, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/06/business/labor-unions-income-inequality.html. Partisans on both the left and the right appeal to emotions and make arguments that distort or ignore inconvenient facts. I’m surprised that you referred to supply-side economics as an example of conservative truth-telling, since the evidence for the “trickle-down” effects of tax cuts on the wealthy is mixed at best. There’s a legitimate debate to be had about the optimal level of taxation to expand opportunity and promote economic growth. Implying that your side of the argument has a monopoly on facts while the other side relies on feelings does not contribute to this conversation.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

        @K. Dershem

        Yup. Although I have increasingly right wing views, unionization has been good for workers. The decades of highest unionization were the decades of greatest prosperity.

        • tarstarkas says

          Those decades of greatest prosperity were due mainly to a historical accident, that being WW II, after which the USA was not only the dominant power in the world but had the only significant intact industrial economy left on the planet. Too many of those who grew up or had good jobs in those plush times came to the conclusion that that was normal. It wasn’t and isn’t. It just happened to coincide with high unionization levels in the private economy.

          Private industry unions and the ability to organize unions are necessary. They did a lot of good in their early and middle years in regards to reasonable wages and more importantly safety. Were they to be outlawed or significantly hampered, the bad old days for workers would return real quick. But the demands and featherbedding that went on accelerated the decline of the US economy in the late 60’s through the 70’s. They fell victim to their own success.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @tarstarkas

            That’s moderate and honest. Yeah, unions can go too far. As a former shop steward who instigated a wildcat once, what really bothered me was the adversarial system in which you were either winning or you were losing. Being reasonable was weakness to be exploited. You push all the time as hard as you can, and so do they.

      • Stephanie says

        K Dershem, there are of course an abundance of facts from which you can construct any narrative you’d like, and the more intelligent you are, the easier it is to construct and accept convoluted arguments (see my comment in the thread above).

        The NYTimes is notorious for cherry-picking data, and the study cited is much more equivocal about the implications of their results than the article. Although I just gave it a cursory reading, it seems it used a ton of data processing based on numerous assumptions, and mostly focused on the effect of unions on inequality. It doesn’t seem to address purchasing power, meaning the drastic increase in standard of living in the last few decades when union membership has been on the decline was not addressed.

        Your argument presumes that inequality of wealth is a problem. I don’t think it is. Inequality is the natural result of a global economy, where the best players engage in the most voluntary transactions, and accrue the most wealth. Is Bill Gates selling his first software package more ethical than selling his millionth or billionth? Of course not.

        I’m open to the possibility unions have or had a useful role to play. The most honest, straightforward reading of the data in Canada, comparing the provincial natural laboratories, suggests not. Perhaps there is a reason the US would be different? Or perhaps unions, like civil rights, are good at achieving certain goals, but after that degenerate into a naked power struggle of corrupt actors?

        The “optimal” tax policy is constantly changing with world events, so a conversation with the goal of picking a number to stick to is misguided. Foreign investment in Canada dropped 50 % in the year after Trump cut the corporate tax rate. As far as tax rates to draw investment goes, it’s a race to the bottom.

        • K. Dershem says

          Stephanie, it looks like you’re basing your argument on a single data point and neglecting to address the other possible explanation I suggested (Alberta’s reliance on extractive industries). If your hypothesis was correct, one would expect to see a negative correlation between unionization rates in U.S. states and median incomes. In fact, the reverse is true: there’s a positive correlation. States with the highest rates of unionization (see https://money.cnn.com/interactive/news/economy/union-membership-by-state/) have among the highest wages (http://www.governing.com/gov-data/wage-average-median-pay-data-for-states.html). This correlation doesn’t prove that unions contribute to higher wages, but it seems to refute your claim.

          The study featured in the NYT article is one of many which has reached similar conclusions.

        • Atticus says

          You are right on point, there is a reason we have words like feather bedding, I have two examples I don’t remember what this is called i think some one called it staking I owned a store in ny for a bit. the Union was supposed to replace pipes under the sidewalks, what they did is removed the sidewalk and put a board over it and didn’t work on it for over 8 months for 8 months i had a whole in my sidewalk that was a hazard. and i found out that unions do that is so the can claim they started the work that prevents other companies from bidding on that job. Then when I lived in Michigan i owned by own business day care, and I had to pay union dues i was voted into a union even though i was self employed and if we babysitted any kids on welfare that was considered union work so i had to pay union dues for like four years so i can collective bargain with myself on how much to get paid? and i have more personal examples, my brother in law worked for a union and on top of his dues they took out fees and even fees for handling the fees, and a fee for his vacation money he left a 40 dollar an hour non union job for a union job making over 40 but only bringing home half of that. There are reasons they got so many nicknames that arent awesome. Then there is my experience with them at DOW Chemical and my experience with the teamsters at a grocery store.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Stephanie

      It begs the question of who’s money it really is. As Lincoln pointed out so well, all wealth starts with the workers who produce it, we then decide how much of it they get to keep vs. giving most of it to rich people who assure us that they deserve it more than the people who produced it. Yeah, people who slosh capital around should get some recognition, but all things equal I think the workers should keep most of what they produce. And their spending their own money is shown to have a bigger economic multiplier than sending the money to a billionaire’s bank account in the Caymans. It is working people and small business owners who create prosperity. Goldman’s product is economic instability and they charge us handsomely for it.

      • Stephanie says

        Ray, I am opposed to socialism. The workers are workers because they have not taken the risks, made the investments, or put together the plan that allows a business to form and thrive. The workers can accomplish nothing without someone having done the aforementioned. Without the tools or the infrastructure, workers can accomplish nothing.

