liberalism

Rod Dreher explains who the NYT editorial board hates more than anyone else

Guess who that may be!

Armed gunmen die in an attempt to shoot up a controversial cartoon exhibit in Texas … and the New York Times editorial board blames the people exercising their freedom of speech:

Those two men were would-be murderers. But their thwarted attack, or the murderous rampage of the Charlie Hebdo killers, or even the greater threat posed by the barbaric killers of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, cannot justify blatantly Islamophobic provocations like the Garland event. These can serve only to exacerbate tensions and to give extremists more fuel.

Some of those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad may earnestly believe that they are striking a blow for freedom of expression, though it is hard to see how that goal is advanced by inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.

When a free people face execution in a free country for exercising their First Amendment freedom, it is disgraceful for a newspaper — a newspaper, for pity’s sake! — to equivocate in the defense of that freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdowas (is) an obnoxious, vicious, spiteful scandal sheet, but when religious fanatics take it upon themselves to murder its editors and cartoonists, there can be no question on whose side we must stand. Same too with Pamela Gellar and her provocateurs. They have a right to be wrong without having to fear for their lives. It is disgusting that the New York Times cannot grasp this basic principle of liberty.

Funny how the Times editorial board, back in 1998, took a different line when the matter was the cancellation, under Christian pressure, of a Manhattan theatrical production about a gay Jesus who had sex with his disciples. From that editorial:

What we are witnessing, once again, is the peculiar combat between freedoms that is repeatedly staged in America. The practitioners and beneficiaries of religious freedom attack the practitioners of artistic freedom — freedom of speech — without seeing that the freedoms they enjoy cannot be defended separately. There is no essential difference between suppressing the production of a controversial play and suppressing a form of worship. No one would have been forced to see ”Corpus Christi” had it been produced, but now everyone is forced not to see it. That sword has two edges, as Roman Catholics, indeed all the faithful, well know.

It is easy to appreciate the dilemma Lynne Meadow, the Manhattan Theater Club’s artistic director, found herself in, but it is impossible to approve her decision. That there is a native strain of bigotry, violence and contempt for artistic expression in this country is not news. But it is news whenever someone as well regarded as the head of the Manhattan Theater Club capitulates to it instead of standing firm and relying on the police for protection. This is not only a land of freedom; it is a land where freedom is always contested. When courage for that contest is lacking, freedom itself — religious or artistic — is terribly diminished.

Benign explanation: the Times editorial board are hypocrites and examples of the maxim that a liberal is someone who is afraid to take his own side in a fight. The explanation I actually believe: Who, whom? – that is, the Times figures out who the Enemy is (right wingers, conservative Christians, et alia) and deploys its journalistic energies to smiting them, with no regard to principle.

Read Rod’s bog here

Are you a liberal? Then you are Israel.

Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic gives you all the reason you need to support Israel in this particular war. By asking and answering the question, what would Hamas do if they could win, Goldberg explains in stark terms the reason Israel would risk offending world opinion to take out Hamas: this is a fight against an enemy who’s sole desire is to eliminate you and your children and to impose its totalitarian regime on the entire region.

While it is true that Hamas is expert at getting innocent Palestinians killed, it has made it very plain, in word and deed, that it would rather kill Jews. The following blood-freezing statement is from the group’s charter: “The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jews will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say ‘O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

This is a frank and open call for genocide, embedded in one of the most thoroughly anti-Semitic documents you’ll read this side of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Not many people seem to know that Hamas’s founding document is genocidal. Sometimes, the reasons for this lack of knowledge are benign; other times, as the New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch argues in his recent dismantling of Rashid Khalidi’s apologia for Hamas, this ignorance is a direct byproduct of a decision to mask evidence of Hamas’s innate theocratic fascism.

The historian of totalitarianism Jeffrey Herf, in an article on the American Interest website, places the Hamas charter in context:

[T]he Hamas Covenant of 1988 notably replaced the Marxist-Leninist conspiracy theory of world politics with the classic anti-Semitic tropes of Nazism and European fascism, which the Islamists had absorbed when they collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. That influence is apparent in Article 22, which asserts that “supportive forces behind the enemy” have amassed great wealth: “With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. With their money, they took control of the world media. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about here and there. With their money, they formed secret societies, such as Freemason, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.”

The above paragraph of Article 22 could have been taken, almost word for word, from Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish propaganda texts and broadcasts.

If you are a socialist, a liberal or a progressive, take note, Hamas hates you too.

