My goodness.  For months now, I’ve written about a variety of hot-button issues — global warming, health-care reform, media bias, taxes — and gotten a handful of replies.  Last week I compared the vegan nutjobs who attacked Lierre Keith to the True Believers described by Eric Hoffer, then closed with one paragraph saying most True Believers in modern times have ended up on the radical left and BANG! — a roiling debate ensues.  I suppose if I’d really wanted to generate some heat, I could’ve just written one line:  Resolved, liberals are loonier than conservatives. 

Well, I happen to like roiling debates, so I’m going to stick my hand in the hornet’s nest again and explain why I believe more True Believers have ended up on the radical left.  It comes down to a matter of intellectual heritage, which I’ll get to in a moment.

But first, let me explain what I don’t mean by a True Believer:  I’m not talking about anyone with strong beliefs.  Yes, some people are close-minded because they’re swept up in a True Believer movement.  As Hoffer put it:

It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequalled fortitude and constancy. 

But many people have strong beliefs because they’re well-informed and committed to principles.  I was a liberal as a young man, probably because my parents were.  They still are.  It wasn’t a proud moment for me to fly home and see an Obama sign in their front yard.  Now I’m a libertarian with strong beliefs, which I formed after reading quite a few books on history and economics.  I became a libertarian by opening my mind, not by closing it.  My parents, meanwhile, are still mystified as to how they ended up with three “right wing” libertarian offspring.

But even as a committed libertarian, I’d rather discuss politics with a well-read and committed socialist (and I had an actor friend in California who fit that description) than with a wishy-washy moderate.  I can’t for the life of me understand people who voted for Ronald Reagan, then Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush, then Barack Obama.  The media calls them swing voters or moderates.  I call them people with no flippin’ idea what they actually believe.

Some have mentioned religious fanatics as examples of right-wing True Believers.  If they want to impose their religion on others — if they want to kill the nonbelievers, or convert them all, or pass laws requiring prayer in public schools — then yes, I agree.  But I also have friends who are deeply religious and know I’m not.  Guess what?  They’re still my friends, and they’ve never tried to convert me.  Their faith is personal, and they have no interest in using the power of government to impose it on anyone else, or even in convincing their friends to join the cause.  They believe … but they hardly fit Hoffer’s description of True Believers.

I’m also not talking about people who annoy you because they oppose your politics.  If loud Tea Party protesters bother you because you support health-care “reform” and you really, really wish they’d just shut up and go away, fine.  But that doesn’t make them True Believers of the stripe Hoffer described.  They are not trying to impose their vision on anyone; they are protesting against having a trillion-dollar health-care “reform” package imposed on them.  They’re resisting collectivism, not advocating for it.

If you’re more comfortable with a definition of True Believers that includes more right-wingers, be my guest.  But I’m talking about Hoffer’s definition, not yours.  With that in mind, let’s summarize Eric Hoffer’s description, some of which I mentioned last week.

  • They often have low self-esteem and are typically frustrated with their own lives or the world in general.
  • Fanaticism appeals to them because it provides a sense of idealism, identity and certainty.
  • They value the collective more than the individual and believe individuals should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the collective good.
  • They believe that by imposing their beliefs, they can bring about a better future.
  • They can ignore or rationalize away all contrary evidence, as well as logical inconsistencies in their own beliefs.
  • They consider anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs an enemy and want to silence those who disagree.

To that summary, I’ll also add more quotes from Hoffer himself:

Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.  (But enough about my decade in Hollywood.)

Their innermost desire is for an end to the “free for all.” They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society.

Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.

The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated

We all have private ails. The troublemakers are they who need public cures for their private ails.

The real “haves” are they who can acquire freedom, self-confidence, and even riches without depriving others of them. They acquire all of these by developing and applying their potentialities. On the other hand, the real “have nots” are they who cannot have aught except by depriving others of it. They can feel free only by diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich by making others poor.

Doesn’t exactly sound like a left-wing philosopher to me.  But what raised such a ruckus was my opinion that most (not all) True Believers in modern times have ended up on the radical left.  (Please note that modifier “radical.”)  Here’s why I believe that’s true:

I’ll start with most destructive True Believer movements of modern times:  Nazism, Fascism and Communism, which together killed more than 130 million people in the 20th century.  One or two commenters raised Nazism and Fascism as examples of right-wing movements.  Historical revisionists have a done a bang-up job of associating Hitler and Mussolini with some kind of right-wing ideology, but it simply isn’t true.  They both had legions of fans in the U.S. before World War II — nearly all of them members of the “progressive” movement.  FDR and Mussolini exchanged letters of mutual admiration for their economic policies.  Before becoming Il Duce, Mussolini was a socialist agitator and a journalist for a socialist magazine. 

As for Nazism … right wing?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Hitler’s aha! moment came when he attended a meeting of the German Workers’ Party and listened to a lecture titled How and by What Means Is Capitalism to Be Eliminated?  He grew to despise bourgeois capitalism and declared that “Basically, Nazism and Marxism are the same.”  He only disliked the actual Marxists because too many of them had Jewish names, and because Nazis and communists were competing for supporters among the same groups.

Even culturally, the Nazis were hardly what anyone would consider right-wing today.  Many Nazis were artsy-fartsy types who considered themselves mystics.  Hitler hated Christianity and railed against religion’s restrictions on sex.  He saw nothing wrong with out-of-wedlock birth and encouraged it.  He was a vegetarian, a nature enthusiast, and spoke at length about the wonders of organic foods.  Heinrich Himmler even supported animal rights — kind of like the nut-jobs at PETA.  Take away the racism and the anti-Semitism, and a young Nazi could get together with a Sixties radical and have a real meeting of the minds.

The Nazi party platform proclaimed in 1920 contained, as you’d expect, a lot of demands to rid Germany of non-Germans, Jews, and other undesirables.  But it also contained several other gems, such as:

  • We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and a way of life for the citizens.
  • We demand abolition of unearned income (rents).
  • We demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
  • We demand the nationalization of all previous associated industries (trusts).
  • We demand a division of profits of heavy industries.
  • We demand an expansion on a large scale of old-age welfare.
  • The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education.
  • The state is to care for the elevating of national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.

Crazy right-wing stuff, huh?  Those idiots carrying the Bush = Hitler signs a few years back sure knew their history.

I suppose you could call the Nazis and Fascists “right wing” because they were militaristic and nationalistic, but by that definition, the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega would all be right-wingers.  Funny how they didn’t have any fans among the American right wing … but they had plenty in Hollywood.

Now, let’s return to Hoffer’s description.  We’ll start with dissatisfied with themselves or the world in general.  I noticed years ago that my libertarian and conservative friends seem happier in general than my liberal friends.  (Yes, I have friends of both varieties.)  Before you protest with tales of all the happy liberals and miserable conservatives you know personally, keep in mind that polls have shown the same thing many times:  self-identified conservatives are happier on average than self-identified liberals.  When I look at what my liberal and conservative friends believe, it isn’t hard to figure out why:

Economic Opportunity
Liberals:  Big corporations are screwing us, markets don’t work, the good jobs are all being outsourced to India, the little guy doesn’t stand a chance anymore, and the rich (be sure to sneer when you use that term) are the “winners of life’s lottery.”
Conservatives:  Work hard, study hard, take risks, be disciplined, and you can become a success because this is a land of opportunity.

Global Warming
Liberals:  We’re approaching runaway global warming.  The ice caps are going to melt and New York will end up underwater.  Millions will be displaced.  Deserts around the world, hurricanes and tornadoes and floods, oh my.
Conservatives:  The earth warms and cools in cycles and always has.  Stop worrying about it.

Health Care
Liberals:  We have one of the worst systems in the world.  Castro provides better health care than we do.   Insurance and drug companies are screwing us.
Conservatives:  We have the most advanced system in the world, and most people can afford a policy.  Get the government out of the health care business, repeal laws barring competition in insurance across state lines, and the cost will come down too.

Now, I’m not asking which world-view is correct.  But pretty please, try to be objective about this question:  which world view is more likely to produce or attract satisfied people?  Which world view is more likely to attract or produce dissatisfied people?  And which world-view is more likely to attract “we must save the world even if it means taking away some freedoms” types?

As for valuing the collective more than the individual … do I even have to debate that one?  Do conservatives write books with titles like It Takes A Village?  Other than the occasional anti-war sentiment, the American left’s primary pitch to the voters for the past 70 years can be summed up in two sentences:  “Vote for us!  We’ll give you a bunch of goodies and make someone else pay the bill!”

