The Pornography of Ideas

Japanese woodblock printOn one of my earlier posts on Islam, I received the comment from a reader who, one might surmise, was not exactly an admirer. Such comments are a fact of life on a web log, and actually have been relatively infrequent here–may Allah be praised. I deleted the comment, as I’ve found life far simpler spent on productive pursuits rather than giving a forum to trolls — but I must confess, in retrospect, that I regret having done so, as quotation would have been a cleaner way to illustrate some of the following points. And so, I will summarize the its gist, which left me pondering broader topics of political and social discourse, particularly as they pertain to those who call themselves “progressives.”

The comment was actually a tad atypical for the genre: there was no profanity, and the words “extremist”, “right wing”, “fascist”, “Nazi”, and a host of other pejoratives were sadly absent. Nevertheless, it did provide a window into the peculiar mindset of some who live on the left side of the spectrum, and thereby providing a teachable moment or two.

My reader opened the monologue with his conclusion that I was “Islamophobic, and therefore a racist.” He proceeded to educate me to the fact that there was no such thing as Islamofascism or Islamic extremism–that the current conflict between radical Islam and the West was simply a natural consequence of years of oppressing the poor in Third World countries through American hegemony. On a roll, my admirer than proceeded to inform me that there was no such thing as Communism, either–that neither the Soviet Union nor Red China had ever been a threat to the United States, and that in essence, the entire Cold War had been about domination of the Third World by the First World. Then, he treated me to the customary bromide about those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

The commenter–who hailed from the Puget Sound area–in closing informed me that he was “embarrassed” that someone like me would live in this area, and suggested I move to Nebraska–his original home state–where I could be with other closed-minded folks like myself. In a parting jab, he intoned that if he and his friends had their way, I would receive not one dime of reimbursement for health care. He apparently hasn’t noticed that many of his compatriots in government and the health insurance industry have already thought of this idea–and are working hard to make it happen.

There is, of course, the natural tendency to respond in kind, detailing logical and historical errors on a tit-for-tat basis. One could, for example, point out that Islam is comprised of people from every race and nation, and therefore expressing concerns about the religion, its teachings, and the behavior of its followers is no more racist than expressing concerns about domestic violence or anti-Semitism. Islam–as demonstrated by the recent bombings of sacred sites in Iraq and India — is, at its worst, an equal-opportunity destroyer, and questioning the teachings and actions which bring about such travesties is hardly racist. Nevertheless, our friend apparently felt a need to reach into his grab bag of insults, and pull out at least one such invective, lest I forget what a miserable bigoted swine I really am. Logic and reason need not enter into such a discourse, of course.

The notion that Communism never existed, and that the Soviet Union and China were never a threat, is almost breathtakingly naïve. For those of us who lived through Communism’s horrors: the Cuban missile crisis; the crushing of the Prague Spring; the brutal put-down of the Hungarian uprising; the gulags; fugitives shot and left hanging on the barbed wire of the Berlin Wall; proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; and the longstanding threat of Communist totalitarian superpowers armed to the teeth with nuclear and conventional weapons, realize what a foolish and laughable assertion this really is. One wonders if this stunning ignorance of history is intentional, or simply a product of the postmodern revisionism and deconstructionism which seems to have replaced serious historical scholarship at most universities. I have no doubt forgotten much of the history which I learned over the years: I don’t recall what year the Hapsburgs took power, or the reasons for the Peloponnesian wars — but I do understand what happened in Europe and the rest of the world prior to the Nazi juggernaut, the dangers of profound denial of threat posed by evil regimes, and the foolishness–and deadliness–of wishful thinking and appeasement. I may therefore be doomed to repeat history, having forgotten some of it–but one wonders what the consequences will be of never having learned history in the first place.

Now, it is certainly natural as human beings to try to abstract and generalize from the individual to the group. And I understand that not everyone of liberal persuasion believes the sort of poppycock perpetrated by my perturbed pundit. But it does not take a great deal of observation and abstraction to understand that many of the most vocal members of the left today espouse similar notions, which simple objective analysis easily demonstrates to be nothing more than pure fantasy or propaganda. One need only browse the comments at Kos, or Democratic Underground, or MoveOn.org to see this and many more egregious examples. The list is long and painfully familiar to anyone who has followed the political or cultural scene of the last few years: Bush is Hitler; no blood for oil; Bush lied, people died; the root cause of terrorism is poverty; the solution to terrorism is making the Third World our adopted welfare state (the Patty Murray daycare solution); we are no different from the terrorists; those who resist the creeping culture of decadence harbor only hatred and intolerance. The list, as most of you well know, could go on for far, far longer. Such pronouncements are repeated with bone-wearying regularity, slogans without substance–yet nevertheless a staple of argument for many on the left. One is left to ponder how so many people can be so passionately–even religiously–convicted of that which is so easily disproved, continuing to use such false premises on a repeated basis until they become de facto truth.