Liberalism is a religion and it’s forcing me to convert

Sorry this is another lengthy post but worth the read.

I’ve been thinking about how to write about this topic for the past week. It doesn’t resonate in Canada like it does in the US because the majority of Canadians are already true believers and any dissenters have been for the most part shunned from the public square. Liberalism-progressivism long ago became the Canadian state religion. But in the US, these things still matter. I mentioned in a previous post how the Hobby Lobby decision has sent the American Left into fits of rage and intolerance – the Supreme Court ruled in favour of religious liberty which at one time was THE cornerstone of Western democracy. Now the Democrats and their leftist allies want to overturn even this very narrow ruling. There is only one right way to think and it is dictated by the state. Against gay “marriage” and contraception? That’s unacceptable and akin to racism. Either shut up or face the human rights tribunal. And you better apologize while you’re at it. Not that it matters

How Liberalism Became an Intolerant Dogma

In a July 11 article for The Week, Damon Linker explains “How liberalism became an intolerant dogma” (http://theweek.com/article/index/264546/how-liberalism-became-an-intolerant-dogma).

My own cherished topic is this: Liberalism’s decline from a political philosophy of pluralism into a rigidly intolerant dogma.

The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex. For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.

The result is a dogmatic form of liberalism that threatens to poison American civic life for the foreseeable future. Conservative Reihan Salam describes it, only somewhat hyperbolically, as a form of “weaponized secularism.”

I have often argued with my liberal friends and acquaintances that their worldview, despite their adamant denials, is a religion. Of course they take great offence saying they are atheists and don’t believe in the invisible God or the quaint and outdated idea of Truth. But they do: their God is the State and their Truth is what the State says it is. To my liberal readers, I mean no offence – I’m just pointing it out.

The Church of Illiberal Liberalism

As you would expect, Rod Dreher (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/illiberal-liberalism-church/) is excellent on this issue:

Under traditional liberalism, maintaining religious liberty is of vital importance; under the new, illiberal liberalism, religious liberty is a threat. In her analysis of the reaction to the Hobby Lobby ruling, Megan McArdle says that contemporary liberalism, as distinct from earlier iterations, drives religion out of the public square by abandoning the concept of negative rights (the right not to have to be forced to do something) in favor of positive rights (the right to force others to do something to serve you). Excerpt:

In the 19th century, the line between the individual and the government was just as firm as it is now, but there was a large public space in between that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control — which is why we still refer to “public” companies as being part of the “private” sector. Again, in the context of largely negative rights, this makes sense. You have individuals on one end and a small state on the other, and in the middle you have a large variety of private voluntary institutions that exert various forms of social and financial coercion, but not governmental coercion — which, unlike other forms of coercion, is ultimately enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

Our concept of these spheres has shifted radically over the last century. In some ways, it offers more personal freedom — sex is private, and neither the state nor the neighbors are supposed to have any opinion whatsoever about what you do in the bedroom. Religion, too, is private. But outside of our most intimate relationships, almost everything else is now viewed as public, which is why Brendan Eich’s donation to an anti-gay-marriage group became, in the eyes of many, grounds for firing.

For many people, this massive public territory is all the legitimate province of the state. Institutions within that sphere are subject to close regulation by the government, including regulations that turn those institutions into agents of state goals — for example, by making them buy birth control for anyone they choose to employ. It is not a totalitarian view of government, but it is a totalizing view of government; almost everything we do ends up being shaped by the law and the bureaucrats appointed to enforce it. We resolve the conflict between negative and positive rights by restricting many negative rights to a shrunken private sphere where they cannot get much purchase.

A totalizing view of government — good phrase. In the new American liberal dispensation, we begin to approach what in modern France is called laïcité – the idea that maintaining the secular nature of the public realm and the state’s monopoly on power requires keeping religion and religious expression firmly privatized. It may ordinarily be understood as the principle of the separation of Church and State, which almost all Americans, left and right, favor. But in France, it is generally taken to mean that religion may be tolerated only insofar as it does not interfere with the state and its purposes. If that’s not a totalizing view of government, I don’t know what is. These different emphases of what secularism is may seem subtle, but they’re important — and we’re seeing them take hold in this country.

He continues:

The Church of Illiberal Liberalism worships a jealous god, who will brook no rivals.