Earlier, I said the far left is more prone to a True Believer mindset than the far right because of the differences in intellectual heritage.  In his book Explaining Postmodernism, philosophy professor Stephen Hicks recounts that heritage. 

What was once called “liberalism” but is now called libertarianism or small-government conservatism (not the same as religious conservatism) traces its roots to the Enlightenment thinkers, most of whom were British:  Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes (not British), John Locke and Adam Smith.  Their works emphasized rationalism, objectivism, the scientific method, and individual freedom — most importantly, freedom from government coercion.  (Thomas Jefferson was deeply influenced by Locke.)  As Hicks explains:

Individualism and science are thus consequences of an epistemology of reason.  Individualism applied to politics yields liberal democracy … individualism applied to economics yields free markets and capitalism.

Post-modernism, which inspired much of the modern left’s thinking, began as reaction against the Enlightenment thinkers — ironically, in part to save religious faith from the onslaught on science and rationality.  Immanuel Kant was a major influence, as were a lot of other Germans (surprise):  Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg W.F. Hegel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (not German), Martin Heidegger, and of course Karl Marx.  They specifically rejected reason and logic in favor of subjectivism.

Simply put, an objectivist thinks this way:  If it’s true, I believe it.  A subjectivist, however, thinks like this:  If I believe it, it’s true.  According to Heidegger, for example, reason tells us nothing important, and logical inconsistencies are not a sign of intellectual failure.

Now, once again, try to be objective (there’s that word again) while answering this question:  who is more resistant to pesky things like logic and reason, an objectivist or a subjectivist?  Who has an easier time ignoring logical inconsistencies in a belief system? 

As Hicks points out, only a subjectivist could believe that:

  • All cultures are valid and equally deserving of respect, but Western culture is really bad.
  • Values are subjective, but racism and sexism are really, really bad.
  • Technology is destructive and bad, but it’s not fair that some people can afford more of it than others.

The post-modernists were also collectivists.  Here are few relevant quotes:

The state ought to have a universal compulsory force to move and arrange each part in the manner best suited to the whole.  – Rousseau

All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the state … this final end has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be member of the state. – Hegel

A single person, I need hardly say, is something subordinate, and as such he must dedicate himself to the ethical whole. – Hegel

Hegel, by the way, was a big influence on Karl Marx.  I’m pretty sure we can agree Marx was a collectivist extraordinaire, and it’s not even debatable that Marx has far more fans on the political left than on the right.  One of my left-wing college professors even had a poster of Marx on the wall of his office. 

Someone commenting on last week’s post pointed out that “left” and “right” aren’t always accurate labels and suggested I refer to them as collectivist-authoritarian and individualist-libertarian.  Fine, I’m cool with that.  “Left” and “right” don’t always fit.  I once saw William F. Buckley argue against anti-drug laws, which isn’t exactly a right-wing position. 

But at the same time, I don’t know how anyone can deny that leftists tilt towards a collectivist-authoritarian belief system.  In the past year or so, I’ve been treated to these statements while debating liberal friends:

  • You only have the rights the government grants you.
  • How can you call high taxes legalized theft?!  It’s not just your money!  We let you make the money!  (I’m assuming he meant no one tried to arrest me for selling my software to people who wanted to buy it.)

By contrast, take a look at this quote from a rather famous individualist-libertarian named Thomas Jefferson:

A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.

In the modern era, does that sound like something you’d hear coming from the left or the right?  Is it what the fanatical Obama supporters believe?  Is there any evidence whatsoever Obama believes it himself?

Post-modern leftists also have a different intellectual heritage when it comes to language itself.  Since reason doesn’t tell us anything real, the post-modernists taught that language isn’t a tool for seeking the truth; it’s a weapon to wielded for the purpose of acquiring power.  Don’t like what some objectivist-individualist wrote, but having a hard time disputing it?  No problem.  Declare logic a “white male construct” and apply the principles of Deconstruction … otherwise known as “If you can’t debate your opponent’s ideas, label him a sexist or a racist.”  I see that one in action every time a conservative justice is nominated to the Supreme Court.

If you don’t think Deconstruction as a form of analysis was intended to be political, here’s a quote from Jacques Derrida, the father of Deconstruction:

Deconstruction never had any interest or meaning, at least in my eyes, other than as a radicalization, that is to say, within a tradition of a certain Marxism.

Saul Alinksy, whose Rules for Radicals was the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis, exhorted his readers to pick a target, attack relentlessly, and make it personal … and it’s okay because the ends justify the means:

Whenever we think about social change, the question of means and ends arises. The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work.

Gee, that sounds kind of like it would be okay to label your opponents as racists and sexists if it helps you win a political fight.  I can see why some on the left found Alinsky so inspirational.  As professor Hicks writes early on in his book:

A related puzzle is explaining why postmodernists — particularly among those postmodernists most involved with the practical applications of postmodernist ideas, or putting postmodernist ideas into actual practice in their classrooms and in faculty meetings — are the most likely to be hostile to dissent and debate, the most likely to engage in ad hominem argument and name-calling, the most likely to enact politically-correct authoritarian measures, and the most likely to use anger and rage as argumentative tactics. 

Whether it is Stanley Fish calling all opponents of affirmative action bigots and lumping them in with the Ku Klux Klan, or whether it is Andrea Dworkin’s male-bashing in the form of calling all heterosexual males rapists, the rhetoric is very often harsh and bitter.  So the puzzling question is: Why is it that among the far Left — which has traditionally promoted itself as the only true champion of civility, tolerance, and fair play — that we find those habits least practiced and even denounced?

As for who has a greater desire to actually stifle ideas (as opposed to merely labeling them as racist or sexist to avoid debating them), I’m sure that debate could go on forever.  Some of you cited news stories about conservative groups shouting down or even spitting on liberal politicians.  Okay, it happens, and it’s disgusting when it does. 

But I don’t see many left-wing speakers being shouted down on campuses or having pies thrown at them.  I haven’t heard of any cases of liberal college newspapers being shut down or having their entire press runs stolen by hostile students.  I haven’t heard of any liberal college students being brought up on “hate speech” charges for expressing their opinions.  I also don’t read many news stories about violent right-wing protesters, but you can pretty much count on violent left-wing protesters showing up any time there’s an economic summit. 

Maybe that’s my own selection bias.  But as far as who is more likely to be dissatisfied with the world and demand we change it, more likely to reject logic and reason, more likely to believe the collective is more important than individual rights, more likely to fear free competition, more likely to support regulation by an educated elite, more likely to believe they can gain only by taking from others, more likely to want public cures for private ails, and more likely to support using government coercion to impose its preferred way of life on others — in other words, to act like Hoffer’s True Believers — sorry, the radical left wins hands down.

But enough about health-care “reform.”

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30 Responses to “True Believers, Part Two”
  1. Troy says:

    Wow, that’s the best piece of blogging/analysis I’ve read in a long time. Nice job!

    I’m sure it’s one the longest.

  2. Alexia says:

    Thank you. Not many people point out the ridiculousness like you do!

    If you had the fortitude to read the longest post I’ve ever written, then thank you.

  3. Verimius says:

    Conservatives good, liberals bad.

    My group good, other group bad.

    Tribalism is hard-wired into the human brain.

    I think that’s true to an extent. I call it the red team/blue team mentality. If I’m cheering for the red team, pretty much everything they do is good and pretty much everything the blue team does is bad. The exact same behavior is acceptible for my team and an outrage if they do it.

    I started thinking about that when Dennis Rodman went from the Pistons to the Bulls. As a Piston, I thought he was thug. As a Bull, he was, of course, merely intense and colorful.

  4. Scott says:

    Bravo! I feel like standing up and clapping long and loud.

    Thank you. (No spitting on anyone who disagrees, though.)

  5. Lucy says:

    I am currently reading the book “Red Sky, Black Death” (http://www.amazon.com/Red-Sky-Black-Death-Eastern/dp/0893573558/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top), I am about halfway through and it frankly scares the bejeezus out of me. The book details, in the voice of a “true believer” the atrocities a collectivist-authoritarian government (Soviet Union) will foist upon even its most ardent supporters. It’s like reading about our future.

    I wonder, as I read, where that blind acceptance comes from. We know where it goes, eventually, it finds solace in a bottle of 100 proof….

