Tuesday Talk*: The Real Enemy, Liberals

In the course of reviewing two books, one by Michael Knowles and the other by Harvard Law’s pride, Ben Shapiro, Kat Rosenfield points out that the grievances of the right against the progressive left aren’t really about the wrongs done to conservatives at all. They are not the real enemy.

What the free speech fretting from the political Right often misses is that this culture war is largely a Left-wing civil war — and its worst casualties tend to be self-inflicted wounds. American society is increasingly segregated along political lines: we live, work, befriend and marry people with whom our primary point of commonality is that we all vote the same way.

So when Shapiro describes the grave consequences people have faced for so much as nodding toward a conservative perspective — the newspaper reporter who was fired for mentioning the n-word in a discussion about offensive speech, or the Hollywood director who was dog-piled on Twitter for saying something nice about Shapiro himself — the people he’s talking about generally aren’t on the Right. They’re liberals, being excommunicated from their professional and social networks by members of their own tribe.

As Kat notes, when Tom Cotton’s op-ed in the New York Times raised a storm of outrage and protest, it wasn’t about canceling Cotton, but the Times’ editor who approved the op-ed.

The people who lost friends and professional opportunities because they signed the Harper’s Letter in defence of free speech? All liberals. The group of women founders ousted from their own companies last year for crimes against diversity and inclusion had not a single Trump voter among them.

It’s unclear to me that they’re part of the same tribe, as much as there is an overlap in what they support. Social safety net? Check. Ending discrimination? Definitely. Diversity? Of course. But what these goals mean and how to achieve them is where the distinction lies. And that’s why the real enemies to progressives aren’t the alt-right, or even the moderate right, but the moderate left, liberals who believe in constitutional rights, due process, equal rights, free speech and tolerance for differing views.

The competition for hearts and minds on the left isn’t about persuading Trump supporters or white supremacists to see the light and come over to the left. They’re not the target audience, and they’re not going to be won over no matter what. Plus, since they’re inherently evil (and, of course, deplorable), who wants them anyway? Nor are they going to steal away those people who defend equality with screams that Trump isn’t a vulgar, amoral, narcissistic ignoramus. No liberal is signing up with white supremacists no matter what they say.

But these are the hearts and minds that progressives need to manipulate to their end if they’re to seize control. After all, liberals condemning the authoritarian, illiberal mechanisms used by progressives to achieve their goals, their absolutist outcomes that defy the foundations of liberal belief, at all cost, presents the greatest threat to progressives.

Where few inclined to side with the right would ever consider backing progressive authoritarianism, many on the left can be manipulated by similar goals to shed all principle and shame. They can be cajoled, ridiculed, accused and twisted into becoming progressives, or at least silences into not challenging the hegemony of left wing authoritarians. No one who believes in equality is likely to succumb to the allure of white supremacy, but they could well confuse it with cries for the alternative, equity.

The function of all this speech policing is to enforce hegemony on the Left, a phenomenon that writer Freddie de Boer has identified as The Iron Law of Institutions in action: people care more about maintaining status among their fellow progressives than they do about advancing the progressive cause itself.

And indeed, the Left has struggled continuously in recent years to form meaningful coalitions that would allow them to obtain political power — in part because they’re far more interested in the internecine sniping and status-seeking that ends up pushing would-be allies away. There’s a reason why, despite four years of shrill #resistance, we still only barely managed to vote Donald Trump out of office.

Is there a future for liberals, when the options are limited to Trump on the right and progressives on the left? The hope was that when the Dems rejected Warren and Sanders, choosing the least worst option in Biden, he would be the moderate liberal voice most Dems sought. Did that do the trick? Is there any hope for a return to reason over radicalism? Have the progressives managed to accomplish what the conservatives failed to do, erase liberalism and turn the left into the other flavor of authoritarianism?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

43 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: The Real Enemy, Liberals

  1. Lee Keller King

    The Iron Law Of Institutions sounds suspiciously like a simplified version of Dr Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law Bureaucracies. Coincidence? Or perhaps it is simply a corollary.

    “First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    “Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    “The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.”

    The end result appears to be the same – keeping power is more important than serving the goals of the organization. Or to paraphrase UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell “Red” Sanders, keeping power isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.

    We do indeed appear to be a ship of fools led by an elite class of fools. But (to quote Dr Pournelle), “despair is a sin.”

  2. Guitardave

    When both sides have lost the ability to think, it leaves me in the place I’ve come to call home.

  3. ppnl

    The left does not have as many “My pillow guy crazy” people as the right. Not yet. But I fear they are getting there at an accelerating pace. The scary thing is the things that both sides agree on. Repeal of section 230 for example.