And here’s the most important thing to grasp about the Church of Illiberal Liberalism: its communicants do not have the slightest understanding that theirs is a creed, a set of dogmas, a worldview that makes exclusivist claims. They think their ideology is not an ideology, but reality, plain and simple. The book to read to understand where we are and where we are going is James Kalb’s The Tyranny Of Liberalism. The Mark Levin-esque title is misleading; this is a philosophically serious book. From a 2009 interview with Kalb:

Ignatius Insight: You spend quite a bit of time, understandably, in the book defining liberalism and variations thereof. For the sake of clarity, what is a relatively concise definition of the liberalism you critique? What are its core principles and beliefs?

James Kalb: By liberalism I mean the view that equal freedom is the highest political, social, and moral principle. The big goal is to be able to do and get what we want, as much and as equally as possible.

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That view comes from the view that transcendent standards don’t exist–or what amounts to the same thing, that they aren’t publicly knowable. That leaves desire as the standard for action, along with logic and knowledge of how to get what we want.

Desires are all equally desires, so they all equally deserve satisfaction. Nothing is exempt from the system, so everything becomes a resource to be used for our purposes. The end result is an overall project of reconstructing social life to make it a rational system for maximum equal preference satisfaction.

That’s what liberalism is now, and everything else has to give way to it. For example, traditional ties like family and inherited culture aren’t egalitarian or hedonistic or technologically rational. They have their own concerns. So they have to be done away with or turned into private hobbies that people can take or leave as they like. Anything else would violate freedom and equality.

More:

Ignatius Insight: You argue that liberalism “began as an attempt to moderate the influence of religion in politics, [but] ends by establishing itself as a religion.” How is liberalism a religion? What are some examples of its religious nature? What significant challenges do these pose to serious, practicing Catholics?

James Kalb: People in authority treat liberalism as true, ultimate, and socially necessary. So far as they’re concerned, it gives the final standards that everyone has to defer to because they’re demanded by the order of the community and also by the fundamental way the world is. That’s what it means to say it’s the established religion.

Like other religions it helps maintain its place through saints, martyrs, rituals, and holidays. A candlelit vigil for Matthew Shepard is an example. There’s also education. All education is religious education, so education today is shot through with liberal indoctrination. Liberalism even has blasphemy laws, in the form of the laws against politically incorrect comments on Islam, homosexuality, and other topics that you find in Europe and Canada.

It also has some special features. Liberalism is a stealth religion. It becomes established and authoritative by claiming that it is not a religion but only the setting other religions need to cooperate peacefully.

The claim doesn’t make much sense, since religion has to do with ultimate issues. The religion of a society is simply the ultimate authoritative way the society grasps reality. As such it can’t be subordinate to anything else.

Liberalism has been successful at obfuscating its status as a religion, and that’s been key to its success. People believe they are keeping their own religion when they give first place to liberalism. What happens though is that their original religion gets assimilated and becomes a sort of poeticized version of liberalism.

You can see that tendency vividly in my former denomination, the Episcopal Church. At least at its upper levels “mission” now means promoting things like the UN Millennium Development Goals. I was in an Episcopal church recently in which the Stations of the Cross had been replaced on the wall by the Stations of the Millennium Development Goals.

That’s not a special oddity of the Episcopalians, of course. You can see the same tendency in all respectable mainline Protestant denominations. You also see it among many Catholics. That kind of assimilation is, I think, the biggest danger to the integrity of religious life today.

Read the whole thing. It’s really important. It is vital to fight in court and elsewhere to maintain authentic religious liberty against the dogmatic advances of the Church of Illiberal Liberalism, but in Kalb’s reading, it is more important for the traditional churches to fight within themselves to maintain their traditional self-understanding, in the face of MTD, which is the only kind of overt religiosity the Church of Illiberal Liberalism can tolerate. This is why Kalb, a Catholic, endorses what I call the Benedict Option:

Still, we’re stuck with liberalism right now. As things are, to live a life as free as possible from its poisons probably does require moral heroism. Certainly it means a break with the usual middle-class lifestyle. I can’t give a lot of useful advice to moral heroes, but it seems likely that a better way of life today will require things like homeschooling and other forms of intentional separation. We need settings in which a different pattern of life can be established. We all do the best we can, though.

There are lessons here for Canadian conservatives – maybe we should not have surrendered so easily? That quaint and cherished concept of the separation of church and state that liberals used to love so much means nothing. Now the state IS the church. Problem solved.

What are the foundations of your morals? Care to find out?

In previous posts, I have written about Jonathan Haidt’s theory of moral foundations and I thought it would be interesting to give my followers an opportunity to complete Haidt’s quiz.  Do you consider yourself liberal, moderate or conservative? Where do you score on the scale?