    That’s the thing about true believers; they’ll eat their own if they vary even a bit from the doctrine.

  6. Jeanie Campbell says:

    Thank you, Tom. I will be linking this post to several friends. You’re my hero!

    Link away, Jeanie. Thanks.

  7. ML says:

    If you’ve read “Liberal Facism” by Jonah Goldberg, which I have, you know that the Nazis = Rightwing meme came from Stalin. It’s not surprising that it’s lasted this long considering who writes the newspapers.

    Considering the Stalin apologists we had in our own media at the time, that kind of makes sense.

  8. Kate says:

    U R dumb cause U R bald! Am I doing it right?

    Thank you for this post. Now there are two more books I want to read: The True Believer and Explaining Postmodernism.

    I thought of a couple more examples of subjectivism I’ve encountered:
    1. Racism/sexism is bad, unless it’s against white males, then it’s fine. (After all, every white male was raised in a house with a solid gold roof, so they DESERVE it!)
    2. All holidays are sacred, except Christmas, since the majority of people in the US celebrate some flavor of it. (I got so sick of the “Happy Holidays” attitude of THE CHRISTIANS ARE PERSECUTING US BY WISHING US MERRY XMAS!!!!!!” that seemed rampant a few years ago. Not all of the HH wishers were in that category, most were just being polite.)

    You are doing it right, although I tell people the baldness is caused by an overheated brain.

  9. Kate says:

    My last comment stripped the faux html tag off the first line. There should be a deconstruction tag on it.

  10. Rob Howard says:

    Excellent post, as it clears up a few worries I had about you lumping in religious folk with the true believers. While its true that some Christians such as myself can be true believers, that is true of any group and therefore does not single them out in my view (as particularly prone to it). I personally don’t know many (if at all) devout Christians that aren’t also small government conservatives, and most folks like myself didn’t like many of Bush’s government enlarging moves while in office. Even the many who, like myself, believe that abortion is murder, are more and more likely to look at this from a federalist perspective; I think simply the repeal of Roe, putting it back to the states (where really it was meant to be to begin with) is the right idea. Let socially liberal states be that way as long as I can live in states that don’t have to participate. Sadly, that concept of the states being “test beds” has been lost as they have lost sovereignty.

    I would point out that it seems as though the Protestant Reformation, and all of its various echoes since it occurred, is a major driver behind American individualism. After all, many of the settlers were essentially religious folks escaping persecution in one form or another. While the philosophers you mentioned were definitely important, I also think America began with a very strong tendency towards self government and individual freedom due to this. After all, the whole “wall of separation” quote came about from a letter to the Danbury Baptists, Jefferson was basically assuring them they could practice their faith in peace!

    One thing I always found interesting about the Old Testament is that the Isrealites started out with Judges, which God seemed perfectly fine with, but the people clamored for all powerful kings instead. The lesson I took from that is this: God allows us to have the government we ask for, ultimately, for good or ill. Something I reflect upon with some sadness after this piece of crap bill was past last weekend.

    I believe respect for individual rights definitely derived in part from the experiences of those who’d been persecuted. Unfortunately, a few of them didn’t tolerate other religions once they’d established their own communities here. Luckily for all of us, the Founders got it right.

    I’ve found that most religious conservatives are also small-government conservatives, but lots of small-government conservatives aren’t particularly religious. Among the religious conservatives I do know personally, not a single one wants to use government to impose religion on anyone, so I don’t consider them the big threat to liberty some people seem to think they are.

  11. Amy Dungan says:

    You accused me of using logic the other day, but here you are doing it yourself. I see how you are. 😉

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on this. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone make a rational argument for something and when the other side couldn’t counter it, they just started hurling insults like a 6 year old. I’m not sure beneficial debate is possible at all with this mindset.

    I’ve been called a Nazi a few times for expressing anti-collectivist opinions, thus proving that the person saying it 1) had no idea what the Nazis stood for, and 2) acts like a Nazi when challenged.

  12. Melissa says:

    I did a vlog recently talking about a study that basically said that people who bought green products and identified themselves as “green” were more likely to cheat and lie at tests to get ahead.
    The theory was because they identified as doing good or more good over others, they had a tendency (conscious or unconscious) to be “lax” in other areas or do ill because it was as if they saw their act as enabling them to cheat a little- because they were doing such good things for the world!

    Whether or not you are left or right, if you feel as if you’re detached from the rest of humanity I think you are more likely to cling to an identity that is idealistic to you and as an individual feels more superior to others.
    And it’s always easy to get young angry hormonal people to follow you if u appeal as different and extreme from the norm. That’s who followed Hitler initially.

    I think this was my issues when I was younger and that’s why I went vegetarian/vegan and thought very extreme liberal, because I somehow equated that as better.

    I think separation is an illusion myself, and that we do come from one point of creation.
    But in saying that, the way I feel is if we are all one, then I wouldn’t want to do something to another because it’s really just like hurting myself. Because even if they look and act different, it’s an illusion really, so it doesn’t matter. They’re here for a different experience than me.
    It’s too bad these other “collectivists” couldn’t get that!
    We are all one but it’s not up to one person to control another. It took me most of my twenties to learn that, but at least I got it down well by 33 🙂

    And control is what it’s all about.

  13. Jack Palmer says:

    Fascinating perspective. I was reluctant to accept your conclusion at first, but you make a very strong case. That said, I feel your perspective is skewed by the fact that you live in California — the den of all things liberal. If you lived in Texas, you’d be hearing about right-wing authoritarians trying to write Thomas Jefferson out of the history textbooks.

    I escaped California for Tennessee, but I’m willing to entertain the possibility that a decade in Hollyweird skewed my perspective. Why would right-wingers want Thomas Jefferson out of the history books? Which of his principles do they oppose?

  14. Brilliant post, Tom!

    I blogged about that same article that Melissa spoke of: that the green folks were more likely to lie, cheat, and steal. I think it’s tied in with your number 2 up there of the definition of the True Believer; they ‘go green’ NOT because they really give a rat’s backside about the world but because it makes them feel superior to others to appear to be doing good.

    It has always been apparent to me that certain extreme beliefs (frothing liberalism, veganism, PETA craziness) TEND to align in certain types of people, and those folks are the ones exhibiting this out-of-control behaviour. To me they act exactly like a badly frightened animal (or herd of them) – so scared that they will do anything, no matter how extreme. And it IS fear … a fear of reason.

    I also do NOT discount the ‘Vegan Rage’ thing. How much saturated fat are these bozos getting? Are their brains functioning properly? Gah! Is it accepteable that we hold them down and force-feed them pork chops? “For their own good”?

    Love your analysis on that one. Let’s not confuse correlation with causes; exactly right.

  15. Dana says:

    Tom, since the health care bill passed we have had death threats against Congresspeople who voted for it — apparently it’s now up to ten who have been threatened — and in some cases against their children, vandalism at the offices of Democratic congresscritters, and a propane line cut at the home of a Democratic congressman’s brother in the belief it was the Rep’s home. Care to reevaluate?

    That behavior is disgusting and I’m not excusing it. But we’re talking about two entirely different situations here. In the situation you mentioned, we’re talking about

    1) A few lone nuts who are
    2) angry about having a trillion-dollar bill imposed on them that will
    3) require them to pay for other people’s insurance or
    4) fine them if they choose not to buy insurance, thus
    5) taking away their liberties through government coercion

    In the Coulter situation, we’re talking about

    1) Large mobs of angry people trying to
    2) stop a mere speech which imposes absolutely nothing on them because
    3) they could simply choose not to attend, but
    4) they don’t want others to attend either because
    5) they don’t like the ideas being expressed … and neither did the
    6) government official who gently threatened prosecution.

    So we’re comparing people angry over having freedoms taken away to people who are angry over someone else engaging in freedom, free speech. I can’t simply choose not to “attend” the health care bill, although I’m proud to live in one of the states that will be challenging the bill on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional, which it clearly is.

    Again, not excusing the bricks or the threats, but you do see the difference in these situations, si? When angry mobs shut down a scheduled speech titled “Why America Should Switch To Single-Payer Health Care” and the speaker is threatened ahead of time with possible prosecution, then the comparison will hold up.

  16. Jack Palmer says:

    Regarding Thomas Jefferson (from comment #13)…

    They oppose the separation of church and state (among other things). They intend to remove Jefferson from the curriculum entirely. I’m not sure how they’ll discuss the Declaration of Independence without mentioning Jefferson, but I’m sure they’ll find a way.