    1. SHG Post author

      Lindell is good, old obvious crazy, neither fooling nor enticing anyone who does want to sleep with the crazies. The left has pseudo-intellectual crazies, like Kendi and Diangelo, wrapping their ambitions in delicious word salad so you expect it to taste better going down.

      1. ppnl

        I think both sides have always had pseudo-intellectuals. The left far more than the right. Just look at Sokal’s Fashionable Nonsense stuff from like 25 years ago. The problem with the right is that they no longer need the fig leaf of pseudo-intellectuals if they ever did. The party base drank the crazy and stupid cool-aid to the point that it defines the party.

        I think the left was partly protected from crazy and stupid because it gravitated to the right. Anti-vaxers for example. It started as a left-wing distrust of corporations. Now the right owns it. Trump’s last gift to republicans.

        1. SHG Post author

          It gives rise to the delusion that all the “smart” people are on the radical left, and if that’s what the smart people believe, it must be right because they’re smart.

          1. Gohstoffubardave

            Left or right, smart or crazy.
            No one thinks, cause they’re all fuckin’ lazy.
            RINO, DINO, Neo-con, lib.
            Slobbering fools who all need a bib.

            Swamp rats, bureaucrats, war-hawks and doves,
            No morals, just quarrels, no brotherly love.
            Give me a post and a short piece of rope,
            And I’ll show you the cure for all of these dopes.


            1. Gohstoffubardave

              I don’t know weather to say ouch or thank you…but you gotta admit it, Admiral, being the ambassador to Portugal sounds like a pretty cushy gig.

        2. Pedantic Grammar Police

          Is half of the country really crazy and stupid? Or is that just the narrative sold by the media (to both sides)? I know lots of conservatives here in North Carolina, and they don’t seem stupid or crazy, nor do my liberal friends. The liberals do seem to buy more into the idea that you have to be angry upon hearing anything that you disagree with, but this idea is relentlessly sold to both sides and it has been very successful at dividing us.

          I’m constantly struck by how similar conservatives and liberals are, and by the triviality of the disagreements between them. The vast majority on both sides are just ordinary people who are being misled by the media.

          1. SHG Post author

            Define conservatives? People who believe in conservative values or people who support Trump because they think he’s really smart and loves them?

            1. Pedantic Grammar Police

              The vast majority of Trump supporters I know are conservatives who support him because he promised to promote their values, and he continued to express support for them after the election. Many find him disgusting but held their noses and voted for him because they despise what the left has become; others love him because despite his flaws he is the only Republican in decades to actually promote their values as opposed to cynically mouthing them before the election and then doing nothing for 4 years, until the next election season.

          2. Paul Y

            Their behaviors are similar not because they believe in the same matter, but because Americans in general are brought up in enviroments where politics are so psychologically pervasive, both in and out of their homes.

            I am an immigrant from a moderately conservative country but nowhere in my upper-middle circle did anyone ever talk about politics. We were mostly concerned about grades, pop stars, your favorite or worst teachers, etc. You don’t see any 14-15 years old walking down the street and scream “asian lives matter” or “jesus saves”.

            Then you have American teenagers who walk from houses to houses in neighborhoods and give away political pamphlets. It’s an effective, dogmatic education that destroys young people’s minds from thinking critically…not to mention the general decay of public civic education that we see.

            By the way, hello from NC as well.

    1. Elpey P.

      The problem of liberal as an identity vs liberal as an ideal. Like with other labels, the noun form is often letting the adjective form down.

      1. SHG Post author

        Labels have long been a problem, but a necessary shorthand to expressing a perspective. Of course, they worked better when words had more distinct definitions.

  4. Hunting Guy

    James Pethokoukis.

    “As liberalism progresses, it is the victim of the success of its internal contradictions. It creates its own conditions to fail.”

      1. Hal

        “Diversity is strength!” However, diversity in thought/ opinion is heresy and must be punished.

        Why is that so hard to understand?

        1. Paul Y

          While I absolutely abhor the selective acceptance by American so-called progressives, my tolerance for the right wingers’ dishonest insistence on having empirically incorrect “opinions” is close to nil.

      1. SHG Post author

        It’s just a name, like the blithering idiots are believe that just because it’s called “antifa,” anyone they attack must be a fascist, because that’s what the name says.

        1. Pedantic Grammar Police

          The people who believe it may be idiots, but the people who coined it are not. They have redefined “anti” to mean nothing. Antifascist now means fascist. Antiracist means racist. Orwell would approve.