Or perhaps you’re a member of the “activist centre” as our new Premier likes to call her brand of extremism – just kidding, well not really.

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Anyway, the whole purpose of the exercise is not to pull people apart but to bring them together, to better understand our motivations and opinions and to find the things we have in common. Alan Jacobs at The New Atlantis blog Text Patterns (http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/) summarizes Haidt’s theory and book nicely:

In his recent and absolutely essential book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt tries to understand why we disagree with one another — especially, but not only, about politics and religion — and, more important, why it is so hard for people to see those who disagree with them as equally intelligent, equally decent human beings. (See an excerpt from the book here.)

Central to his argument is this point: “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously, long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started, and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning.” Our “moral arguments” are therefore “mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.”

Haidt talks a lot about how our moral intuitions accomplish two things: they bind and they blind. “People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.” “Moral matrices bind people together and blind them to the coherence, or even existence, of other matrices.”

Complete the Moral Foundations Questionnaire at YourMorals.org (http://www.yourmorals.org/)

You have to register but it’s easy to do, there is no spam, and you are doing a service by contributing to the research. The quiz is located under the “Explore Your Morals” tab and it’s the first quiz in the list titled “Moral Foundations Questionnaire”. There are many other surveys as well, if you’re interested.

As you might expect, dear reader, the conservative cyclist scored high on four of the five foundations. On Harm, I scored near the average liberal position at 3.6; on Fairness (my lowest score), I scored 2.6, lower than both the average liberal and average conservative scores; On Loyalty (3.7), Authority (3.8) and Purity (3.3), I scored above the average conservative score.

738385 “Haidt found that in general, the moral mind of liberals rests on two of the five bases: Harm and Fairness. The moral mind of conservatives rests on these two bases, but also the other three: Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. Because of this, Haidt says, liberals have a much harder time understanding conservatives than vice versa.” courtesy of Rod Dreher

Start your morning with Rod Dreher

Sorry to harp on about Rod but he has another terrific post from July 2nd that I missed yesterday in which he analyses the Supreme Court of the United States decision Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. I am a keen follower of American politics but some of you may not be so here’s a quick explanation of the decision from Wikipedia:

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), is a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court allowing closely held for-profit corporations to be exempt from a law they religiously object to if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law’s interest. The case is the first time that the court has recognized a for-profit corporation’s claim of religious belief,[1] but it is limited to closely held corporations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The court did not address whether such corporations are protected by the free-exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. For such companies, the court directly struck down the contraceptive mandate, a regulation adopted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), requiring employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees. The court said that it was not the least restrictive way to ensure access to contraceptive care, noting that a less restrictive established alternative is already being provided for religious non-profits. The ruling could have widespread impact, allowing companies to be religiously exempt from federal laws.[2][3]

The decision has caused quite a stir. US lefties have gone bonkers.

Anyway, Dreher’s post is titled: Jonathan Haidt Can Explain The Liberal Hobby Lobby Freakout. Note: The mentions upfront of Fishtown and Belmont are references to Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. (http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Apart-State-America-1960-2010/dp/030745343X).

Jonathan Haidt Can Explain The Liberal Hobby Lobby Freakout

by Rod Dreher

A reader who posts under the name Salamander left this comment on the thread about the Left, epistemic closure, and the culture war, in which I made the point that so many on the cultural left are so confident in their own judgments, even though they don’t know what they don’t know. Salamander writes:

Rod, this is so true. I have long joked that my liberal friends love diversity, as long as the diverse persons in question behave exactly like the right sort of upper middle class white people.

I’ve also noticed my nice liberal friends assume that everyone thinks exactly like them. For example, my nice liberal upper middle class female friends know that the only reason they would possibly have gotten pregnant as a teenager would be that they were completely ignorant of how babies are made, or that they were ignorant of contraception, or evil patriarchs blocked all access to contraception, or they were raped – because why else would you jeopardize your college education and career plans? Hence they truly believe that since working class and underclass girls get pregnant frequently, it must be a combination of all of those – complete ignorance about sex and birth control, no doubt because of rape culture and patriarchy – hence more sex ed classes and burning down hobby lobby will fix it. None of them even know an actual baby mama, and have no idea that life’s priorities and circumstances are a little different in Fishtown.

