Remember the calls for increased civility following the 2011 shooting in Tucson where Congresswoman Giffords was wounded and 18 others were shot? Obama called for “a new era of civility.” The University of Arizona (Tucson) opened a new “National Institute for Civil Discourse.” “Political Civility” was the new buzzword – and, of course, all of the incivility came from those troglodytes on the Right. In an early example of “fake news,” the shooting was blamed on “right-wing rhetoric” because Sarah Palin “targeted” Giffords in campaign literature. Never mind that the shooter was mentally ill, politically to the Left, and absolutely not a Palin supporter.
Well, there’s been a lot of the same rhetoric recently. But why now?
Because Tough History is Coming.
In 2002 Charles Krauthammer defined the political divide this way:
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
Thomas Sowell, who refers to the movers and shakers in the “progressive” movement as “the Anointed” stated in his book Intellectuals and Society:
Because the vision of the anointed is a vision of themselves as well as a vision of the world, when they are defending that vision they are not simply defending a set of hypotheses about external events, they are in a sense defending their very souls – and the zeal and even ruthlessness with which they defend their visions are not surprising under these circumstances. But for people with opposing views, who may for example believe that most things work out for the better if left to free markets, traditions, families, etc., these are just a set of hypotheses about external events and there is no huge personal ego stake in whether those hypotheses are confirmed by empirical evidence. Obviously everyone would prefer to be proved right rather than proved wrong, but the point here is that there is no such comparable ego stakes involved among believers in the tragic vision. (That would be those of us on the putative “right.” – Ed.)
This difference may help explain a striking pattern that goes back at least two centuries – the greater tendency of those with the vision of the anointed to see those they disagree with as enemies who are morally lacking. While there are individual variations in this, as with most things, there are nevertheless general patterns, which many have noticed, both in our times and in earlier centuries. For example, a contemporary account has noted:
Disagree with someone on the right and he is likely to think you obtuse, wrong, foolish, a dope. Disagree with someone on the left and he is more likely to think you selfish, a sell-out, insensitive, possibly evil.
Psychologist and blogger Robert Godwin once wrote:
The philosopher Michael Polanyi pointed out that what distinguishes leftism in all its forms is the dangerous combination of a ruthless contempt for traditional moral values with an unbounded moral passion for utopian perfection. The first step in this process is a complete skepticism that rejects traditional ideals of moral authority and transcendent moral obligation–a complete materialistic skepticism combined with a boundless, utopian moral fervor to transform mankind.
David Horowitz spoke in 2013 at The Heritage Foundation. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Horowitz, he was a “red diaper baby” – his parents were card-carrying Communists in the 50’s – though he says they only referred to themselves as “Progressives” – and until he had his own epiphany in the 70’s he himself was a committed Leftist. No longer. Here’s a pertinent excerpt from that speech:
Progressives are focused on the future, and what’s the chief characteristic of the future? It’s imaginary! The future they are focused on never existed in human history, and as conservatives we understand it can never exist. It’s an impossible dream and a very, very destructive one, as we know from the history of Progressive movements in the 20th Century which killed a hundred million people in peacetime.
It is, as I’ve said in many places, a crypto-religion. “The world is a Fallen place, and we’re gonna save it.”
This is what makes them so dangerous. They see themselves as Savior. A decent – I would say “authentic” religion says that the world is a really screwed up place and human beings are incapable of unscrewing it.
People who believe that Redemption will take place in this life, and they’re going to be part of it, that’s the Hitlers, that’s the Lenins, that’s the Maos. And unfortunately it’s the ideology, moderated of course, but the ideology – moderated for the American framework – of the Democratic Party and the Progressive Left: ‘If we have the power, we can do it.’
So if you believe that social institutions can change things by getting enough power, then when you look at your opponents, who are the people who are not going along with the program? You see yourself as the army of the Saints. Who are they? They are, YOU are the party of Satan!
If you want to understand a so-called liberal, just think of a hellfire and damnation preacher and his mentality. That’s what it is. That’s why they’re rude, they’re always interrupting, that’s why it doesn’t bother them in the least that there are no conservatives on their faculty. Because conservatives are evil, they’re spreading ideas that are evil, that are keeping people from enjoying this paradise on Earth that they’re going to bring about.
And, from the post A Thumbnail History of the Twentieth Century at the now-defunct blog Canus Iratus, this piece I’ve quoted repeatedly:
The rise and fall of the Marxist ideal is rather neatly contained in the Twentieth Century, and comprises its central political phenomenon. Fascism and democratic defeatism are its sun-dogs. The common theme is politics as a theology of salvation, with a heroic transformation of the human condition (nothing less) promised to those who will agitate for it. Political activity becomes the highest human vocation. The various socialisms are only the most prominent manifestation of this delusion, which our future historian calls “politicism”. In all its forms, it defines human beings as exclusively political animals, based on characteristics which are largely or entirely beyond human control: ethnicity, nationality, gender, and social class. It claims universal relevance, and so divides the entire human race into heroes and enemies. To be on the correct side of this equation is considered full moral justification in and of itself, while no courtesy or concession can be afforded to those on the other. Therefore, politicism has no conscience whatsoever, no charity, and no mercy.
David Horowitz would disagree with the assertion that “the rise and fall of the Marxist ideal is rather neatly contained in the Twentieth Century,” but other than that, I cannot disagree with Glen Wishard’s analysis of “politicism.” Neither does Jonah Goldberg.