        I don’t mind the idea of workers pooling their resources to start a company of their own. But to say that workers “deserve” something more than the market value of their labour without having put their skin in the game is essentially a call to plan the economy. If you think workers aren’t making enough, instead of attempting to redistribute that from the owners, I’d suggest looking at government worker subsidies, which through redistribution allow workers to survive on a lower wage, and worker saturation from mass immigration.

        Poor people spend their money on the necessities of survival, enriching companies like Walmart. Rich people spend excess money on the investments that create the products and services that make everyone’s lives better. Yes, the money redistributed to poor people goes back into the economy right away, but that money has little productive value. This policy is based on feelings, and the result is sacrificing people’s long-term prospects for immediate satiation.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @Stephanie

          But all economies are planned. The question is for who’s benefit are they planned. In a place like the US, where politicians are outright purchased by people like the Koch brothers, we should not be surprised that the planning favors the owners of the politicians.

          One can retell the just-so story of risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit and so on, and the story is like all myth narratives at least partially true. But it can be used to justify the unjustifiable as well.

          “Without the tools or the infrastructure, workers can accomplish nothing.”

          I disagree. In pre-capitalist societies workers accomplish quite a bit long before various classes of parasites start sucking on them. I believe in the value of capital, it is essentially the concentration of labor for some bigger, longer term goal, but capital can become parasitic and so it has.

          “Rich people spend excess money on the investments that create the products and services that make everyone’s lives better.”

          The data seems to indicate that rich people hide their money in the Caymans and that even to the extent that they invest, it is the investments of small business that stimulates the economy far more. When the billionares do invest it tends to be in fraud schemes of the type that Goldman sells. Invariably these things blow up eventually and whereas the government will bail out Goldman, the little guy goes down. But yes, we also have Musk, a real creator, and he deserves every penny he has. I’m a big fan of the Robber Barons of old: Carnegie actually made something: steel. Ford actually made something: affordable cars. Edison actually invented stuff.

          “This policy is based on feelings”

          That’s ok, we all recite the story we like to hear, you can’t be held to a higher standard. But your story is as simplistic as is the socialist story — both sound good to the teller. What I like about my story is that it admits to the strengths and weaknesses of all the other stories. All fundamentalists are wrong.

          • K. Dershem says

            “But your story is as simplistic as is the socialist story — both sound good to the teller. What I like about my story is that it admits to the strengths and weaknesses of all the other stories. All fundamentalists are wrong.” Very well put; I completely agree. Some degree of inequality is necessary for economies to function efficiently — that’s why Socialism always fails. However, it can be plausibly argued that the current level of inequality is the U.S. is unhealthy (see, for example, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/09/society-unequal-the-spirit-level) and unjust. Stephanie fails to acknowledge the ways in which the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy, one of the few areas of agreement (at least rhetorically) between Bernie Sanders and President Trump. Entrepreneurship, innovation and risk-taking should be rewarded, but workers who contribute to the success of corporations should receive an equitable share of the fruits of their productivity. Labor unions are one way to level the otherwise very skewed playing field between workers and bosses. Unions are far from perfect, but it seems disingenuous to focus exclusively on their failures and short-comings while praising an idealized version of job-creating capitalists.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @K. Dershem

            “one of the few areas of agreement (at least rhetorically) between Bernie Sanders and President Trump”

            They say that the biggest ‘swing’ in support in ’16 was from Bernie to Trump, once the Rat establishment knifed Bernie. That shouldn’t be possible, but it is, because folks were just looking for real change away from the corrupt establishment.

          • Dan Love says

            @Ray Andrews

            I agree. Well put. Unions have their problems, but it’s really hard to argue that things aren’t, overall, better with them than without them. The presence of unions highly correlates to the presence of a middle class.

            This is one of my biggest gripes with the Republican Party.

          • Stoic Realist says

            The Koch brothers. The leftist equivalent of George Soros. Any time either is mentioned some bizarre conspiracy theory is sure to follow.

      • old econ student says

        “Yeah, people who slosh capital around should get some recognition, but all things equal I think the workers should keep most of what they produce.”

        When I took Econ. 101 back in the 1980s we were told that econometricians had repeatedly measured the percentage of GDP earned as wages over many decades in several free market economies and that it had always hovered around 70%, regardless of the particular economic policies of a wide variety of governments. If there are any Economists out there reading this comment stream, can you tell us whether that proportion has continued to hold, and if not, what has happened since?

    • Saw file says

      @Stephanie
      I understand your point, but any equation to the Quebec Union paradigm, to any other Province in Canada is inaccurate.
      I believe you know that…

    • Winston Smith says

      @stephanie I don’t know anything about Alberta. I live in Brooklyn, New York, not Canada, but what you’re describing sounds an awful lot like the Trickle Down Theory of economics, which is a goddamned lie. The rich don’t reinvest their money in creating new jobs. They lay off workers and close factories after making record profits and then hide their money in offshore tax doges.

      Conservatism makes the fabulously wealthy fabulously wealthier whilst gutting everyone else. Conservatives in the US trick stupid poor and working class people into thinking they represent their interests by embracing retrograde social views and casting Democrats as elites. It’s really sad when people vote against their own economic interests.

      When I was a kid, a man without a college education could get a high paying union job, buy a house in the suburbs, send his children to college and retire comfortably. Now in the US we don’t have a middle class. People with college degrees can’t even afford to buy homes. My generation is the first to live less comfortably than their parents.

      • E. Olson says

        Winston – your viewpoint says a lot about why you think your friends have such great political knowledge. You think the rich don’t reinvest to create new jobs and somehow they make money by shutting down factories and hide money in tax havens, which of course makes heavy taxes on the rich and the government promotion of unions seem like good ideas. Reality is very different, however, as the rich get or keep their riches by investing in things that make profits. Heavy corporate and personal taxes reduce profits and encourage investment in other places where taxes are lower.