Btw we live in a very Belmont-ish town, a short distance from a very Fishtown-ish town…but there is surprisingly little mixing between the SWPLs in iur town and the working class folks down the road. The five miles between us might as well be fifty in some ways. Both towns are about 99.9% white so it’s not racism. Our church is in the Fishtown-like town so we probably have more firsthand knowledge of the problems Fishtown folks face than our nice liberal friends do (they all go to the UU church in our town where they can obsess about which bathroom hypothetical transsexuals should use while ignoring the unemployment, drug addiction, and broken families down the road.)

She adds:

Rereading that, I sound a little harsh on my nice UU liberal friends. Many of them do serve in soup kitchens and do care about the poor…but I get the vibe that they prefer faraway poor, preferably of another color, because they can blame that sort of poverty on racism which they of course are against. The nearby dysfunctional white people are more problematic, because they refuse to behave like the proper sort of white people. As it is often difficult for upper middle class white people to imagine NOT being upper middle class, they can’t quite figure out why the lack of clear cut rules and moral norms has caused so much chaos in the lower socioeconomic groups, when it hasn’t affected them nearly so much.

This brought to mind something I write about from time to time: the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s finding that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives.

In his invaluable book The Righteous Mind, Haidt — a secular liberal — talks about how our moral intuitions inform our worldview far more than does reason. You can get a basic idea of his thesis in his TED talk. From that talk, here is a very basic outline of Haidt’s theory:

Let’s start at the beginning. What is morality and where does it come from? The worst idea in all of psychology is the idea that the mind is a blank slate at birth. Developmental psychology has shown that kids come into the world already knowing so much about the physical and social worlds, and programmed to make it really easy for them to learn certain things and hard to learn others. The best definition of innateness I’ve ever seen – this just clarifies so many things for me – is from the brain scientist Gary Marcus. He says, “The initial organization of the brain does not depend that much on experience. Nature provides a first draft, which experience then revises. Built-in doesn’t mean unmalleable; it means organized in advance of experience.” OK, so what’s on the first draft of the moral mind? To find out, my colleague, Craig Joseph, and I read through the literature on anthropology, on culture variation in morality and also on evolutionary psychology, looking for matches. What are the sorts of things that people talk about across disciplines? That you find across cultures and even across species? We found five — five best matches, which we call the five foundations of morality.

The first one is harm/care. We’re all mammals here, we all have a lot of neural and hormonal programming that makes us really bond with others, care for others, feel compassion for others, especially the weak and vulnerable. It gives us very strong feelings about those who cause harm. This moral foundation underlies about 70 percent of the moral statements I’ve heard here at TED.

The second foundation is fairness/reciprocity. There’s actually ambiguous evidence as to whether you find reciprocity in other animals, but the evidence for people could not be clearer. This Norman Rockwell painting is called “The Golden Rule,” and we heard about this from Karen Armstrong, of course, as the foundation of so many religions. That second foundation underlies the other 30 percentof the moral statements I’ve heard here at TED.

The third foundation is in-group/loyalty. You do find groups in the animal kingdom – you do find cooperative groups – but these groups are always either very small or they’re all siblings. It’s only among humans that you find very large groups of people who are able to cooperate, join together into groups, but in this case, groups that are united to fight other groups. This probably comes from our long history of tribal living, of tribal psychology. And this tribal psychology is so deeply pleasurable that even when we don’t have tribes, we go ahead and make them, because it’s fun. (Laughter) Sports is to war as pornography is to sex. We get to exercise some ancient, ancient drives.

The fourth foundation is authority/respect. Here you see submissive gestures from two members of very closely related species. But authority in humans is not so closely based on power and brutality, as it is in other primates. It’s based on more voluntary deference, and even elements of love, at times.

The fifth foundation is purity/sanctity. This painting is called “The Allegory Of Chastity,” but purity’s not just about suppressing female sexuality. It’s about any kind of ideology, any kind of idea that tells you that you can attain virtue by controlling what you do with your body, by controlling what you put into your body. And while the political right may moralize sex much more, the political left is really doing a lot of it with food. Food is becoming extremely moralized nowadays, and a lot of it is ideas about purity,about what you’re willing to touch, or put into your body.