    Instead of Jefferson, our kids will be learning about John Calvin.

    There are many other proposed changes, but fortunately, they have yet to pass. However, I’m not sure if anyone can really stand in their way at this point. If you want to read up on it, there has been a good deal of press (mostly from the left of course).

    They sound like a bunch of loons.

  17. Dana says:

    The whole country had a multi-trillion dollar war imposed on us, and I don’t remember left-wingers threatening to kill the Congresscritters who voted for it.

    The militias are all right-wing. The skinhead groups are all right-wing. Most of the domestic terrorism — the Eric Rudolphs and Tim McVeighs and the Klansman — are right wing.

    Left-wingers may holler. Right-wingers take up weapons.

    Actually there have beeen been plenty of threats and acts of sabotage against conservatives over the years — bricks through the windows of campaign quarters, campaign workers’ vehicles vandalized on election days, etc. — but the media don’t usually find these incidents worthy of the front page or the lead story on the evening news. These are, after all, the same objective reporters who told us stories about white racists bringing weapons to town hall meetings, then conveniently cropped the video footage to avoid showing us that the gun-totin’ protestor was a black man.

    We can try to tally up a count and see which side’s nutjobs suck the most, but I believe that would be pointless. The groups you mentioned are all worthy of our contempt, but unless you consider the Weathermen, the SLA, The Black Panthers, the UFF, M19CO, the Red Brigade, etc. to be right-wing groups, I’m going to respectfully disagree that leftists don’t pick up weapons when they’re not happy.

    But we’re talking about two different issues here. The point I was making was not whether all the nuts are on one side or another. I was contending — and still do — that more leftists in modern times consider it okay to shout down their opponents, to prevent their opponents from speaking, to shut down their opponents’ newspapers, to bring them up on “hate speech” charges for the crime of disagreeing, etc. I was at one of those events, when three little loons tried to physically attack David Horowitz during a speech.

    As for having the war imposed on us, I agree. I want our military to protect our country and stay the @#$% out of the rest of the world’s problems, whether it’s Iraq or Bosnia.

    Of course, both parties voted for the Iraq resolution; the Democrats only changed their minds when the war became unpopular with the public. Then they screamed that they’d been lied to. That was especially interesting in Hillary Clinton’s case, since she’s married to another president who had access to the same intelligence as Bush and made all the same claims about WMDs. Shame on Bill for lying.

  18. Dana says:

    The groups you mentioned are all worthy of our contempt, but unless you consider the Weathermen, the SLA, The Black Panthers, the UFF, M19CO, the Red Brigade, etc. to be right-wing groups, I’m going to respectfully disagree that leftists don’t pick up weapons when they’re not happy.

    Uh, Tom? You got an example that’s more recent than 25-30 years ago?

    Not sure I get the point. You said leftists holler and right-wingers pick up weapons. Clearly the loons on both ends of the spectrum pick up weapons. How long ago was Timothy McVeigh? At exactly how many years back does the comparison become irrelevant? As for more recent times, if that’s what you want:

    http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/1921/Domestic-Terrorism-INCIDENCE-DOMESTIC-TERRORIST-ATTACKS-CASUALTIES-IN-UNITED-STATES.html

    “From 1980 to 2001, the FBI recorded 482 incidents or planned incidents of terrorism within the United States. (See Figure 7.1.) According to Terrorism: 2000–2001, (Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002), these incidents killed 2,993 people and injured 14,047. Of the 482 incidents committed in the United States, 164 were committed by international terrorist groups, 130 by domestic left-wing groups, eighty-five by domestic right-wing groups, and eighty-one by domestic special-interest groups.”

    (I’m not sure what a domestic special-interest group is. Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce or AARP have been blowing up cars and we aren’t being told.)

    You’ve changed the subject to whether there are more violent right-wing fruitcakes or violent left-wing fruitcakes in the world. The left-wing fruitcakes have been a bit busier, according to the FBI, but let’s just call them all fruitcakes and agree that they’re contempible goofs. That wasn’t the point.

    The point is, these are college students. Hundreds of them (or a thousand, depending in which news service you read) who aren’t learning secret handshakes and joining terrorist groups, who would appear to be normal and reasonably intelligent members of society, and yet they forbid other students from putting up posters advertising a speech, they demand the university cancel the speech, they create a mini-riot because they’re so outraged someone whose views they don’t like is speaking, and the speech is canceled … all of this preceded by a vice-president of the university sending a nice, threatening letter. We can compare loons all you want. I’m talking about supposedly normal people attempting to stifle free speech.

    Although if you prefer to compare a college administrator to Timothy McVeigh, I’ll trade you the Unabomber for McVeigh and a second-round draft pick to be named later.

  19. Rob says:

    Expanding on Jack Palmer’s point. And worth noting it’s a big deal because the schoolbooks approved in TX, due to issues of money and population, set the trend for the nation, apparently. So ten loons will frustrate the education of thousands of students. But, you know, the right wing doesn’t try to “force” you to do anything, right 😉

    “Why would right-wingers want Thomas Jefferson out of the history books? Which of his principles do they oppose?”

    Enlightenment thinking, Deism, secular government, separation of church and state.

    http://tfninsider.org/2010/03/11/blogging-the-social-studies-debate-iv/

    “Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings of”) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards.”

    “12:28 – Board member Mavis Knight offers the following amendment: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” Knight points out that students should understand that the Founders believed religious freedom was so important that they insisted on separation of church and state.

    12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”

    12:35 – Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans vote no, Democrats vote yes..”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html

    “Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)”

    Cynthia Dunbar sounds like a real piece of work. Shame on all of them for trying to use the education system to promote their own narrow beliefs. Unfortunately, that happens on both sides as well. I was taught in school, for example, that FDR saved the economy and ended the Depression through his policies. That simply isn’t true.

    Conservative parents have found plenty of outrages in their kids’ textbooks, schools have assigned “Heather Has Two Mommies” as a reading assignment, and my best friend’s daughter was once given an essay whose subject assumed the conclusion … something like “Explain Why the United States Is An Imperialist Oppressor” or some garbabe like that. (He told her to write her own opinion and take the F if need be.) My own nephew was recently given an assignment to write about the dangers of global warming — not to write whether or not he believed the theory, but to write about the looming dangers. He instead wrote about why he doesn’t believe there are looming dangers; we’ll see what happens with the grade.

  20. Rob says:

    Too much to put all at the bottom … interspersing my replies in italics. Sorry for the slow reply. I was gone most of the day.
    ———————————-
    “Many Nazis were artsy-fartsy types who considered themselves mystics.”

    This would only be true of Himmler and his rather small esoteric little clique.

    The vast majority of Nazis, and the ideals espoused by their propaganda, were “blood and soil” types who despised “intellectualism,” the “arts” and modernism, including “degenerate art” – and espoused the nobility and virtue of a simple “farm” life, images of peasantry, and a romanticized image of an imaginary and nonexistent past.

    ———————————-
    Blood-and-soil workers, despising intellectualism, promoting the simple peasant life … this is right-wring? Does the term “Soviet Union” ring a bell? Or are you now suggesting the Soviets were also right-wing? All true believers go after the intellectuals if the intellectuals dare disagree with them or offend them. Ever hear of gulags? How about those schools banning Huckleberry Finn because of the “N word”? As for promoting a romanticized image of an imaginary and nonexistent past, you mean like, say, declaring the development of the combustion engine the worst thing that ever happened? (Al Gore or the Unabomber, take your pick.) If only we could return to the good old days before technology screwed up everything?

    ———————————-
    “As for Nazism … right wing?” — “Even culturally, the Nazis were hardly what anyone would consider right-wing today…”

    All of the above – the disdain for modernity, the constant cry of the death of “traditional values,” their supposed subjugation by and the imposition of a decadent and degenerate morality by intellectual, out of touch, ivory tower elites – the differentiation of “real, authentic” citizens [‘lo, those salt of the earth farmers] versus the decadent, immoral, clueless [“Hollywood liberals – why do they even HAVE opinions?”] – this is all standard grist for the modern right wing mill of today.
    ———————————-
    Yes, the Nazis were clearly lovers of traditional values … encouraging out-of-wedlock births, changing the lyrics of Christmas carols to remove references to Christianity, supporting animal rights … very traditional, all stuff the Rev. Falwell would support.
    ———————————-
    National Socialism was BOTH nationalist – a feature of the right – AND socialist – a feature of the left.