        1. Alex S.

          To paraphrase Deng Xiaoping… who cares if the cat is black or white, as long as the system is authoritarian?

        2. Paul Y

          I don’t think anyone with sanity wants a big government to solely control every resource and means of production in America, progressive or not.

  5. Elpey P.

    The future for liberals is outside the duopoly, not as one of the duopoly’s alternatives. A duopoly’s alternatives are the heartlessly transgressive and the self-righteously corrupt cop.

    1. SHG Post author

      Is there a place outside the duopoly? Instead of right and left, would rational and emotional better serve as the duopoly? People do so love binary choices.

    2. Elpey P.

      It’s duopolies all the way down, and it consistently devolves to teams. The trick is staying ahead of the curve.

      But having the establishment duopoly’s two teams enshrined in law is a bit much.

  6. John Barleycorn

    If you were run some full page PSA’s in that news paper you read everyday under the banner IT IS SIMPLE STUPID, with a photo of yourself bare chested wearing only* an ammo belt across your chest holding up a super-soaker squirt gun Rambo style liberalism may stand a chance….

    In the mean time whats the “plan”?

    I am a telling ya you are gonna have to start a minstrel show and take the show on the road, or its all over….

    *Perhaps standing atop a mountain of ten thousand Barbie Dolls, in various states of dress, if you want the suburban women to pay attention while also getting the male deplorable’ nod. I mean what could go wrong?

      1. John Barleycorn


        Nah… But my folks are still pretty bummed out that they didn’t take away my Troll Dolls, Lite-Brite and Etch-A-Sketch when they grounded me for more than three days, all three of which allowed me to perfect my inner dialog and enable me to talk to myself in public.

        And to their credit, they pretty much gave up after I impressed the vice principle in junior high school with my new and improved functionalist paradigm theory overlaying only episodes of the Archie Bunker, Bob Newhart Show, and Soap, before he suspended me for two weeks….

        Ironically my theory is more relevant today than it was then… The only irony being that, if I were a student in junior high-school today I would be expelled and wouldn’t be able to return the following year without a note and a prescription from the psychologist.

        Anyway, I am telling you the minstrel show is coming back, and don’t you worry… my brick futures position alone will subside a three year run.

  7. Jay

    There is always hope. But it is only 2021 and things are still crazy out there. Prof Blackman over at the conspiracy had an interesting take on the failure of Biden to nominate an SG for so long- his best candidate is a white woman, and thus not diverse enough, so he was running out the clock so she’d get it by default. I think that’s very telling in terms of how the left is operating at this moment.

    My concern is that the identitarian wars and all the racism on both sides is being fueled by a perceived lack of resources and decent futures that is becoming a reality. As the right would put it- the solution is to grow the economy. Period. More jobs that provide a decent life means more opportunities for everyone. But both sides are so busy fighting for their peccadillos to be a part of the larger pie it’s getting seriously hard to imagine it growing. I don’t think global warming means you can’t grow the pie- just grow it differently. We’re human beings, for god sakes, we adapt. But not if we fracture along cultural/racial lines and spend all our time fighting.

  8. Curtis

    Divide and conquer is a sound strategy to use against the other side but using it against your own group is inherently unstable. Progressive activists may love it but normal people will not be dedicated to a cause when they know they can be discriminated against for another group that is suddenly more special. Liberals, Jews, Catholics, feminists, men, etc., are ripe for the picking by a friendly, inclusive alternative. I am confident that the current progressives cannot rule for long.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s the fear of shifting from today’s victim to tomorrow’s oppressor that keeps them in line. Be obsequious or GTFO.

  9. angrychiatty

    “The competition for hearts and minds on the left isn’t about persuading Trump supporters or white supremacists to see the light and come over to the left. They’re not the target audience, and they’re not going to be won over no matter what. Plus, since they’re inherently evil (and, of course, deplorable), who wants them anyway?”

    Well that’s mostly correct. The only part you left out is this: the progressives don’t WANT those people to change their outlook or see the light and come to their side. They need those people right where they are. Because the progressives derive all of their power from wrapping themselves in the cloak of “standing up to the white supremacists.” If they couldn’t point those people out anymore, they would lose a huge amount of their claim to absolute moral righteousness. They are so desperate for “racists” to oppose that they’ve had to resort to looking within the party to find more of them.

  10. Paul Y

    American progressives seem to employ the most obnoxious methods to solve the problems which are legitimate concerns. My gripe is that they love to insert into a few issues, namely immigration and poverty issues suffered by minorities , that they are completely ignorant about and somehow twist it into racial issues when they are so much more complex. Even as a non-white person, I am growing wary of this self-flagellating white savior syndrome.

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