        Unions tend to cause problems because they spend most of their efforts protecting the least productive workers, which decreases the linkage between productivity and pay, and consequently reduces profits for shareholders and productive workers. If you have ever worked in a union environment you will very likely have observed how much effort is made to protect the jobs of chronic drug abusers, slackers, people who call in sick with every sniffle, incompetents, etc. and yet you are likely getting the same pay and benefits because you are all “union brothers”. In essence competent/hard working workers, who are actually earning their pay, are subsidizing their lazy/incompetent co-workers, because unions rarely promote productivity based pay, or allow firing and layoffs to be based on productivity. Unions also tend to promote Leftist politics, which typically means higher taxes and regulations that kill productivity enhancing investments and reduce profits, and therefore encourage investments in more productive (relative to pay) places.

        Even Leftists should care about profits, because profits are what pay bond interest, and stock dividends, and boost stock prices that most pension funds are dependent on to pay retirees. Profits also pay wages for jobs, and only profitable businesses tend to hire more employees. Tax revenues that pay for government services and the welfare state are also highly dependent on having profitable businesses, which is why Sweden had to cut back on its 1970s-80s socialism when firms could not make a profit and hence stopped paying enough taxes to support the welfare state. It is also important to note that studies consistently find that very successful entrepreneurs typically work very long hours, retain a very small portion (2-3%) of the value they create for society and investors, thus billionaires are rich because they create businesses that create many, many more billions in value. The fabulously wealthy in the US are also 2/3 self-made, so most don’t inherit their wealth (and the ones who do tend to be women).

        And those riches are not buried in the backyard, they are invested in businesses that create jobs and pay taxes, they are put in banks that make loans to business and consumers that expand the economy, they are used to make purchases of mansions, yachts, and luxury cars that create tax paying jobs for manufacturers, builders, service providers, and sellers, and they are given away to charity to support the less fortunate. But the only way to get and stay rich is to use capital and labor work productively, and the very richest in relatively free-market economies tend to be the people that have the most talent at finding/creating productive uses of their capital and labor, which is a talent that the governments and unions that attempt to confiscate wealth almost never do very well.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @E. Olson

          “the rich get or keep their riches by investing in things that make profits”

          If only it were entirely true. It sounds like it should be true, but that does not make it true. I know two rich guys; both of them have their money hidden.

          “in other places where taxes are lower”

          Yes, however is the race to the bottom the best answer? The billionaires think so.

          “Unions tend to cause problems because they spend most of their efforts protecting the least productive workers”

          Absolutely true. However I have an indexed pension because of my union. The generation after me will end up living in cardboard boxes on the sidewalk once they can no longer work three jobs.

          “Even Leftists should care about profits”

          And of course the professional leftists do. You can bet that Bill and Hillary are not careless about how their stocks and investments are doing.

          “they are put in banks that make loans to business and consumers that expand the economy”

          Not too long ago the world’s economists well understood the difference between what I’d call ‘real’ banks and Goldman. I like real banks making real investments in real businesses. But that’s not where the big money is. The big money is in manipulation.

          “which is a talent that the governments and unions that attempt to confiscate wealth almost never do very well”

          True. But I wonder if it really is written in stone.

          • E. Olson says

            Ray – If you know rich guys with their money hidden, I am assuming they are hiding it from the government tax collectors, but unless they have buried it in the backyard, the money is still in circulation (in a tax shelter or tax haven bank) earning a return. In fact, it wouldn’t make sense to literally bury money to avoid taxes because negative returns after inflation are almost certainly lower than investing in the “regular” economy and earning 7 to 10% from which 15 to 40% is taxed away (depending on the tax rate).

            There are several factors that keep us from racing to the bottom on taxes. First, is security of the investment location – some place with low taxes but very high political instability or poor property rights where I might lose 100% of my investment makes it a very risky place to park money. Second, possible returns can negate tax costs, because if I can earn 20% and lose half to taxes I will still prefer it to earning 10% and losing 15% to taxes. Third, most wealthy people understand and support reasonable tax levels that are used to support efficient government services. It is only when taxes rise very high relative to the quality of government services that alternatives start to become more attractive, and when money, profitable companies, and wealthy people start to leave the country in large numbers it is a very good clue that the tax rates are too high and/or government services are too terrible.

            Glad you have a comfortable pension, but union pensions (especially in the public sector) are proving to be problematic in many places because more tax money is being used to pay pensions of retired teachers, firefighters, police, etc. than to provide current government services. This is a huge danger because unions and the political parties they support have a big temptation to promise very generous pensions, because the true costs can easily be hidden from voters until shortfalls become emergencies. The other problem with union pensions is that a productive and reasonably prudent person can almost certainly do better saving and investing on their own than any union or government. I suspect that you were a well above average worker and in a more productivity oriented (non-union) situation would have earned well above average wages, which would have allowed you to invest money into a reasonably safe portfolio that over your work career would earn far more than you are getting from your pension. But since the union prevented you from earning more than your less productive co-workers, and the union pension is based on a formula that applies to everyone, your extra productivity has effectively subsidized the less productive in both wages and pension.

            Investment banks have been corrupted by going public, which has increased the incentives for managers to make risky investments because shareholders (or the taxpayers in the event of a bailout) will be on the hook if the risks blow-up (as happened in 2008-09), while profits in the event of success will be used for juicy bonuses and stock option payouts. When the investment banks were partnerships, the partners were on the hook for losses, which made them more prudent since their own money was at stake. Banks have also become too large (too big to fail), which have only exacerbated the risk shifting problem. Why doesn’t government do something about it? Because the government officials get a lot of speech money, foundation contributions, campaign contributions, and nice post-government jobs from big investment banks (see Bill and Hillary as key examples). Thus the typical Leftist solution of “more government” is unlikely to fix problems that are caused by corrupt and bribed government.