    [Yes, there is “left wing nationalism” but you really, imho, can’t make a convincing argument for it in modern American politics…]
    ———————————-
    No, nationalism is not a feature of recent American leftism, although it has certainly been a feature of leftist countries around the world, and it was absolutely a feature of the Wilson, JFK and LBJ administrations … and since my post was about true believers in modern times, including the rest of the world, this one’s kind of a wash, isn’t it?
    ———————————-
    So, National Socialism – lefty style communalist values, true – but in the ultimate service of the state ABOVE ALL ELSE. This appeal to service and allegiance to the state, of being a “true” citizen, or a “real” patriot, this is another feature of the right. And the ‘go-to’ criticism for anyone who doesn’t fall into lockstep with their particular ideology of what it means to “really love” one’s country.
    ———————————-
    If you’re suggesting rah-rah military patriotism is more rampant on the right, we agree. But of course, the state is not compelling patriotism. As for living in the ultimate service of the state above all else … right wing? Are you kidding me? Most right-wingers want to tell the federal government to go @#$% itself. Let’s look at recent history:

    “Man, social security is a ripoff. I think I’ll withdraw and put that 15 percent into the investments I choose.”
    No, no, no … we at the state will not allow you to leave our retirement program. We do not trust you to save for your own retirement, and we need your money to fund the system.

    “Hey, I think I’ll plant some beans in that back acre.”
    Dear Mr. Farmer: We have discovered that your back acre has been home to at least a dozen snail darters during the spring season. You may not disturb that acre under any circumstances.
    “What? But it’s my land! I paid for it! If I can’t plant there, are you going to pay me rent?”
    No, Mr. Farmer, we are not required to pay you rent. The state has decided your land must be used as habitat for snail darters, and we don’t care if it costs you potential income. The state’s interests are all that matter.

    “I’m 20 years old, I’m healthy, I don’t want to pony up $100 per month for health insurance. I’ll go to the emergency room if I get hurt.”
    Dr. Young Person: The state is now requiring you to buy insurance. You are not allowed to decide if this is in your best interest. It is in the state’s interest, and that’s all that matters.

    Dear Mr. Lamp Factory Owner: It has come to our attention that the makeup of your workforce does not reflect the racial mix of your community. We are therefore fining you $20,000 and ordering you to institute a plan to address this situation.
    “What?! My entire workforce is made up of minorities. I don’t have a single white worker on the factory floor. I hire nothing but local workers, and I keep the ones who show up for work. That’s all I do.”
    We don’t care if you hire minorities, Mr. Factory Owner. You are not hiring minorities in the same percentage as they exist in your community. Our definition of fair hiring supercedes your selfish interest in productivity and profits. So we are levying the fine and also requiring you to place an ad in the newspaper inviting people to sue you if they didn’t apply at your factory because they believed you might not hire them.

    “You’re raising my taxes again?”
    Yes, Mr. Rich Person, we are raising your taxes again. We are aware that people in the top 5 percent pay 60 percent of the income taxes already, but it’s really not enough. We are going to require you to provide more government services for your fellow citizens. It’s for the good of the collective.

    “Screw you, I’m moving to another country.”
    Sorry, Mr. Rich Person, the IRS has ruled that it can tax the incomes of Americans living abroad, even if they change citizenship, if we believe you are simply trying to avoid paying for our government programs. And by the way, we are now also requiring you to buy health insurance policies for some of your neighbors.

    “WANTED: Retired Christian gentleman who can do maintenance and repairs to rent a room in my home.”
    Dear Mrs. Room Owner: We are levying a fine against you for violating the Fair Housing Act. You cannot discriminate on the basis of age, gender, religion, or abilities. You must also place an ad in the newspaper inviting people to sue you if they saw your ad and felt discriminated against.
    “But it’s a room in my HOME! I don’t want some wild young gal who can’t fix a leaky faucet living in my home! I want to live with someone who’s my age and shares my values!”
    That would be fine if you weren’t renting the room, Mrs. Room Owner. But since you are, the state’s interesting in fair housing is more important than your preference of a roommate.

    Dear Homeowner: We are ordering you to sell us your home at a price we deem appropriate. A local mall developer wants your land and we want the extra tax revenue the mall will generate.
    “Say what?! You can’t do that! This isn’t a park or a school we’re talking about. You’re kicking me out to make way for a commercial business.”
    Sorry, Homeowner, but the Supreme Court justices who purport to stand up for the little guy agree that if it’s the state’s financial interest to force you out of your home, we can do it.

    Dear Mr. Bar Owner: You may not allow smoking in your establishment. The state has determined that cigarette smoke is dangerous.
    “Then the non-smokers don’t have to visit my bar. This is private property!”
    Sorry, Mr. Bar Owner, but the interests of the state supercede your right to decide which behaviors you will allow on your property. It’s for the public good.

    “Okay, kid, tell ya what. I know you don’t have any skills or much of an education. But if you want, you can work as apprentice for $3 per hour, and I’ll teach you the job.”
    Dear Mr. Small Business Owner: You may not hire anyone for less than the amount required by the state.
    “But he can’t do anything for me right now that’s worth the $10 per hour I’d have to pay in wages and employment taxes. It’s okay with me, and it’s okay with him. Why is that any of your business?”
    We are not concerned with what you or the teenager want, Mr. Small Business Owner. The state’s interests must come first.

    Now … you wanna explain to me which right-wing policies force people to live in the service of the state? How about the folks lobbying to institute a Canadian health system and turn all doctors into government employees, with the government setting their salaries, whether the doctors want to or not? That’s not forcing them to serve the state? (Well, they could quit and become plumbers, I guess …)

    During the runup to the Iraq War, by the way, a handful of politicians even called for bringing back the draft – all Democrats.
    ———————————-
    And then you can factor back in the back in the racism and that is, sadly, also a factor of conservatism extremism in the US. Not the left.
    ———————————-
    Racism is an interesting case. Back when the KKK was the enforcement arm of the Democratic party, the racists usually voted for Democrats. The eugenics movement (let’s keep the inferior brown people from over-breeding) was popular among “progressives.” That’s actually why Margaret Sanger started Planned Parenthood. When the Civil Rights Act came up for a vote, a higher percentage of Republicans supported it than Democrats. (Al Gore’s father was among those who voted against.) Makes sense. The Republican position since Lincoln has been that government should be color-blind.

    But then the Democrats became the party of quotas and affirmative action — all of which Hubert Humphrey swore wouldn’t happen when he sponsored the Civil Rights Act. (“If this bill is ever used to institute quotas, I’ll eat every page of it.” Naturally, courts decided they understood the intention of the bill better than the author.) So, yes, given a choice between color-blind law or racial preferences, the racists went with the least objectionable option. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything in the conservative philosophy that’s racist. I’d say the idea that African Americans need an extra 20 or 30 gift points on college entrance exams is racist, however.
    ———————————-
    [And without which you would seem to think makes them hippies? Other than a fealty to the mythical “land” and “nature” – I don’t see any “there” there. Hippies – self demarcated communal groups, flaunting the status quo, no allegiance to state VS National Socialism where all is in allegiance to the state?]
    ———————————-
    Who’s talking about hippies? I’m talking about Sixties radicals. They didn’t go live in the woods. They agitated. Some set off bombs. They wanted to remake society as a workers’ paradise.

    “…the post-modernists taught that language isn’t a tool for seeking the truth; it’s a weapon to wielded for the purpose of acquiring power.”

    And hence, the career of Frank Lutz, and his highly effective and distasteful career with the modern right-wing.
    ———————————-
    Wow, you can name one right-wing practitioner. Do right-wing college professors actually teach that this is how language should be used? Did they turn it into a literary discipline? Have right-wing authors spelled it out as an acceptable political strategy?
    ———————————-
    “Rules for Radicals was the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis, exhorted his readers to pick a target, attack relentlessly, and make it personal…”

    Irony of ironies, that reads like the Republican playbook during the Clinton years… and of the left during the GWB years… and basically all of modern politics. Bah. I need a drink.
    ———————————-
    Enjoy that drink. Have one for me too.

  21. Dana says:

    Clearly the loons on both ends of the spectrum pick up weapons.