Haidt found that in general, the moral mind of liberals rests on two of the five bases: Harm and Fairness. The moral mind of conservatives rests on these two bases, but also the other three: Loyalty, Authority, and Purity. Because of this, Haidt says, liberals have a much harder time understanding conservatives than vice versa. Todd Zywicki explores this point:

One other point that I find really interesting and important about Haidt’s work is his findings on the ability of different groups to empathize across these ideological divides. So in his book (p. 287) Haidt reports on the following experiment: after determining whether someone is liberal or conservative, he then has each person answer the standard battery of questions as if he were the opposite ideology. So, he would ask a liberal to answer the questions as if he were a “typical conservative” and vice-versa. What he finds is quite striking: “The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as ‘very liberal.’ The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives.” In other words, moderates and conservatives can understand the liberal worldview and liberals are unable to relate to the conservative worldview, especially when it comes to questions of care and fairness.

In short, Haidt’s research suggests that many liberals really do believe that conservatives are heartless bastards–or as a friend of mine once remarked, “Conservatives think that liberals are good people with bad ideas, whereas liberals think conservatives are bad people”–and very liberal people think that especially strongly. Haidt suggests that there is some truth to this.

If it is the case that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives, why is that? Haidt’s hypothesis is that it is because conservative values are more overlapping than liberals–conservatives have a “thicker” moral worldview that includes all five values, whereas liberals have a “thinner” view that rests on only two variables. Thus, the liberal moral values are constituent part of the liberal views, but not vice-versa. So conservatives can process and affirm liberal moral views and liberals literally cannot understand how someone could be both moral and conservative–the moral values that might be animating a conservative (say, tradition or loyalty) are essentially seen by liberals as not being worth of moral weight. So conservatives who place weight on those values are literally seen as “immoral.”

More Zywicki:

As an aside, I think the “thinness” of the liberal moral worldview may explain a phenomenon that has puzzled me, which is the speed at which liberal views harden into orthodoxy and the willingness of liberals to use various forms of compulsion to enforce that orthodoxy. Consider same-sex marriage. For conservatives, this is actually quite a difficult topic and one sees a wide variety of opinion and discussion on the “conservative” side of the fence. “Conservative” opinion is not uniformly opposed to same-sex marriage and conservatives who support same-sex marriage are not ostracized or silenced for doing so. I think Haidt gives a sense why: same-sex marriage cuts across a lot of these moral dimensions in different ways–it simultaneously triggers sanctity (for religious conservatives) and authority (tradition), but it also triggers equality/fairness impulses and care/harm impulses for the individuals affected by it. So conservatives, I think, tend to see it as an issue on which reasonable minds can disagree and that those who hold contrasting views are not generally thought to be immoral or evil. I think this sense that there is room for legitimate disagreement is also consistent with the one near-consensus view of conservatives, which is that regardless of one’s position on the issue there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, as opposed to allowing the issue to evolve through democratic processes that permit disparate moral and other views to be heard and compromised.

Liberals, by contrast, appear to broach little disagreement from the orthodoxy on this issue (and others for that matter), and I think Haidt gives us a sense why. If they are processing this only through the care and fairness moral value frameworks, then that implies that only immoral people could be opposed to same-sex marriage. And if these people are immoral, then their opposition is hateful and unjustified. So a notion quickly hardens into an orthodoxy–no moral person could oppose same sex marriage. It is then a logical step to a willingness to demonize and try to silence opponents of same-sex marriage as holding not just wrong-headed but illegitimate views, much like the Inquisition, which was premised on the idea that there is potential harm and no value in tolerating “error.” (‘That’s an oversimplification of the Inquisition, of course.) Ditto for more petty forms of censorship and suppression of speech, such as university speech codes.

I think this is right, and it goes far to explain why I am very pessimistic about the future of religious liberty in post-Christian America. You will remember that in the 1996 Romer v. Evans decision, Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court majority, said in striking down a Colorado’s Amendment 2, which banned special protection for gays and bisexuals:

Its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.

This is a classic example of the Haidtian disconnect between liberals and conservatives (N.B., Justices Kennedy and O’Connor, both nominated by Reagan, are more libertarian than conservative). The Court majority could not imagine any reason other than hatred as the basis for disapproving of homosexuality. This formed the basis for all subsequent gay rights jurisprudence, specifically Lawrence (2003) and Windsor (2013). And it will be on this basis that the Court eventually constitutionalizes same-sex marriage.