            It is written in stone that governments and unions don’t do well with confiscated wealth. It has to be because that is their mission – taking money from productive people and giving it to less productive people in the name of “fairness”, “equity”, or “reparations”.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @E. Olson

            I’ve never read a person who can defend hard right economics as reasonably as yourself. It all needs to be said. If I can remain on my feet after the match, that’s sufficient for me:

            “I am assuming they are hiding it from the government tax collectors”

            Yes. I agree with Buffet that working people should not be paying higher taxes than billionaires. And yes of course it’s still in some form of circulation. If returns come from genuine economic activity that’s fine with me. If from things like the ’08 bubble, or any number of similar frauds, then I don’t like it.

            “Third, most wealthy people understand and support reasonable tax levels that are used to support efficient government services.”

            In theory I suppose many do, but in practice there’s the Caymans. One might even support better legislation while still taking advantage of whatever opportunities one can while the system is dysfunctional. I don’t expect that Buffet volunteers to pay higher taxes even if he would happily pay them *if* required and *if* all the other billionaires were doing likewise. Demanding a return for one’s taxes is always reasonable however. But I countenance no excuses for evasion.

            “are proving to be problematic in many places”

            They sure are, however the hard right will say that the solution is that workers need to tighten their belts and starve equally. I get exactly what I signed up to get, no more. I get no more than is reasonable, I live in a trailer on about $30,000 per year. If the government has buggered up their finances — which they often have — the solution is not to screw pensioners IMHO. Mind, that tends to be what ends up happening one way or another.

            “which would have allowed you to invest money into a reasonably safe portfolio that over your work career would earn far more than you are getting from your pension”

            Or I lose everything in the next market crash or the next Enron. And frankly I don’t want to have to worry about it. A moderate but secure pension is what most folks want and need. If some of us were to make more, but others end up on the sidewalk, that is not what I would prefer. I’d rather we were all slightly poorer, but no one starves. Yes, socialism. Within narrow limits I don’t even mind subsidizing the less intelligent or less productive — but of course this often runs way, as I’m sure you agree. Security of this kind is purchased at the cost of overall productivity, no doubt. But I’d rather live in a world where no one is in absolute poverty even if that means that some billionaires might not be able to afford that private island in the Bahamas after all.

            “Investment banks have been corrupted by going public …”

            Your comments there show you to be a reasonable and decent guy.

            “Thus the typical Leftist solution of “more government” is unlikely to fix problems that are caused by corrupt and bribed government.”

            I quite agree. The government should be as small as possible but as big as necessary … but no bigger. It will always tend to run to bloat and waste, and must constantly be kept in check.

            “taking money from productive people and giving it to less productive people in the name of “fairness”, “equity”, or “reparations”

            To some degree, but not entirely. Of course there is too much of that, but it need not be. When I was involved in my union I floated the idea that we should view ourselves as a contractor supplying labor — the better the product, the higher the price we can demand for a superior workforce, no? Thus removing the inferior worker could be seen as more the responsibility of the union than management! It won’t surprise you to hear that this didn’t go over well 😉

      • Stephanie says

        Winston, Alberta is the heaven (working class, poorly educated guys can make a boat-load of money) and also the hell (filled with conservatives and, until recently, a solid 40 years of conservative rule) you describe. Perhaps if you adjust your view of the latter, you can help your state achieve the former?

        There are many reasons the US doesn’t have a middle class. Mostly it’s because skilled jobs are paying better, moving more people into the upper class. The unskilled jobs are being shipped elsewhere, and the ones that remain suffer from worker saturation as a result of mass migration.

        • Stephanie don’t listen to Winston. Of course the U.S. has a middle class. It has a huge middle class. He’s probably talking about the working class, which has indeed declined, due to outsourcing, competition from mass immigration, automation, etc. Winston gets many things wrong…

          • JWatts says

            “He’s probably talking about the working class, which has indeed declined, due to outsourcing, competition from mass immigration, automation, etc. Winston gets many things wrong…”

            Yes, this is true.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @Stephanie

          ‘Cmon Stephanie, we’re both Canucks, we both know that the Alberta boom has busted and that everyone is leaving. Yeah, it is good when it is good, but it is bad when it is bad. Boom economieMostly it’s because skilled jobs are paying better, moving more people into the upper class.s don’t ‘need’ unions. Bust economies can’t be saved by unions either. Unions are relevant to stable, mostly factory job, economies.

          “Mostly it’s because skilled jobs are paying better, moving more people into the upper class.”

          Baloney. Sorry Steph, that’s the first thing you’ve ever said that was baloney, but it is.

          • E. Olson says

            Ray – unions aren’t really relevant for stable factory job economies either, because union demands tend to make such industries less stable by inviting lower cost (non-union) competition – see the steel, auto, and airline industries as examples. The only place stable enough for unions to survive and thrive are government unions, because only governments can force citizens to pay the taxes that pay for generous union salaries and benefits. Before its bankruptcy, it was estimated that General Motors legacy union obligations was adding something like $1,500 per car sold, and since GM could not force customers to pay the “union” toll, too many customers decided they would rather keep the $1,500 and buy a Toyota instead. The problem is that even governments can eventually go bankrupt from too generous union wages and benefits (and job security) as has happened in several California cities and looking very likely for the state of Illinois, since high taxes causes the wealthy taxpayers to move away.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @E. Olson

            “because union demands tend to make such industries less stable by inviting lower cost (non-union) competition”

            Absolutely. If unions get too greedy they kill themselves and that is just how it should be. I always thought the old UAW got it right. A very Republican group of guys, they say.