    Thank you. You may recall that in the days of the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, et al, we also had fire hoses and police dogs being set on peaceful civil rights protesters, the murders of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, also Medgar Evers, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and a whole lot of other violence from the right.

    Today, along with the few who try to shout down Coulter, we have those on the right who are trying to force their religious views down everyone’s throats, up to and including the Dominionist movement.

    My point, Tom, is that the far edge of *both sides* tend to true believerism. You’re seeing the left because they tweak your own political chain.

    Absolutely. Loons are loons. The left does tweak my chain because far more of them are collectivists, and I vehemently oppose collectivism. So did Hoffer, and by his definition of the term True Believer, the radical left has been disproportionately represented. But like I said, if you want to redefine the term so both groups are equally represented, be my guest … but then it’s your defintion, not Hoffer’s, which was the subject of the post.

    Who’s trying to force a religion down your throat? Seriously, I’m asking. I don’t know anything about the Dominionists.

  22. Dana says:

    To add, re the 25-30 year thing —

    Things change. Republicans like to point out that Lincoln was a Republican, but ignore the fact that the Rs recruited heavily among Southern Democrats, including rascists, during the Reagan administration. Even if only the left used violence during the ’60s — a thesis which is demonstrably untrue — it says very little about today.

    I already quoted from the FBI documents, which cited more leftist terrorism than right-wing terrorism since 1980. Again, I don’t really care which side has more fruitcakes. They’re fruitcakes. Of course the racists went to the Republicans. When the Democrats stopped being racists who favored segregation and decided instead to engage in discrimination in favor of a few selected minority groups, the racists decided the party that had maintained the same position for 150 years — government should be color-blind — was now their least objectionable option.

    So, having received the votes of racists, how exactly did the Republicans pursue a racist agenda? What was the big reward for the racists?

  23. Ed Terry says:

    Shortly after 9/11, George Bush was criticized for restricting civil liberties. A year ago, I read the book “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague In History” and received a real education in American history. George Bush was an amatuer compared to Woodrow Wilson. I’ve never been a political history buff, but what I learned reminded me of a simple fact of human nature. Talking about freedom and tolerance isn’t the necessarily the same as living it.

    As a teenage in Oklahoma, when I was old enough to vote, when the registrar saw me enter “libertarian” as my party of choice, she tried oh so hard to get me to change my mind. Wrong tack to take with a teenager (or maybe just me).

    The Patriot Act grants a lot of intrusive powers that any civil libertarian should oppose. But in the past 100 years, the two biggest violators of civil liberties in the name of national security were Wilson and FDR. Wilson actually paid citizens to spy on their neighbors, granted them permission to open a neighbor’s mail, etc. He jailed people who spoke out against WWI. If we’ve ever had a fascist president, it was Wilson.

  24. Bruce says:

    Question Tom.

    When having a discussion with a member of an opposite thought group, and when I bring up something bad that their “leader” says or does and they counter with “Well at least my “leader” doesn’t watch opossum porn and eat veal like your leader does”!! Granted my leader DID watch opossum porn and did eat veal parmigiana, but it was really pork( you can tell because who the heck can serve veal for $9.95) and it was 10 years ago and everybody knows about it anyway and I don’t really care what two (or three) consenting opossums do anyway, and I LOVE veal.

    Is there a argument term for that besides HUHwhaT??

    It’s like Professor Hicks said, resorting to ad hominem attacks. I try to return the debate to a question of principles … what principles are the leaders espousing and putting into practice. Can’t say it always works, though.

  25. Bruce says:

    Thank you Tom.

    I found that term in the original article now.

    De nada.

  26. Rob says:

    Again, these is near-novel length, so I’ll comment within your comment.
    ——————————–

    I was gone most of the day.

    No worries… I’m in Japan. I sleep while you write 🙂

    Blood-and-soil workers, despising intellectualism, promoting the simple peasant life … this is right-wring [sic]?

    In the context of political debate, in America, for [at least] the last 25-30 years? Yes, absolutely. “Real Americans” live in the heartland. Effete, liberal intellectuals who don’t understand how life really works and who hate America live in NY, DC and California. FOXNEWS and the Republican Party have told me so 🙂

    [Also, kind of, your own blog does this in its constant Tennessee vs Hollyweird comparisons… though it certainly wouldn’t be accurate to label you ‘right-wing.’]

    ———————————————————-
    My best friends are highly intelligent, very well-read, interested in the arts (both musicians), and conservatives. I don’t believe conservatives are anti-intellectual. (Bush won among the college-educated in 2004.) They’re anti-intellectuals , at least those of the type Hoffer described, who assume their intelligence entitles them to regulate the lives of others. There is very much an elitist mentality in Hollywood, a smugness, and yes, it annoyed the @#$% out of me. In theater groups and writers’ groups, I saw exactly what Hoffer described when he said noncomformists travel in packs and woe to him who does not conform to the nonconformity. I met some of the worst group-think bigots among this crowd of supposed free thinkers.

    If you pay attention, you will notice that every time a character is identified as devout Christian or conservative in a Hollywood production, there’s at least a 50-50 chance he or she will turn out to be a murderer, hypocrite or fool. I find it very smug, self-congratulatory, and annoying, even though I’m not a Christian. If, say, Jews were portrayed that way, heads would roll. Writers would be in sensitivity training right now.
    ———————————————————-

    Does the term “Soviet Union” ring a bell?

    Early 80s rock band, right?

    Honestly, all the “don’t you know?”s and “ever heard of?”s… I mean, your blog, your rules, your choices, but snarky much? 😉

    —————————————————–
    I’ll try to limit the snark factor.
    —————————————————–
    No one would suggest that the politics of the USSR were “right wing” in the context of individualism vs collectivism. I would however argue that the ‘right wing’ in America AS IT EXISTS TODAY IN REALITY – as opposed to idealized suggestions that they are supporters of limited gov and individual rights – share some traits with the USSR [including strong nationalistic sense, ready demonization of the ‘other,’ and the rants against ‘modernity’ and ‘liberal elites.’] All the more ironic that the modern Republican party self-identifies as “red” staters. No sense of history, some folks.

    ————————————————-
    Yeah, those red-state/blue-state labels make zero sense. I don’t get what you mean by ranting against modernity. If you mean, say, ranting against looser morals, I don’t really care if people sleep with six people per week, as long as they don’t demand I support their illegitimate offspring. I think a lot of conservatives rail against ‘loose morals’ because those morals gave us an entire generation of fatherless kids, and we’re all paying the cost in terms of welfare, crime, etc.

    ————————————————-

    But ‘right wing,’ in practice, has very little to do with the ideals of small government and individual freedom. Deficits and the size of government increase more under Republican administrations than “economically irresponsible” Democrats, since at least Johnson, if I remember correctly.
    ——————————————————
    Certainly true in Bush’s case. Believe me, big-spending “conservatives” piss me off. FDR first expanded government dramatically, then LBJ. Nixon too, although he was never a small-government conservative. Spending went up under Reagan because of his military buildup. Bush the First, also never much of a conservative, increased spending, which is why I’ve never liked the Bushes. Clinton tried to massively increase government and got stuck with a conservative Congress as a result, then couldn’t. Then that second Bush … what a lousy excuse for a conservative. But the size of the deficit under this president will break all records.

    Small-government conservatives, Bush country-club Republicans and religious conservatives are married by politics, much as organized labor, environmenalists, and African Americans are. You know which group I support.
    ——————————————–

    Only Nixon can go to China and only Republicans can increase the size of government while espousing limited government.

    [And only Democrats can get away with starting wars while preaching peace.]

    Republican/right wing folks do value economic freedoms, and many of your examples do show that, and they ARE ABSOLUTELY important. Also the right wing is strong on the individual right to self defense/bear arms.

    But ‘right wing’ – Republican folks – in practice – seem to care little about ensuring individual freedoms regarding religion, speech, due process and privacy. Examples, honestly, are too numerous to list. I imagine you read Reason, so you know…

    ————————————————
    I do read REASON, and so I’m aware that both parties have real issues with privacy and free speech. It was Janet Reno, for example, who tried to block an email privacy system … she wanted to snoop on the Mafia. It was her people who invaded Randy Weaver’s land and killed his wife and son without due process. Campus speech codes are nearly all written by liberals. A pox on both houses.
    ——————————————————

    So calling the right wing folks supporters of individual rights is nice, rhetorically, but bears little resemblance to reality. They support the individual rights they think you should have, they don’t support those individual rights they disagree with. And they love using the power of the state to limit your freedoms in accordance with their personal views of religion, privacy, ‘appropriate’ speech, sexuality, etc, etc…

    —————————————————
    You’re going to have to give some examples of how they love using the power of the state to limit freedoms on religion and sexuality. I honestly have no idea what you’re referring to. Who gets arrested for sexual behavior?

