Friday, June 20, 2014

Politicized indignation

From Adam Bellow's "Let Your Right Brain Run Free" in the current National Review, the primary thesis of which is the importance of a conservative presence in popular culture. On the way there, accurately I think, he describes something of the nature of current political discourse:
.... The Left has always demonized conservatives, and many of my authors have been subject to that kind of ugly treatment. Those who cannot win an argument often fall back on ad hominem attacks. In the past we could ignore such attacks — indeed, they often worked in our favor. But lately they have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Those who dissent from the prevailing liberal dogma are quickly branded as extremists and declared to be bad people. Do you support the traditional view of marriage? You’re a homophobe who wants to deny equal rights to gay Americans. Do you question the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage? You are a selfish Scrooge who hates the working class. Do you want America to establish control over its borders? You hate hard-working immigrants who just want to enjoy the American dream. Do you believe a human fetus has legal and natural rights? You are a misogynist who wants to control women’s bodies. Do you support the death penalty in certain cases? You’re a heartless savage no better than the killers themselves, according to Charles Blow of the New York Times. Do you oppose any aspect whatsoever of Barack Obama’s transformative agenda for America? You’re a racist. Racist, racist, racist!

This is a bare-knuckled attempt to enforce an ideological orthodoxy by policing the boundaries of acceptable speech. The methods used — anonymous accusers, public shaming, forced apologies, reeducation programs — come straight out of the Stalinist playbook, and they are not only shockingly illiberal. They are shockingly effective.

By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches. Meanwhile the general response is...embarrassed silence and the fear of being targeted yourself. This is a key point, for just as bad as outright censorship (which cannot be imposed to the extent the Left would like) is the censorship people impose on themselves in order to avoid being punished with the loss of their reputation and livelihood. .... [more]
There are plenty of examples of this approach on the Right, too, the difference being that conservatives have less access to creating entertainment, most forms of media and, especially, to academia.