On observing those who maintain such positions, several things become evident: first, as a group, such folks are indeed a glum lot. They seem to spent an inordinate amount of time fretting about how terrible the world is (thanks to Amerikkka), how awful and hateful conservatives and Republicans are, how evil their own country and its leaders are, and how hate-filled are all who do not see the world through their peculiar lenses. They never seem to find anything good in life, anything noteworthy or praiseworthy: their faint praise extends only to the base and depraved, and never to the exalted and noble. Their hatred for their own country is palpable, as they see in America, not a shining light, but rather the taproot of all evil in the world. Yet, they lack sufficient courage of convictions to find a national home more suitable to their beliefs, entrapped by the very prosperity, freedom, safety, and ease of life which they often deny or decry. During Vietnam, conscientious draft resisters put their money where their mouth is, and with gonadal fortitude moved to Canada; today’s valiant heroes “speak truth to power” from the spoiled decadence of lavish homes or ski chalets in Aspen. Enormous energy goes toward rationalizing and justifying the behavior of truly heinous regimes–Castro, Saddam Hussein, and the violent fascists of radical Islam–and none celebrating those who sacrificed and died to protect their right to freely voice such insanity, and to prosper free of such oppressive tyranny.

From this observation arises another conclusion: those on the left are far more tribal than national. Their allegiance and loyalty is no longer to country–working for and hoping for more national unity, peace, and progress–but rather to their particular interest group, whose narrow agenda dominates their worldview and becomes the totality of their focus. They are not Americans who seek to improve the country’s environment, but “environmental activists” who view all who differ on means and priorities as greedy polluters and evil capitalists. They are not Americans who genuinely seek, by personal effort and compromise, to improve the lot of the poor and underprivileged, but who prefer instead to exploit the poor as political pawns, demagoguing those who seek the same goals by economically rational means. They are not Americans who seek racial healing and cultural unity, but rather to use race as a lever to power, and charge “racism” freely and liberally–all the while being viciously racist against non-whites who dare to leave the liberal plantation. To be on the left is to be gay, lesbian, or transgendered; pro-choice or feminist; environmental activist or animal-rights warrior; anti-globalism anarchist or antiwar protester–but never a member of a unified national community striving through compromise and cooperation to address core issues of discrimination, tolerance, economic or environmental progress, national security. The tribe comes first: their personal grievance their only allegiance; the nation–if considered in any positive light at all–is nothing more than a alliance of tribes, bound together by collective victimization, whose goals are to seek sufficient power to coerce their intellectual and moral inferiors into submitting to their dictates. Such is the natural history and inevitable outcome of multiculturalism, which seeks to divide and conquer rather than unite and restore.

To watch the postmodern left is to observe projection in action: scream “Racist!” at conservative whites while ridiculing and demeaning conservative blacks; physically assault counter-protesters at “peace” rallies; preach “tolerance” and “diversity” while telling those with whom you disagree to move to Nebraska; decry the Christian Right for “ramming their values down your throat,” all the while force-feeding your own values to those who attend the schools you control or listen to the media you run; holler about “censorship” and “First Amendment rights” when criticized, while silencing those not satisfying your stifling PC speech codes. You can rest assured, if a progressive is accusing you of some heinous act, they are exhibiting that self-same flaw in far greater measure somewhere else, against someone else.

The man who is my best friend–my wife excepted–is politically quite liberal. He is a teacher, and a regional representative for the teacher’s union. We disagree on far fewer fundamentals than you might imagine. When we discuss issues social and political, we air our differences–but surprisingly often agree on core principles, differing mostly on the means to implement them. Our friendship and commonality trumps our politics–we are a microcosm of true community, true nationality, true unity. Our unity is not tribal–the weak bonds of shared lust for power–but transcendent, based on the values we share and the primacy of our relationship, which endures despite our differences. The postmodern left loves the pornography of ideas: not the deep, transformational passion for beauty, and character, and worthy cause, sacrificing self for the best of the beloved, but rather ideas as harlots, useful to satisfy their lust for power and control, lascivious but cheap, discarded like yesterday’s condom when their utility passes and another conquest looms.

The left is hardly alone in such postmodern cynicism–there is plenty to go around on the right as well, the product of passion for power and utilitarian secularism. And not all on the left fit this stark description–but if you look around you will find suitable subjects faster than a Starbucks in Seattle–on TV screens, in college lecture halls, at protest marches, on the front page of your local news rag. Their volume is loud, their voices shrill and without timbre, hoping by outward intensity to hide the vacuity of their inner substance. Like Dr. Faustus they have sold their souls for the might and magic of the moment, and as their power weakens their fear and hatred multiplies–the inevitable consequence of ditching principles for power, character for control.

Classic liberalism fought broad battles with lasting impact, propelled by noble principle: women’s suffrage, the right to unionize, civil rights, federal health and retirement benefits for seniors and the poor. While some of these visions have subsequently proven misguided or ill-conceived due to government hubris or the hard light of social reality, they arose nevertheless out of sincere desire to bring about a more just, equal, and compassionate country. The postmodern liberal has ditched the principles while flying the pennants, perverting past triumphs into petulant tirades. Their battles are small, their motives self-serving, their philosophy nihilism, their priority power.

Welcome to their world–where diversity is division, tolerance tyranny. The merchants of multiculturalism have a vision for you. It’s yours for the taking–if only you’ll see things their way.

UPDATE: Trying to figure out the problem with comments on this post (they seem to work on other posts). Thanks for your patience.

UPDATE 2: No luck figuring this out so far–all my other posts allow comments without a problem (I suspect my ISP web server doesn’t like the “P” word in the title or text). Anyway, if you want to leave a comment, go here. As always, keep it civil–I have an itchy trigger finger for trolls. Comments are off on this post to avoid the error.

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