Why was the Tea Party so reviled? Because a lot of them figured this out. Goldberg in his 2008 book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change said:
Progressivism, liberalism, or whatever you want to call it has become an ideology of power. So long as liberals hold it, principles don’t matter. It also highlights the real fascist legacy of World War I and the New Deal: the notion that government action in the name of “good things” under the direction of “our people” is always and everywhere justified. Dissent by the right people is the highest form of patriotism. Dissent by the wrong people is troubling evidence of incipient fascism.
Andrew Breitbart certainly understood it, and was the target of so much hatred they made a documentary about it. (Recommended, by the way. Strongly.) Alaska had an invasion of “investigative reporters and scandal-chasers” when Sarah Palin was announced as McCain’s pick for Veep, according to MotherJones in September, 2008. Politico noted at about the same time:
The Palin sleuthing in and around Wasilla is getting a little ridiculous, said T.C. Mitchell, an Anchorage Daily News reporter who covers Wasilla and Palmer and was waiting in the Palmer courthouse clerk’s office to make copies of the Richters’ file. He had been there earlier in the day and inspected the most pertinent parts, but wanted to make sure he didn’t miss a peripheral detail and get scooped by the suddenly ubiquitous national press.
Mitchell said the Daily News received a call from a media outlet seeking the rules of the Miss Wasilla Pageant, presumably to determine whether Palin cheated when she won it in 1984.
There’s a growing backlash in and around Wasilla to the prying of the national media into the life of their native daughter and her family.
As journalists from ABC News — and, of course, Politico — on Wednesday leafed through bound copies of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman at the local newspaper’s Wasilla office looking for a 1996 story detailing then-Mayor Palin’s conversations with the local librarian about censorship, Frontiersman reporter Michael Rovito said he was not going to write about the pregnancy of Palin’s 17-year-old daughter Bristol.
As a commenter at the Columbia Journalism Review said at the time:
…. now if someone would start digging though some garbage cans in Chicago. Silly me!
Yes, silly him.
So the American public was told everything the muckraking media could dig up (or invent) about Palin during the race, yet just a few days prior to the election, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw commented during an interview with PBS talking-head Charlie Rose that “we don’t know much about Obama.” He was speaking about Obama’s foreign policy positions, but Charlie Rose later said: “I don’t know what Barack Obama’s worldview is.” Brokaw responded, “No, no. I don’t either.”
We knew everything there was to know about Sarah Palin, though much of it was wrong – “fake news,” but no one could be bothered to talk to anyone about Obama’s relationships with Bill Ayers or Rev. Wright, much less find out about his college admissions, transcripts or anything he’d ever written for the Harvard Law Review. Mitt Romney and the 2012 election? He put his dog on the roof of his car, and he didn’t pay his taxes. Oh, and he had “binders of women,” the sexist.
Albert Gore wrote in a 2010 New York Times op-ed:
From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.
Human redemption. The deliverance of humans from sin. By use of Rule of Law. Yeah, no gulags implicit in that.
The thought chills, and he said it in perfect seriousness.
Two years prior to that, Barack Obama stated, after winning the Democrat primary race:
…I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.
I can’t help but think he was talking only about the Progressives.
Now we have President-elect Donald J. Trump, largely elected by the people who made up the Tea Party and who were contemptuously rejected by the Republican establishment, not to mention reviled by the Progressive Left. And the Left is going batsh!t. The source of today’s QotD delves further into this Church of Progressivism theme. A further excerpt from that piece:
The Blue Church is panicking because they’ve just witnessed the birth of a new Red Religion. Not the tired old Christian cliches they defeated back in the ’60s, but a new faith based on cultural identity and outright rejection of the Blue Faith.
For the first time in decades, voters explicitly rejected the Blue Church, defying hours of daily cultural programming, years of indoctrination from the schools, and dozens of explicit warnings from HR.
We’ve been trained since childhood to obey the pretty people on TV, but for the first time in decades, that didn’t work.
Donald Trump won because flyover America wants their culture back, and Blue Team has not been rejected like that before.
The younger ones have grown up in an environment where Blue Faith assumptions cannot even be questioned, except anonymously by the bad kids on Twitter.
But now the bad kids are getting bolder, posting funny memes that make you laugh even though John Oliver would not approve, like passing crude dirty pictures under the table in Sunday School.
Meryl Streep is panicking because for the first time voters have rejected HER, and everything her faith has taught her to believe.
There is a new faith rising on the right, not an explicit religious faith like old-school Christianity, but a wicked kind of counterculture movement. We laughed at the hippies in 1968, but by 1978 they were teaching in classrooms and sitting behind school administrator desks.
Where will the hippies of 2016 be sitting after eight years of Trump? How many of the shitposting Twitter bad boys will start up alternative media outlets, until one of them becomes the new Saturday Night Live?
Sam Hyde tried it on Adult Swim, but that was just the early prototype, like Mad Magazine was for the left. There will be many others after him, and they won’t be stopped by network filters. They’ll come “out of nowhere” on the web, from the secret places that the inquisitors at Google can’t shut down.
And that’s what Meryl Streep is really scared of. She’s not truly aware of it, just like fluttering housewives couldn’t really understand the counterculture threat in 1968. But they feel that something is changing in their safe little world, and they know they have to fight it, because this threat isn’t just passing pointless budget resolutions and selling pointless platitudes about family values – these guys mean business, and they’re fighting on her turf.
And once again “political civility” is on the tongues of the media talking heads, and the waves of incivility are being blamed on Trump’s supposed legions of hatey-hatemonger racist homo-xeno-gender-phobes in a renewed ” ‘Shut up,’ they explained” campaign. Never mind the actual evidence.
But we won’t shut up anymore. We’re now in a war of religions, Red vs. Blue, and we know how “civil” those are.
It’s going to be an interesting four years.
UPDATE: Read this associated piece. Much more in-depth.