    I don’t think you want to venture into that ‘appropriate speech’ territory. Campus speech codes, people getting sacked from broadcasting jobs for pissing off the wrong liberal group, Larry Summers losing his job for citing a statistical fact as a mere possibility (more men have genius IQs … also more have low IQs; same average intelligence as women but a larger standard deviation among men), Ann Coulter receiving a letter basically threatening prosecution if she engages in “hate speech,” Clinton supporters trying to force ABC to cancel a movie about the failure to kill Bin Laden when we had the chance, threatening their license, etc.
    ——————————————————

    “Are you kidding me? Most right-wingers want to tell the federal government to go @#$% itself.”

    Yes, I remember the steady drumbeat of FOXNEWS and the nationwide conservative protests decrying the use of federal power circa 2000-2008. Oh, wait 😉
    —————————————————
    I’m assuming you don’t listen to conservative commentators. Most were pro-war, yes, but there was LOT of angry commentary about Bush’s spending and increasing the size of government. That’s partly why the Republicans lost congress … a lot conservatives said @#$% ’em and didn’t vote.
    —————————————————
    Modern right wing folks absolutely love authority, as long as their folks are in charge. 8 years of “with us or against us,” decades of ‘America, love it or leave it,’ ‘don’t question your country in time of [undeclared and unending] war,’ free speech “zones,” the Patriot Act [supported by both sides, of course, but a conservative wet dream, honestly – jammed full of Republican policy ideas they’d never been able to pass without the tragedy of 9/11…]
    —————————————————
    Rah-rah pro-military, I agree, as I said before. Also agree on the Patriot Act, but I don’t see the Democrats dismantling it now that they control the whole shootin’ match, so I think they kinda like it. I never heard anyone say you shouldn’t question your country in a time of war, so you’ll have to tell me who you’re talking about.
    —————————————————
    Who’s talking about hippies? I’m talking about Sixties radicals.
    Fair point. My bad. You were talking Weatherman, I was thinking hippies. Might be, of course, that for decades I’ve been told that the ‘dirty f&*ing hippies’ WERE sixties radicals. It’s almost as if hyperbole and fear mongering are harming our national abilities to talk to one another. Nah, that can’t be it.
    —————————————————–
    I think some people applied the term generically. The real hippies weren’t radical about much of anything, weren’t looking to start a revolution. They were kinda cool.
    —————————————————–
    Wow, you can name one right-wing practitioner. Do right-wing college professors actually teach that this is how language should be used? Did they turn it into a literary discipline? Have right-wing authors spelled it out as an acceptable political strategy?

    Well, I can name Lutz as the most prominent and well known talking-head type who built his career on that kinda thing. [YAY! WOW!] As far as acceptable ‘political strategy’ – Umm, yes. Image management, PR, message creation, “language testing” – this is ALL acceptable and chased after political strategy. Everybody does it, everybody tries to do it. At its heart it’s propaganda and advertising and SPIN. OF COURSE it’s acceptable political strategy. It’s just the Republicans are better at it than Dems – at least since the Contract With America. Though Obama is matching them these days, to the detriment of the political process.
    ——————————————————
    I was referring more to the acceptibility of labeling anyone who disagrees with you as a sexist or racist. Every time a conservative judge is nominated, you can predict it.
    ——————————————————

    “”From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” – Andrew Card in 2003, explaining why “Project Stampede America Into Iraq War II” was introduced in September.”

    Personally, deconstruction as a literary technique, learning different interpretations and developing different ideas from a ‘static’ source is pretty fascinating. And strikes me as a reflection of reality. No two people take the exact same meanings or experiences from any shared experience. There is an objective world, but we all experience it subjectively. Makes life interesting.

    …you wanna explain to me which right-wing policies force people to live in the service of the state?

    The majority of the examples you provide, except the ones like making doctors employees direct employees of the state – which, you know, wasn’t really ever on the table – don’t force folks to live in ‘service’ of the state, they force people to live under the regulations of the state. Which is deplorable and annoying, to be sure, but to delineate that as a ‘left wing’ thing you’d have to explain to me how taking my tax money to support a war [or any other traditionally ‘conservative’ policy] isn’t forcing service to the state if taking my tax money to support health care is service to the ‘left wing’ state. Either way, their taking my money to support whatever they want, be it health care, wars, abstinence education, corporate bailouts, contracts for lobbyist buddies. Painting one side as service to the state and the other as not, simply due to their rhetoric or philosophical underpinnings, and ignoring how it all comes down in practice, is, imho, disingenuous.

    ——————————————————
    Living under the service of regulations IS living under the service of the state. The regulations put you in service to the state’s goals, not yours, especially when the state tells you how to dispose of your income or property. How else would anyone live in service to the state, short of being drafted? How do you support the idea that right-wingers want people to live in service to the state? Through what laws?

    Taking tax money to support a war also puts you in service to the state. The Constitution empowers the federal government to defend the country, and the Founders knew it was putting people in service of the state, which is why they called government a necessary evil at best. It’s also why our military should defend the country and stay the @#$% out of the rest of the world’s business, be it in Iraq or Bosnia. The Constitution does not empower the government to put private land to state use as snail-darter sanctuary, to turn a business into a federal jobs program, to turn private property into a housing program, to enroll citizens in a national retirement program whether they want it or not, to force one citizen to buy another citizen’s health care, or to order citizens to buy insurance for themselves. (That had better be struck down, or we may as well just rip up the Constitution and get it overwith.)
    ——————————————————-

    As for promoting a romanticized image of an imaginary and nonexistent past, you mean like, say, declaring the development of the combustion engine the worst thing that ever happened? (Al Gore or the Unabomber, take your pick.) If only we could return to the good old days before technology screwed up everything?

    No, thinking more of that faux-nostalgic mythical time of the traditional 1950s that conservatives harken back to when talking about ‘traditional’ values and ‘real’ America. That ‘Leave it to Beaver/Ozzie and Harriet’ illusion…

    And not from my comment but Dominionists feel the “dominion” over the earth granted them by the Bible includes a ‘cultural mandate’ and desire for an America governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law. Most Christians find their ideas radical, but “soft Dominionism”/Reconstructionsim serves as the foundation of the ‘religious right’ including ideas and folks such as Shaeffer, Rushdoony, Colson, LaHaye…

    George Grant [Reconstructionist] on the goals – “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest…”

    ——————————————————
    I’m sure you know as a libertarian, I’d oppose them on every front. They sound like the mullahs. I have some religious conservative friends, and they’d oppose them as well.
    ——————————————————
    Ultimately all this political stuff boils down to rhetorical and linguistic nonsense. Hell, here in Japan the name of the ‘conservative’ party is the Liberal Democratic Party. Go figure.
    ——————————————————–
    My beliefs about the proper role of government were called “liberalism” 100 years ago.
    ——————————————————–

    It only emphasizes a point I read years ago – regardless of goals, rationale or rhetoric, the primary goal of any organization quickly becomes the maintenance and expansion of its own power and influence.
    ——————————————————–

    Which is why I want to limit government power.

  27. Rob says:

    There is very much an elitist mentality in Hollywood, a smugness, and yes, it annoyed the @#$% out of me… I met some of the worst group-think bigots among this crowd of supposed free thinkers.

    You know, I don’t want to get into a ‘mine is bigger than yours’ kinda debate 🙂 but I grew up in the south [NC] and spent 5 years in the Marines to boot, and my experience is that most folks always think that where they’re from or where they’re at knows best. Maybe it was growing up amongst “wise Southerners” who ‘obviously’ knew more than the pointy headed liberals, the ‘esteemed’ politicians like Jesse Helms who would warn that Clinton’s life would be in danger on American military bases… Yeah, Hollywood might be smug, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of hateful ignorance postulated as ‘knowledge’ and good ol boy fashioned ‘common sense.’ And I met some of the “worst group-think bigots” amongst actual racists who were convinced they were salt of the earth, god fearing, smarter than the average liberal “real Americans.” So, mileage varies.