            “because only governments can force citizens to pay the taxes that pay for generous union salaries and benefits.”

            The right always likes to solve inequalities by leveling down. As a taxpayer I prefer that the government offers workers decent wages and pensions (but should demand the highest standards in return). I like the idea of leveling up. You know, supposedly productivity has (what?) doubled since the 80’s, but we do not see workers better off, we see them worse off. I think the fact that all the increase has gone to the 1% — tho I hear it’s really the 0.01% — is not justified.

      • JWatts says

        “When I was a kid, a man without a college education could get a high paying union job, buy a house in the suburbs, send his children to college and retire comfortably. Now in the US we don’t have a middle class. ”

        No, when you were a kid a white man without a college education could get a high paying job. A black man couldn’t. A woman couldn’t.

        Blacks and women were artificially restricted from the work force at least until the late 1970’s. Once women and blacks could compete the labor rates adjusted. Women and blacks largely closed the gap to white men by the 2000’s. But in a more competitive market non-college educated white men no longer get the cherry pick of the best jobs.

        “People with college degrees can’t even afford to buy homes”

        This is absurd. Home ownership has dropped from the peak of the early 2000’s, but it’s right at the 50 year average.

        https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/RHORUSQ156N

        • Rick Phillips says

          @ Olson @ Andrews

          As a (long ago and for a long time) shop steward, raised in a working class family; with a state sponsored education, turned management, I think I can attest that your respective interventions do a very good job of outlining many of the positives and negatives associated with unions. Good discussion… Thanks!

  13. Morgan Foster says

    “There is a reason why the Left keep losing, and it’s not because the likes of Cheney are charlatans who have fooled millions of idiots into voting for them. It’s because the Right tend to do a better job of persuading people than the Left do.”

    A quick glance at the US House of Representatives, and numerous State capitals, not to mention the oft-quoted plaint that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in ’16, – anyone remember Barak Obama? – suggests that the Left does not always “keep losing”.

  14. D.B. Cooper says

    Louis,

    I appreciate your candor, not to mention your obvious willingness to step outside your frame. Criticizing one’s in-group can be a difficult task, to be sure. If the American MSM is going to insist on being populated by the Left, I would greatly appreciate if they would do society the favor of hiring more people with your journalistic integrity, while simultaneously hiring less people with say, Sarah Jeong’s depravity. At least then Americans would have the benefit of journalists who weren’t explicitly wanting white people to go extinct; which, I grant, is still a fairly low barrier to entry. Furthermore, it’s not clear that everyone would be happy with such a change, and I suspect Adam McKay could be counted among such people.

    Despite all this, it has been showered with award nominations…

    I thought award nominations had lost all legitimacy, to anyone who wasn’t morally bankrupt, back in 2003 after Roman Polanski won an Oscar for Best Director. Did something change that I’m not aware of? I know the Academy expelled Polanski from their ranks here recently, and while I’m heartened to see the expediency with which Hollywood found a conscious (40+ years), the simple fact is, you can’t expel the central endorsement of a standing ovation and all the implied affirmations that accompany it. (#MerylStreep)

    It’s because the Right tend to do a better job of persuading people than the Left do.

    I’m sorry, Louis, you seem like a standup guy, but you couldn’t be more wrong if you substituted the ‘Right’ for ‘deaf-mute’. The Right’s levels of persuasion is on par with a communicable disease. Seriously. They’re bad at couching their policies in emotional appeals. They’re even worse activists. The difference between the persuasion of Democrats and that of Republicans is not unlike the difference in comfort you instinctually notice when going to your psychiatrist versus your proctologist. And the Right is the latter.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @D.B. Cooper

      I took that test: I’m an architect. Another personality test had me as a rational mastermind 😉
      You?

      • D.B. Cooper says

        So, I would buy that. The funny thing about these tests – aside from how eerily accurate they can seem – is that years ago someone sent me a link to one of these sites (truity.com it may have been) and at the time I didn’t think much about it, other than casually noticing it likely had some explanatory power.

        Anyway, since that time I have had two jobs (both of which were Fortune 500 companies) where I was given one of these Myers Briggs tests; which to be honest, has peaked my interests in them every since. Why? Because it is almost certain that companies of this size/value wouldn’t waste time, energy, or resources on a business process they weren’t relatively sure provided some minimum level of value.

        In other words, they weren’t the type of organizations that made decisions – especially with regards to their hiring process – without a sufficient degree of supporting data.

        As far as my results go, I’m not sure what the “name/title” is, but the letters are ENTJ. While this profile apparently has its strengths/weaknesses like all of them do, the unfortunate thing about the ENTJ profile is that there seems to be a fairly wide consensus – regardless of what site your on – around the idea that the ENTJ personality is the biggest dickhead of them all. Obviously, I strongly dissent from this view. Lastly, if you get a chance, YouTube ‘A Plan For World Domination: ENTJ and INTJ‘. It’s amusing as such things go.

  15. Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

    @Dan Love

    Fair enough, but Winston might have drawn that conclusion because that’s the normal thing to expect.

  16. Winston Smith says

    It’s interesting to Quillette’s audience showing its true colors on this thread. I am a centrist and because much of what is written by Quillette contributors resonates with me, I mistakenly think that this is a site for centrists. But as the comments section here reveals, the readership is basically high-end version of the Fox News cohort with a better vocabulary.

