(I will not be using the term “liberal” because the historical meaning of that word is two-fold: either economic liberalism meaning free-trade capitalism or a focus on the civil rights of the individual. This current wave of Leftism does doesn’t seem to care about either of these things).
I’ve watched for some time as the American Left has drifted further and further away from any kind of historically leftist philosophy that deals with issues of the working class, protecting unions and social justice. Instead, the New Left focuses on groups of people defined by their difference. This is not social tolerance. Historically, the Left in America fought for social progress, which meant applying individual rights as detailed in the Constitution to those had been disenfranchised. This meant winning women the right to vote, it meant securing the rights of black children to go to the same public schools as white children. It meant protecting the rights of labor unions to meet and express their issues with management. It meant a lot of things, many of them beneficial for all Americans. This is no longer so in the New Left.
In the New Left, some groups are not tolerated. Some groups are not accepted. Even if the rationale for this is that some groups have oppressed other groups, it doesn’t work to punish the oppressor groups, any more than it works to punish all police officers for the horrible, deadly actions of a few.
These groups no longer have meaning in our system of protected cronyism and media-filtered echo chambers. We as groups and as individuals have made silos for ourselves in the public sphere, in order to not have to face the very ugly reality of American life.
Sometimes, I like to torture myself by watching videos on YouTube of millennials melting down from some perceived oppressive action or, more often, words. So often, the students I see are simply responding to words from those whose views they see as invalid. Check out videos of university students protesting lectures given by Ben Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro is one of the most reasonable, non-incendiary of the conservative apologists. He is an author, radio show host, and frequent lecturer. Yet, at many of the American colleges he visited last year, he was met with dozens of protesters, who were calling him things like “white supremacist,” and “misogynist.” From what I can tell, he is neither of those things. He simply believes in smaller government and personal responsibility. He is not a fan of social welfare programs and feels they create cultures of entitlement and dependence. He is a fan of personal freedom, individualism and other traditional conservative values. He is not a radical right-wing thinker.
However, during his 2015 tour of American colleges, he was repeatedly met with protesters shouting extreme accusations. It seems these people had made up their minds about him and did not want to hear what he had to say. Here’s the scary thing: they did not want others to hear him either. Plenty of students came out to hear him. College Republicans, conservative groups or whatnot. But the protests by these Social Justice Warriors stopped or put on hold many of his lectures. Shapiro is a smart enough guy to know he has to engage people with whom he disagrees. And he’s a good debater. His lectures include a Q&A period after he talks, so that wasn’t the objection. The objection made was that as a right-leaning Republican he was by definition a misogynistic, hate-mongering, and racist.
This is where this activity passes from protest into censorship. These leftists don’t wont debate. they want to shut down debate. We’ve gone from agreeing to have a political discourse where different viewpoints can be safely presented to a place where one side feels entitled to shut down those who do not agree with them.
During the insanity of this last election cycle that saw the rise of Donald Trump, there were countless protests against him. in general, these protests centered around him being a “racist” and “misogynist”. There was a lot of anger, but very few ideas. Is the man racist? I don’t know. Nothing he has said against illegal immigration meets the definition, in my opinion. But there is some murky stuff in his past as a landlord. So, maybe. Is he misogynist? Very likely. He certainly seems to have a distaste for fat or bossy women, and especially Rosy O’Donnell. I found what he said about being able to grope women at will due to his great wealth to be gross, inappropriate and entirely in character with the Trump America has known for the past 40 years. So, no surprise there.
I found most of Trump’s speeches to be pandering and jingoistic. He promises a better tomorrow through a return to the past. Nothing new there. It’s one of the age-old tropes politicians use to engage disenfranchised voters. Is there danger here? Danger that a demagogue will ignite nationalist fires, stoke the flames of xenophobia and other hidden things? Yep, you bet there is. But denying these things exist, or willing them away doesn’t really make them go away. There still there.
One might suppose that many disaffected people, seeing so little of themselves and their lives reflected in the MSM, were ripe for exploitation by a media master like Trump. Mr. “I love the uneducated” learned how to speak in almost magical tones, with just the right vocabulary, just the right cadence, to reach a forgotten demographic in America.
When you disengage from millions of people. When you imply that they aren’t needed anymore. That one-third of Americans are a “basket of deplorables,” it seems likely they will divest from the mainstream culture. That they will stop trusting what the pundits and news anchors tell them. It tends to make the distrust and paranoia surrounding modern politics worse. Is that what we need right now?