The Left’s Assault on Civil Discourse
The left often supports anti-western radicalism the way their predecessors supported Communist dictatorships.
Donald Trump’s presidency has exposed deep divisions in American society which are being exploited by zealots seeking to suppress speech and quell dissent. In aping European-style social democracies that are imploding under the weight of unsustainable economic programs and collectivist mediocrity, foot soldiers of the left are hawking an agenda that leaves no room for debate. They claim diversity as a virtue but reject diversity of opinion, and seek to impose oppressive homogeneity on popular culture through stultifying political correctness. They also display contempt for western values – often expressed as knee-jerk affinity for anti-western radicalism – in much the same way their intellectual forebears shilled for Communist dictatorships during the last century.
It seems useful idiocy never goes out of style.
It’s not opposition to Trump that’s the problem. Indeed, American citizens are free to support or oppose him as they will. Rather, it’s the demonization of all who disagree with the progressive establishment and mainstream media – and the absence of civility in political discourse. Conservatives may have disagreed with Barack Obama’s policies, but they never took to the streets in violent protest or delegitimized the institutions of government. And they never took direction from a partisan press or academic elites who use the classroom to indoctrinate, intimidate, and stifle originality.
The left has a penchant for labeling opponents as fascists, but seems itself possessed of the worst totalitarian impulses. Progressive intolerance for dissent has evolved pursuant to a dictatorial philosophy which demands that individualism yield to the collective will and seeks to enforce ideological conformity through suppression and shaming. Though progressives claim to champion the freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution, their attempts to squelch opposing viewpoints are antithetical to the ideals for which it stands.
Regulation of speech often starts surreptitiously with seemingly principled initiatives like hate-crime legislation. Such efforts may be well-intended, but they open the door to censorship while doing little to reduce crime and lawlessness. There is no inherent logic, for example, in viewing homicide instigated by bigotry as somehow worse than that motivated by personal animus, hatred, or greed. Murder is socially abhorrent regardless of impetus. When statutes base gradation of offense on the presence of hateful intent, however, it becomes unclear whether their goal is to curb objective conduct or control abstract thought. Or whether the definition of hateful intent could be manipulated by partisan hacks to criminalize speech with which they disagree. The interdiction of even odious language can pave the way for repression of political speech and the free exchange of ideas.
Those who don’t believe government would ever seek to curtail speech should consider the constraints imposed by the Federal Communications Commission, whose regulatory enforcements have often been criticized as discretionary and capricious. Or the now defunct “Fairness Doctrine,” which required media networks to run opposing viewpoints to counterbalance their own editorial opinions (particularly conservative ones), and effectively constituted regulation of content.
Though hate-crime statutes are at least subject to legislative debate and judicial review, street censorship through progressive intimidation, disapprobation, and bullying is not. The latter is far more insidious because there is no oversight for political correctness, which elevates favored interests over groups and ideas that progressive society deems unworthy of protection or respect.
Rejecting the sacred cows of liberalism invites slander and abuse. Those who criticize Black Lives Matter, defend the State of Israel, or question the revisionist Palestinian narrative, for example, are condemned as racists and bigots by a left-of-center establishment that increasingly excuses – and often endorses – intellectual and physical thuggery. Moreover, mainstream liberals are often reluctant to condemn a leftist flank that rationalizes progressive anti-Semitism as political expression, defends Islamism as the voice of indigeneity, sanctions violence against police as legitimate protest, and denies the right to express opposing views. The recent violent protests on American college campuses highlight the dangers of progressive indulgence and suggest the fascist threat comes from the left, not the right.
When students rioted at the University of California Berkeley and Middlebury College to protest appearances by conservative speakers, they engaged in vandalism, caused property damage, threatened or perpetrated physical assaults, and generally behaved like Nazi Brownshirts. Rather than being condemned for anarchic excess, they have been defended by many as exemplifying the spirit of American protest – just as they are lauded for engaging in political anti-Semitism, including Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) and Israel Apartheid Week activities. But what they really represent is a tyrannical millenarianism bent on eradicating individuality and original thought in favor of collectivist similitude. Their mob mentality does not evoke visions of the Founding Fathers as media advocates and Democratic operatives claim, but rather the “Reign of Terror” unleashed by Robespierre and the Jacobins in eighteenth century France.