    • To begin, in England is not my language so I apologize in advance.
      I am not American but you speak in the same way of the equivalent Dems that are with us: we are the best, we are the intelligent ones, only we reason about things, if we do not win is because we exaggerate in self-criticism, we lose because we do not march together, the voters on the other side are superficial and stupid, they are full of hatred, they vote for sympathy, they are a united block all the same.
      Same words, same arguments, same reasoning, all things I’ve heard so many times about why we, myself included, were the best and the others not, ah I forgot, the inevitable disappointment in reading comments that feel unwelcome, the same accusation on “you have shown your true face”.
      Is it possible that you do not notice to act and speak as if printed in series?
      Do not you think that maybe your side does not have all the reasons in the world and that maybe there is something where the other side has more than one reason that is worth at least worth listening to?

      • Morgan Foster says

        @ …

        You have certainly identified a pernicious habit amongst Leftists of every Western nationality – the self-created belief that because they are reasonable, then they must occupy the Center, because that is where any reasonable person would be.

        People who disagree with them must occupy one of the fringes, otherwise they would not disagree.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Winston Smith

      Hang in there brother, I’m a centrist too. Mostly tho I pick and choose. I’m hard right when @E.Olson says something true, which he often does, but I’m with Trotsky when he says something true, which he often does. Neither narrative is true, but both narratives can be useful. The pot and the kettle are both black, but the pot and the kettle are both useful. Oil and water do not mix, so they say, yet I like mayonnaise. Socialism and capitalism can coexist even if they hate each other.

    • Nate D. says

      @ Winston

      I love these types of comments: “I thought this was a sensible website. Then people disagreed with me. Seeings as there is no possible way a sensible level-headed person would see things differently than me, the only possible conclusion is that they are Fox News shrills.” You’re not the first to make it – surely not the last.
      After reading over the dialog you’ve been having with Olsen and Stephanie (two regulars whose opinions I’ve grown to respect) I come to the conclusion that you are an intelligent person that simply disagrees with other intelligent people. Unfortunately, your desire to pigeonhole them as right-wing harpies hurts your reputation, not theirs.
      Stick around. Contribute. Get to know the main players here in the Quillette comments section. Refrain from ad hominem. Enjoy this website while we still can.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

        @Nate D.

        Well said. That’s in the spirit of rational discussion. But I would say that both Olsen and Stephanie are about as doctrinaire Right as one can comfortably go. Both are very rational in showing what is good about their narrative and bad about the other, but both miss the converse.

        • D-Rex says

          @Ray
          I don’t see E. and Steph to be that far ‘right’ at all, they may be a bit more blunt with their analyses than you are comfortable with but I find the vast majority of their opinions eminently sensible. There are in fact very few commentators here that have nothing constructive to say and it is refreshing to have a site which entertains such diverse yet not outrageous views. For contrast, read the comments at Breitbart or The Young Turks, far right versus far left and equally obnoxious. Although while TYT itself is vomit inducing, I find Breitbart articles informative and without hype, it’s just the commenters who are rank.

      • Morgan Foster says

        From Winston’s comment above:

        “because much of what is written by Quillette contributors resonates with me, I mistakenly think that this is a site for centrists”

        Again, a tendency to believe that a site that “resonates with me” must be “a site for centrists”, because I self-identify as a centrist and if this wasn’t a centrist site, then it wouldn’t resonate with me.

        It’s closed loop thinking. Unfortunately, common to both the left and the right.

    • K. Dershem says

      Winston: I respect your views, but they don’t seem very centrist to me. I agree with Ray that Stephanie and E. Olson are hard-right don’t always give fair consideration to opposing views, but your comments strike me as left-wing.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

        @K. Dershem

        But you know, it might be said that the center is not so much a policy as it is an attitude of generosity and reasonableness. Winston seems rather leftist to me too, but he lacks that fundamentalist nastiness, that doctrinaire certainty that we expect from the PC/SJW gang. He is open to argument, he might be persuaded, he seeks balance. For me that is what defines the center.

    • Stoic Realist says

      @Winston

      Whether you agreed with them or not the people who were responding to you provided arguments, reasoning, and in some cases sources for data. None of the posts that I read resorted to outright name calling. Though some of them weren’t very flattering neither were you in your original post. So I would classify that as a push. The fact that they disagree with you just means that they disagree with you. They are entitled to their own points of view and to be frank you weren’t very persuasive. Nor were your arguments unimpeachable.

      In short the pejorative was uncalled for.

    • “The Fox News cohort” is standard leftist blindness to the range of views that do not agree with them. It’s amusing how often it is used in the absence of any argument.

  17. “For instance, in one comic scene we see Cheney advising President Ford and Henry Kissinger to go out on to the White House lawn, expose themselves, place tiny wigs on the tips of their penises, and then jerk each other off.”

    *blinks* Wait, what did I just read?

  18. scribblerg says

    So the author agrees with Vice’s politics, just not it’s artistic sensibilities. Here’s what the movie is, you dingbat. “Agitation propaganda”. Leftists invented that term and technique. And have been doing it for decades and decades.

    Also, the Left isn’t “liberal” in any meaningful sense of the word. Liberals are most focused on preserving individual liberty and limiting government power. No leftist has stood for that for 100 years…The author should identify himself as a social democrat or a communist revolutionary – these are the only valid categories that remain on the left. The liberals are all on the right now.

    • I’m reminded by Diarmaid MacCollouch that Lutherans invented agitprop in the 1520s; they called it “Flugschriften.” Revolutionary agitprop was ubiquitous in England from the 1530s through the 1650s. Certainly, John Lilburne, the most burned author of the 17th.C., was the first grand master of anglophone agitprop.

      • scribblerg says

        Agitprop, abbreviated from Russian agitatsiya propaganda (agitation propaganda), is a political strategy in which the techniques of agitation and propaganda are used to influence and mobilize public opinion. Although the strategy is common, both the label and an obsession with it were specific to the Marxism practiced by communists in the Soviet Union.

        Here’s a hint, bunky. Before you correct someone, you might want to know what you are talking about in the first place. Obsure, arch references are just noise, not dialog. You comes off as absurd, just so you know.