    Who gets arrested for sexual behavior?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas#Arrest_of_Lawrence_and_Garner

    Went all the way to the Supreme Court in ’03 in order to determine whether consenting homosexual behavior between adults in the privacy of their own home was legal.

    Instructive is this link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodomy_law#United_States which shows the # of states and laws that criminalized those sexual behaviors up until that decision overturned them.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Obscenity_Enforcement_Act [still criminalizes the sale of ‘sex toys’]

    And the so obvious it doesn’t apparently register as a category is anyone who engages in prostitution – outside of certain areas of NV – is arrested for criminal sexual behavior.

    And many folks still are arrested for obscenity laws, which I’d argue constitute punishing sexual behavior in many cases. One absurd example here – http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/05/manga-porn/

    I don’t think you want to venture into that ‘appropriate speech’ territory. Campus speech codes…

    You bring up campus speech codes quite a lot. I find them deplorable, personally. But why you give them the same weight as actual speech abridging laws and decisions that are endorsed by conservatives and/or enforced by actual authorities escapes me. People [in America] aren’t “brought up on charges” for speech codes except in the loosest sense – they aren’t arrested by law enforcement – they’re subject to the ‘discipline of academia’ and speech codes are unfailingly found to be unconstitutional when taken to court.

    OTOH Republicans have anti flag burning as part of their platform…[2008] – “By whatever legislative method is most feasible, Old Glory should be given legal protection against desecration.” They’re the ones who dug up [sadly continued by the Dems] “free speech zones.” They are more than happy to abridge your speech in pursuit of what they deem more worthwhile goals – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashcroft_v._Free_Speech_Coalition

    Also from the GOP platform – They want to restrict the internet in order to “make it safe for children.” They want to prohibit internet gambling [freedom of commerce/speech.] Bottom line, they don’t care about your freedom of expression if it offends their delicate, moralistic sensibilities. And they would love to make it the law of the land.

    Which, you know, should mean more than some ignorantly goofy speech codes passed by academic dinks.

    How do you support the idea that right-wingers want people to live in service to the state? Through what laws?

    [Keeping in mind, of course, many of these can be bipartisan, I’m picking and choosing those I feel the right wing, in their oh so clear moral vision, weigh heaviest on…]

    In addition to taxing me in order to police other folks’ sexual behaviors and “obscenity” and wanting me to live my life in accordance with those same interprations – as above – they additionally want to take money from my wallet and maintain the police and prison industrial complex by continuing and making more extreme the ever failing War on [some] Drug [users.] Much of their platform [notable exception – their Victim’s Rights position] on Crime is in this vein.

    Further service, again via the Platform [and you did play the Constitutional ‘defend the country’ card, so this may not carry weight for you] but their unwavering support and projected expansions of the eminently useless DHS [TSA strongly included] I’m expected to pay for and be in service for as well.

    Also, I’m expected to pay for their plans for ‘restoring our infrastructure’ – ‘rebuilding homeownership’ – ‘supporting our agricultural communities [in other words, continuing broken subsidies that should have been phased out after the great depression]… on and on and on…

    The right wing sucks at the public teat as much as the left – more if deficit and government size is any indicator. The want to take your money and use it the way they want to – putting you “in service” to them… To think otherwise would seem to buy into more rhetorical flourish than reality.

    I think a lot of conservatives rail against ‘loose morals’ because those morals gave us an entire generation of fatherless kids, and we’re all paying the cost in terms of welfare, crime, etc.

    Except, you know, violent crime rates and the number of people on welfare have plummeted despite the “fact” that our supposedly ‘looser’ morals have gotten worse and worse. So that conservative ‘railing’ comes from nothing more than their own selective, conservative moral bias to things they personally dislike.

    I never heard anyone say you shouldn’t question your country in a time of war, so you’ll have to tell me who you’re talking about.

    C’mon, this is too easy – “And it is our duty as loyal Americans to shut up once the fighting begins, unless—unless facts prove the operation wrong, as was the case in Vietnam.” —Feb. 27, 2003 – Bill O’Reilly. You can’t honestly watch conservative commentary and pretend this isn’t the overriding sentiment espoused. And conveniently only they can decide when the operation is proven “wrong” and we’re all ‘free’ to speak up again.

    …as LOT of angry commentary about Bush’s spending and increasing the size of government. That’s partly why the Republicans lost congress … a lot conservatives said @#$% ‘em and didn’t vote.

    Actually, statistically national turnout was very high – more along the lines of Presidential election years. The war, Bush’s unpopularity [due to the war and Katrina, mainly], Republican scandals [Abramhoff, Delay, Cunningham, Foley, Mckinney] and the reputation of the Congress as do-nothings who instead chose to focus on things like the Schiavo case all contributed to the sweep in ’06. Living in Japan since ’05 most of my news is online, but I’ve seen a share of conservative commentary. IMO you’d be very hard pressed to make a case for them making any kind of big deal about fiscal responsibility until way past the time Bush was unpopular… and then, all of a sudden, the new talking point was how he wasn’t ‘really’ a conservative anymore.

    [And isn’t ‘The Republicans lost because their supporters didn’t go out and vote’ kind of the same nonsensical ‘Americans really disagree with the Republicans, they just happened to vote them into office’? Whenever someone’s party wins it’s the “will of the American people.” When the opposition wins, it’s an anomaly or statistical outlier. Or some other inane reason. It’s goofy.]

    Ultimately, it’s kind of all nonsense. But I’m cynical today. And I agree limiting government power would be nice. I just don’t think anyone involved in politics on either “side” of the debate would agree. And all of them are true believers, in their own power.

    “I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. “I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.” “I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.” — “Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding out both puppets!”” – Bill Hicks

    Cheers, and thanks for the spirited conversation. Final word to you, sir.

    I believe we agree more than not, and share the cynicism. A pox on anyone who wants to limit free speech, regulate sexual behaviors between consenting adults, expand the size and power of government, subsidize one group of citizens at the expense of other citizens, subsidize corporations at the expense of all citizens, put incomes and property in the service of the government for any purpose not granted by the Constitution. In other words, I’m back to Jefferson’s ideal: government should prevent people from harming one another, and otherwise leave them alone.

    Cheers, and thanks to you as well.

  28. Kate says:

    I have enjoyed the exchange between Rob and Tom. Thanks, guys.

    I am also cynical. I can’t wait to vote this current bunch of idiots out…for new idiots who will probably also need to be voted out asap.

    Sad but true. Back when he actually talked like a libertarian instead of merely calling himself one, Bill Maher said both parties were full of whores … then apologized to whores.

  29. Kim says:

    @Lucy – I understand your feelings about “Red Sky, Black Death” as a portrait of a very frightening authoritarian regime. But I think it’s too simple to call the memoir’s author a “true believer.”

    Like you, I was bewildered at first by her unwillingness to offer much criticism of the atrocities she describes. But there are many possible reasons for this, among them simple fear (remember – she’d been interrogated multiple times by the NKVD’s counterintelligence unit (called “SMERSH”); a kind of forgetful patriotic nostalgia that’s common among Soviet WWII veterans (See Catherine Merridale’s excellent book, “Ivan’s War”); and, not least, an almost schizophrenic ability to believe several contradictory things at once, a crucial trait for self-preservation for “citizens” of such regimes. The writer/journalist Vassily Grossman, in his novel “Life and Fate,” describes the insidious way a totalitarian regime’s campaigns of terror and lies work on the human mind:

    “..an invisible force was crushing him. He could feel its weight, its hypnotic power; it was forcing him to think as it wanted, to write as it dictated. The force was inside him; it could dissolve his will and cause his heart to stop beating…

    “Only people who have never felt such a force themselves can be surprised that others submit to it. Those who have felt it, on the other hand, feel astonished that a man can rebel against it even for a moment–with one sudden word of anger, one timid gesture of protest.” -Grossman, p. 672

    And so I share your fears of Soviet-style ideologies and the regimes they have spawned. But I don’t judge the memoir’s author quite so harshly; I think it’s difficult to be a full-fledged “true believer” unless you are free to believe as you wish. The victims of authoritarianism, to me, are less “true believers” than mere trampled-down souls who’ve lost the energy and initiative to believe in anything at all except how to survive.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and concerns!

  30. Kate says:

    Tom, where did you get your information on the Nazi party’s platform? Thanks.

    First read about it in Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg. You can also find translations online:

    http://users.stlcc.edu/rkalfus/PDFs/026.pdf

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/25points.html

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