What does this have to do with the thermonuclear pants-crapping freakout from liberals over this week’s Hobby Lobby decision? Many liberals seem incapable of grasping that there were and are profound moral issues present in the controversy. Conservatives can, or should be able to, easily understand why liberals who do not believe that Purity, Authority, or Loyalty are morally significant qualities disagree with the decision. Conservatives can also understand why liberals who don’t believe that life begins at conception cannot grasp why it’s such a big deal to those who do, based on the Harm foundation. What is remarkable — and deeply worrying — is not only that so many liberals cannot imagine why conservatives conclude the things we conclude, but that they assume our beliefs only come from illegitimate assumptions. As Zywicki wrote, it’s a quick step from concluding that one’s opponents are only driven by hatred to concluding that they must be thoroughly stamped out, because their irrational animus must not be allowed any quarter. Error has no rights. Suffer not a witch to live. Etc.

The country has unmistakably become far more liberal on gay rights and sexuality in general over the past 50 years — and more individualistic too. When a majority of Americans accept the liberal view of sex and its meaning (or lack thereof), they will be much less sympathetic to religion-based dissent from the mainstream, precisely because they will not be able to comprehend how any decent person could believe the things that traditional religionists do. The Millennials are well on their way: according to the Pew study, they are more liberal than older Americans in their attitudes toward sexuality, they are less religious, they are less trusting of others, and they are more disconnected from institutions.

All this would not be as concerning to me if I had confidence that liberals empathized with conservatives, even as they disagreed with us. But on Haidt’s view, many (though not all) liberals see us only as crazy and/or bad when we disagree with them. And they don’t want to try to understand where we’re coming from, because what good can come from practicing empathy towards evil bastards?

What compounds the fear and frustration is that according to Pew, I am a “faith and family leftist” — that is, a moral and social conservative whose moral and social conservatism (my Christianity, frankly) causes me to break ranks with the mainstream right, usually over issues of economic fairness, including protecting the poor. I left the GOP and registered as an Independent because I no longer believe that the Republican Party’s agenda is one I can identify with. I consider myself more open to voting for Democrats today than I have been since college, especially on matters of foreign policy.

Yet seeing the grotesque animosity towards people like me from liberals over the small-beer Hobby Lobby decision compels me to face up to the fact that the only political force standing between me, my church, and my community, and a State dominated by people who think we traditional church people are cretins who deserve to be pushed around, is Republicans.

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I don’t like this association one bit

I came across this article in Rolling Stone this morning (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/heil-hipster-the-young-neo-nazis-trying-to-put-a-stylish-face-on-hate-20140623). The article explains how Germany’s neo-Nazis are using social media and appropriating popular hipster culture to spread their warped propaganda.

Over the past year, partly because of leaders like Schroeder and partly because of the unstoppable globalization of youth culture, the hipsterification of the German neo-Nazi scene has begun to gain steam. This winter, the German media came up with a new term, “nipster,” to describe the trend of people dressing like Brooklyn hipsters at Nazi events. Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There’s even a vegan Nazi cooking show. “If the definition of the nipster is someone who can live in the mainstream,” Schroeder explains, “then I see it as the future of the movement.”

And then I came across this:

And now another American export has arrived: In 2012, the daily Welt heralded the “hipster” as Germany’s “new object of hate” and just this February, the country’s biggest tabloid, Bild, offered a guide to “hipster types” for its readers. (Example: “The fixed-gear fanatic never goes anywhere without his bike.”)

So in Germany, riding a fixed-gear bike is akin to being a neo-Nazi. Jeesh, I don’t think so.

The association of conservatives with fascism and Naziism is extremely irksome. It’s absolutely false but has been used by leftists to smear us for years. Luckily, the “conservative=fascist, Nazi” lie has been put to rest. In his book Liberal Fascism (http://www.amazon.ca/Liberal-Fascism-American-Mussolini-Politics/dp/0767917189), Jonah Goldberg explains why. Here’s an excerpt from the book description:

Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s Fascism.

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities—where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler’s Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

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James Delingpole reviewed the book for The Spectator in 2009 (http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/3387736/liberals-are-the-true-heirs-of-the-nazi-spirit/):

Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is a conservative’s wet dream. No, it’s better than that. The moment you read it — presuming you’re right-wing, that is — you will experience not only a rush of ecstasy, but also a surge of revolutionary fervour and evangelical zeal. You’ll want to email all your friends and tell them the wonderful news: ‘I’m not an evil bastard, after all!’

What Goldberg very effectively does is to remove from the charge sheet the one possible reason any thinking person could have for not wanting to be right-wing: viz, that being on the right automatically makes you a closet fascist/Nazi scumbag. By accumulating a mass of historical evidence so extensive it borders on the wearisome, Goldberg comprehensively demonstrates that both Nazism and fascism were phenomena of the Left, not of the Right.