  19. Jennifer Cabot says

    “While those on the Left are primarily interested in the values of compassion and fairness…” I wonder how many more millions will have to die before this canard gets laughed out of existence?

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Jennifer Cabot

      Can righties honestly not distinguish between Tommy Douglas and Mao? Both sides make these stupid guilt by association ploys. It is tiresome.

      • K. Dershem says

        Unfortunately, ideological thinking is allergic to nuance. Conversations on this site (and in general!) would be far more constructive if people would apply the principle of charity instead of assuming the worst about their opponents. We should strive to “steel man” opposing views instead constructing and knocking over caricatures.

        Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory (https://moralfoundations.org/) seems relevant here.

        • Morgan Foster says

          Unfortunately, and all too often, charity is hard to distinguish from pacifism.

          • K. Dershem says

            If we can’t distinguish political conversation from warfare, then we’re all in deep trouble …

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @K. Dershem

          You are my brother. When I studied logic, my sensei, Dr. Dickson, instructed us that the first principal of logic — rhetorical logic or argument — is charity. As he put it, if you do not believe that your opponent, like yourself, wants to get it right, then why would you converse with them at all? There is no point in trying to persuade someone that they are wrong unless one presumes that they want to be right. If they want to be wrong, one might throw shit at them, but to what purpose?

        • E. Olson says

          K. Dershem: I agree with the late, great Charles Krauthammer, who said: “The Right believes the Left is stupid, the Left believes the Right is evil.” I also think a key difference is that “good intentions” are all important to the Left, while “something that actually works” is all important to the Right. Thus I do tend to believe that most on the Left have good intentions and desire a “better world”, but their usually erroneous views on how best to help the most people leads to policies that don’t actually work because they are so counter to natural human inclinations that they end up requiring fines, prisons, or killing people for “their own good”. On the other hand, the Left thinks the Right is evil because the Right generally believes in economic freedom and minding our own business, and certainly isn’t interested forcibly fixing other people’s problems.

          • K. Dershem says

            E. Olson: I’ve observed that people on both the Right and Left can be rigidly ideological, and (conversely) both conservatives and liberals can be pragmatic and solution-oriented. Do you agree? In my view, both conservative and liberal approaches to solving social problems provide important insights and are worthy of serious consideration.

            Also, I think your description of the Right (“generally believes in economic freedom and minding our own business, and certainly isn’t interested in forcibly fixing other people’s problems”) applies well to right-leaning Libertarians, but not necessarily to other kinds of conservatives. For example, Neocons advocate a hawkish foreign policy that seeks to invade, occupy and transform other societies. Theocons (Christian conservatives) generally condemn prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and other forms of behavior they regard as immoral. Law-and-order conservatives (like Jeff Sessions) remain staunch supporters of the “War on Drugs,” despite compelling evidence that the prohibitionist approach to drug abuse has failed. Do you understand these varieties of conservatism differently, or would you argue that these aren’t true conservatives?

          • E. Olson says

            K. Dershem: I don’t believe Neocons are true conservatives because they want to save the world and want to use government to do it, and many have happily moved to the Left as part of the Never-Trump movement. Theocons and Law and Orders are difficult to classify because they do often resort to government prohibitions and regulations, but usually because they see it as the lesser of evils versus unregulated drug abuse, prostitution, etc. on social order and thus adversely effect not just the “sinner” but also the innocent. Historically, many of the Theocons would likely have been considered Progressives in supporting welfare programs and civil rights, but the Leftward anti-Christian movement of the Progressives has shifted many of them towards the Republican Right. Law and Order types generally limit their “big government” support to law and order and are conservative-right on economic issues (i.e. minimal business regulation, minimal welfare safety net, and low taxes).

    • scribblerg says

      Indeed, if I have to listen to moral sermonizing from another leftist, I’m gonna scream. Marxism, socialism and communism have spilled more blood and created more human suffering than any other political system in the past 200 years. PERIOD. END OF FREAKING SENTENCE.

      People on the right care about the individual, whereas the Left thinks of all of us in collective abstractions. Somehow or the other, the Left always gets to the point where they are willing to “break a few eggs to make an omelette.” There is nothing more murderous in the long run than leftist compassion…

  20. Donald Collins says

    I am no fan of Dick Cheney and I watched the movie, and unfortunately, I agree totally with this article.

    Instead of looking how folks like him have remade the British Empire model into an American one and showing how the left to is a part of this mess, it chose to go rogue as if this one demon and just his cohorts didn’t exist we would be living in Utopia

  21. Allen Farrington says

    Great article, Louise, really enjoyed it. My only gripe is with this: “Hollywood needs to try harder”. I agree with this sentiment, especially in the context of your analysis here, but unfortunately you just want Hollywood to try harder. They absolutely don’t need to. We can all complain about how this movie is not just awful but weirdly morally wrong, and yet in 20 years you know full well this will be played in high school classrooms as modern history. If you don’t believe me, ask 10 random people what they think of J. Edgar Hoover, and cross reference the answers with the absurd narrative of the equally detestable biopic/hit-piece ‘J. Edgar’. These people are not trying to tell good or accurate stories, they have a monopoly on this medium of storytelling and so they are trying to dictate what stories are deemed as good or accurate in the first place. Hoping they will ‘do better’ is naive. You need productions in similar media but outside Hollywood’s cultural sphere (Brexit), or you need the emergence of entirely new and preferably decentralised media platforms. And in the meantime, try to appreciate Clint Eastwood while he’s still alive.

    Apologies for the overwhelmingly negative tone of this comment. Again, I thought the article was fantastic.