The words of Robespierre in 1794 have an eerie relevance today. In his “Report on the Principles of Political Morality,” he extolled the use of political terror thus:
“If virtue be the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country … The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.”
Though it is doubtful many of today’s college demonstrators have bothered to study the French Revolution (having eschewed western studies as culturally insensitive), their Jacobin-style intimidation and persecution of dissenters cannot be ignored. They haven’t brought back Robespierre’s guillotine; but their terror tactics should be recognized as representing the same twisted character.
In the political arena, this malevolent spirit has fostered legislative obstructionism for its own sake, with the left seizing control of the Democratic Party and discouraging conciliation and compromise. The goal of many Congressional Democrats is not to seek common ground, but to impede and disparage the Republican majority; and if their intent is to emulate the turmoil and fecklessness of European social politics, they have succeeded all too well. Obstructionism has become a political end, not a means, and progressive extremism has made for some very strange bedfellows, as illustrated by the “red-green” alliance between Islamists and the left.
Whereas progressives tend to disparage religion, they are protective of Islam and accepting of its radical manifestations based on the twin premises that (a) Muslims are a persecuted class with legitimate grievances against the West, and (b) Islam is an indigenous voice wherever it exists. This obtuse viewpoint ignores that the global Muslim population numbers more than a billion (hardly a minority) and that the Islamic world has a long history of religious war against non-Muslims – including Europeans, who were targeted for jihad starting in the eighth century. However, the real reason the left embraces Islamism is a shared hatred of western culture, though this hatred springs from distinct, irreconcilable ideologies. How else to explain progressive support for proposed anti-blasphemy laws seeking to criminalize criticism of Islam?
Indeed, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010 voiced support for the UN’s “Defamation of Religions Resolution,” which would have undermined free speech where discussion of Islam was concerned. Few if any liberal civil rights organizations, moreover, seemed perturbed by the prospect of an international mandate overriding our Constitutional liberties. The willingness to subjugate their own interests to Islamist sensibilities illustrates the ignorance of secular progressives, who excuse Islamic radicalism while condemning any perceived intrusion by other religions on secular society.
The religious left goes even further by making radical chic and opposition to Israel doctrinal virtues, as evidenced by the extreme policies endorsed by some mainline Christian denominations. Many Presbyterians, Methodists, and Unitarian Universalists, for example, engage in anti-Israel activism (including BDS) and support the Kairos Palestine Ecumenical Declaration, which delegitimizes the Jewish State. While political anti-Semitism is a natural extension of repugnant replacement theology, it is also consistent with the embrace of progressive “social justice” as a faux religious creed.
Not surprisingly, the religious left has made opposing Trump an article of faith, though he has supported faith-based initiatives over the years. And Jewish progressives have attempted to label him anti-Semitic despite his respectful treatment of Israel and historical support for Jewish institutions. If liberals are now so concerned about Jew hatred, why were they silent when more than seven-thousand acts of anti-Semitism were being committed during Obama’s administration (much of it by progressives and Islamists) without clear condemnation from the president? Where was their outrage when Obama used implied stereotypes to demean opponents of his Iran deal, or when his proxies invoked anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to portray its critics as a chauvinistic minority with divided loyalties?
The liberal silence was deafening – and deeply disturbing.
Though reality seems inconvenient for leftists whose partisan goals include historical revisionism and legislative obstruction, they nevertheless have every right to criticize Trump, his policies, and his gaffes. However, their denunciations of him as inherently evil are getting tiresome, and their efforts to project their own intolerance onto him are hypocritical and perhaps pathological.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Intimidation Game
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in Israel National News.