The book, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller has, needless to say, enraged lefties (‘liberals’ as they’re more usually known in the States) everywhere. ‘In the first week I had half a dozen emails from total strangers saying, “How dare you accuse us caring liberals of being fascists!” and then going on to say what a shame it was that my family hadn’t been sorted out once and for all a few years back in the concentration camps,’ he says.

A comment on the Delingpole article by Kevin is also insightful:

One thing that unites Marxists, Nazis and Liberals is their belief in historical progress. The Marxists put their faith in a predicted worldwide proletarian revolution. What happened instead was a great war infused with the spirit of patriotism. The Nazis picked up on that and put their faith in the nation. When they lost, the Liberals put their faith in opposing the nation. Now that they are losing the jihad, the next stage for the Left is to put its faith in Allah.

Another thing that unites Marxists, Nazis and Liberals is that they hate Catholicism.

 So, if you are a conservative and  someone calls you a fascist or a Nazi, just direct them to theconservativecyclsit.com for a history lesson.

The great Leszek Kolakowski and the great Anastasio Mouratides

In a post this morning, Rod Dreher draws our attention to an essay by Leszek Kolakowski, the Polish philosopher and historian who is best know for his critical analysis of Marxism.

Dreher writes (emphases are mine):

A Kolakowskian Conservative

A reader sends in this excerpt from an essay by the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski [1], titled “How To Be A Conservative-Liberal-Socialist.” Kolakowski says this about what conservatives believe:

1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.

2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life–families, rituals, nations, religious communities–are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.

3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment–that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed– is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.”

Read Kolakowski’s short essay here: http://www.mrbauld.com/conlibsoc.html

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I was very fortunate to have been exposed to the thought and writing of Leszek Kolakowski. In the late 1980s, before the fall of the USSR and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, many university professors and public intellectuals were keen defenders of Marxism and Communism. The Soviet Union and other communist countries were to be admired and emulated. They criticized Western foreign policy and loathed Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. I was in graduate school at the time, attempting to complete a Master’s Degree in History. The university had just hired a crop of new history professors who were all Marxist – or New Left, as they would say. These were respected scholars. But boy were they dumb. I am not exaggerating. We were told that Western civilization was decadent, capitalism and democracy were evil and communism was a utopia. One prof consistently used Albania as a model society to be emulated for its equality and income distribution. Of course, all this happened at a time when in reality the Soviet Union and communism were on the verge of collapse. In class we learned one thing but on television we watched news of the Solidarity movement in Poland and breadlines in Moscow. We thought of ourselves as good socialists, “standing up to the man”, but something didn’t seem right.

I remember asking one professor in early 1989 whether or not he thought the Soviet Union may collapse and the Berlin Wall come down. He said the Wall would never come down because the US (that’s right, the US) had an interest in keeping it up!! I never, ever took anything he said seriously after that, and of course the Wall came down in November 1989.

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Anyway, a group of grad students including me started to ask the tough questions. We felt we were being forced to think a certain way despite the realities of Marxism and communism we were witnessing. Naturally we rebelled. And we had a sympathetic professor on our side, an older scholar of Greece and Byzantium, who agreed to teach a grad course in Marxism. Of course, some of the younger profs said we were being foolish and undermining our education.

The great Dr. Anastasios Mouratides agreed to teach the class and, as I recall, about five of us dared to enroll. And our textbook was Kolakowski’s masterpiece of analysis titled Main Currents in Marxism. The younger profs did not take Kolakowski seriously.

His magnum opus was the three-volume “Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution”, published in the 1970s. It calmly and expertly demolished the pillars of Marxist thought: the labour theory of value, the idea of class struggle, historical materialism and the like. He also pointed out, again without unnecessary polemics, the practical shortcomings of communist systems. Stalinism was not an aberration, he argued, but the inevitable consequence of pursuing a communist utopia. For that, powerful left-wing voices such as the historian E.P. Thompson berated him as a traitor to the noble socialist ideals that he once espoused. (The Economist, July 30, 2009)

Honestly, I don’t remember too much of the course –  there was lots of debate inside and outside the classroom which spilled over to our other courses, and my major essay was a study of Marx’s concept of nature.

Anyway, what I do remember is that my outlook on life changed during that course and I never again flirted with socialism. And I am forever grateful to Professor Anastasio Mouratides.

Read more about Leszek Kolakowski here:

http://www.economist.com/node/14120114

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leszek_Ko%C5%82akowski

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