  22. D-Rex says

    I always thought that Cheney was a genuine patriot but was a classic example of an ideologue with too much power. The ends justify the means and so on. People in those positions of power don’t do that much evil if they don’t believe in anything.

  23. Honest review, thanks.
    I’m fed up with large-budget bio-pics lionising ‘leftist’ politicians and ridiculing, demonising ‘rightist’ politicians.
    Where’s the satirical bio-pic about Kennedy’s womanising, links with crime, poor decision-making? Will never happen.
    I avoid all these films like the plague – especially those emerging from Hollywood. David Stratton, Australia’s much-lauded film reviewer gave Vice five stars (!). Says it all really

  24. I hate Cheney — i once did a cartoon in which i get his head blown off — but i wouldn’t watch this thing if you paid me. Like every other Hollywood product based on a true story, it is guaranteed to be at least 50% lies. It’s a pity Hollywood isn’t as good at making movies as they are at raping women, molesting boys, and then lying about it.

  25. hunter says

    The pleasant irony of reducing someone to a predictable villain so poorly drawn it would be rejected by a comic book movie yet winning endless award nominations is delicious.
    The only thing better is that a truly 2d delusional blowhard, AOC, is apparently setting the left’s agenda.
    Reality as parody indeed.

  26. The writer of this piece is trying with some success to be fair-minded. However, I think she – and Jonathan Haidt – are mistaken in attributing greater compassion and fairness to the Left, or rather Democrats, and greater national loyalty and respect for authority to the Right, or Republicans. This might have been true 30 or 40 years ago, but both parties in your country have changed considerably and so have the motives of their hard-core supporters. (I’m excluding people whose votes shift with the times here).

    As their response to the ‘marginalized’ white working-class indicates, the Left is no longer particularly compassionate towards large groups of people. Many former progressives on the Right today drifted in that direction because they were conscious that various forms of protection for the American poor, including unions and national borders, were eroding while the Left concentrated on ratifying the gains of the sexual revolution. Leaving that aside, some conservatives agree with Left-wing goals as articulated here (compassion and fairness) but are not convinced that Left-wing means are likely to achieve them. It is possible to wish to use public funds to care for the sick, or to halt air pollution, without supporting Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s mad program for obtaining these things.

    Meanwhile, the Right too has shifted its priorities away from national defense and neither its libertarian wing, which distrusts authority instinctively, especially if it originates in the government, nor its so-con wing, which accepts the need for authority but dislikes the form it has taken in the US today – i.e., the authority held by the media, academia and high-tech corporations. Neither the Right nor the Left much resemble the sketch of their positions proffered here. (BTW, it is very strange to me that anyone who supports today’s Left in the US can still conceive of themselves as ‘anti-authoritarian’. )

  27. Michael S. Baechle says

    I suspect that the film-makers were not primarily motivated by anything other than box office receipts.
    Since “virtue signaling’ also identifies marketing targets, and since so many people engage in it nowadays, only a numbskull could fail to recognize that there is a ready market for tripe of this nature.

  28. ShirtlessBubba says

    “I’m not defending the behaviour of Dick Cheney, still less the Republican Party as a whole. I’m a liberal, for goodness sake—I’ve never voted for a right-leaning party in my life.”

    Well, THAT’S a relief. We were all worrying you were sub-human, but now we know.

  29. I’m not politically inclined. I am not a democrat or a republican.

    Dick Cheney helped to bring about a war that killed many thousands of people. Most ordinary people never see the opportunity to cause such death and destruction. When they do, they face consequences. Just recently a woman in this country was sentenced to prison for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself.

    Does it matter at all that the young man killed himself? It’s just a life, that’s all. If tens or hundreds of thousands are nothing, what is one? How many bodies were riddled with bullets? How many were blown apart? You could fill swimming pools with just the children. I’m generously underestimating.

    Then there’s the moral trauma of tens of thousands of soldiers who went overseas and killed a bunch of people, most of whom were never a threat to them, and some of whom only became threats after the soldiers traveled thousands of miles to point guns at them. They’re accountable too because they could have refused. I’d rather go to prison than invade another country and murder civilians. I’d rather die. And all of it for what? Because someone convinced them that a war on the other side of the planet had something to with their freedom. If that doesn’t make you sick then you have no soul.

    Dick Cheney’s consequence is that someone made a lousy movie about him while he continues to breathe the same air as free men. Boo hoo.

    I read article after article on this site and feel outrage at the malicious, harmful things done in the name of “social justice.” I feel sympathy for the plight of the authors and those about whom they write. But let’s have a little perspective. At least they’re still alive because some subhuman monster like Dick Cheney didn’t decide that it would be beneficial to turn their lives into a war zone for political and financial gain. If that’s not evil then there is no such thing.

  30. RHJKing says

    “While those on the Left are primarily interested in the values of compassion and fairness, the Right consider national loyalty and respect for authority to be equally important, if not more so.”

    It is always annoying to see sentences like this written. Is this some validation for the author, a subtle virtue signal, similar to a humblebrag. Both sides of the divide have compassion and a desire for fairness. The argument is about who we and our ‘society’ should show compassion to, and who deserves to be treated fairly. National loyalty may be important to conservatives, obviously, because they want to conserve that which has proven to work for them, and that which their ancestors fought for. National loyalty is merely one by-product of that.
    And finally- respect for authority. Really? Who are the authoritarians these days? Haidt’s shtick is a rebellion against the intellectual authoritarianism of the left.
    The righties are the modern day rebels.
    But thanks for article.

  31. Cassandra says

    I have moderated / led at least a thousand focus groups; I have attended as an observer many more: mainly in the UK, but also internationally.

    I have never, ever witnessed any behaviour like that shown in either of these films. Okay, it’s a minor thing , but Roman Law had a formula : false in one thing, false in all…..

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