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Monday, March 04, 2013

The Closing of the Liberal Mind

Suppose that you are a Soviet agent in the 1950s. Your cover is that of an insurance salesman. Of your two "jobs", the Soviet agent part is more important, but you need to be a good insurance salesman to maintain your cover.

Being a good insurance salesman doesn't clash with being a good Communist, because your job selling life insurance allows you to pursue your real job. And you cannot conflate the two jobs. You can't sell insurance to your KGB bosses or pitch Communism to your insurance prospects. If you do that, then worlds will collide.

But if Communism is on the way up, then you can stop selling insurance and tell everyone who walks into your office that Communism is their best insurance. You are no longer a Communist who sells insurance. You are just a Communist running an insurance agent's office.

This state of affairs has applications beyond Communism and life insurance.

Suppose you are a liberal in the 1950s. You don't support some gang of reds goosestepping their way across the country and rounding up people into gulags. Nor do you want any of the revolutions that some of the radicals hanging around outside NYU sometimes recite poems about.

You believe that the best pathway to a liberal society is through liberal institutions. You disdain the Marxists with their rigid party orthodoxy for closing off their minds to open inquiry and healthy debate.

As a journalist, a professor, a scientist or a lawyer, you believe that maintaining liberal institutions will liberalize society. That a free press will invariably spread liberal ideas, that scientific inquiry and open debate will teach people to be more open-minded and that protecting everyone's rights will end a society of privileged tiers.

The society that you are working toward may be a one-party state, or a multiparty state where all the parties are of the left, but you still believe that will come about through a liberalized society where the vast majority will be educated and shaped into recognizing the truth. 

And you believe that values such as objectivity and scientific truth, and institutions that are open, will bring people to recognize that truth in the long-term, even if you have to accept defeats from these values in the short-term.

Accordingly, as a journalist you will report both sides of the story, even if your bias does spill out in the framing of it, and even if the other side's view becomes popular enough to temporarily threaten a program that you want to see carried out, calculating that maintaining trust in the institution of journalism will allow you to reach more people in the long-term.

As a professor, you will teach views that you disagree with even if some students may be influenced by them, because the legitimacy of academia as a place of open inquiry is more important in the long-term to the success of your ideas.

As a scientist, you will challenge wrong theories that may advance your views in the short-term, but threaten the integrity of science in the long-term. As a lawyer you will defend people you disagree with to maintain an open system that allows you the freedom to dissent.

It's not always like this. There's plenty of bias and favoritism in the mix. But underneath it is the notion that an open society and the institutions that keep a society open are the best means of creating a liberal society.

But now you are a liberal in 2013 and the society is already very liberal. You are the product of liberal professors who learned at the feet of other liberal professors for 3 or 4 generations. You grew up in a liberal community to parents whose grandparents were already singing red campfire songs. Like them, you came of age as a member of a natural elite.

The newspapers you read, the textbooks you studied, the movies you watch, the professors who taught you and every adult you grew up with all reflect your point of view. You have no sense of being marginalized or out of step. Nor do you have any sense that there is another point of view out there. Only ranks of ignorant teabaggers paid for by corporate money who are about to be swept away into the dustbin of history as soon as the multicultural youth of tomorrow put together another Hip-Hop Against AIDS protest.

You live in a bubble and you see no need for an open society or for maintaining the integrity of institutions such as journalism or the scientific community. The very idea of objectivity is at odds with your entire way of thinking because it presumes that there is some higher truth than the one propounded by the progressive reality-based community. And you know, with the casual faith of any born believer, that this is not possible.

As a journalist, you report a progressive narrative. The other side doesn't exist except as an obstacle, a stumbling block to the forward march of progress. They are only there to be ridiculed out of history. When you see numbers showing that very little of the country trusts the media, you disregard them, because what else are all those strange people in flyover country going to do anyway? Stop watching CNN? Stop reading Newsweek? And so what if they do? Who needs them anyway?

When Bob Woodward calls out the White House on a point of fact and then on the treatment of journalists, you load up the contempt cannons and let him have it. You mock him for being an egotist, for making the story all about him, for being a sissy and a coward and a bad journalist. None of these things are significant in detail. They are conveniences and the mockers are far more guilty of them than the mockee. You really mock him for the same reason that you mock Republicans. You mock him because he has become an obstacle in the forward march of progress and in the post-journalistic era, snark is the easiest and cheapest weapon in your social arsenal.  The one that denotes superiority through contempt, rather than truth.

Woodward might say that the facts matter, but that's old-school journalism thinking. There are no more facts, only fact checks. And those fact checks are meant to prove that we are right and they are wrong. That is the purpose of the media. It's the purpose of new journalists who spin coverage and cut and paste talking points from the White House and Media Matters because it tells them in which direction to point their fire at.

As a scientist, you formulate a conclusion that will lead to a healthier society, and then you build a hypothesis around it, and then you declare it to be science. Your science, like your journalism, consists of the progressive narrative that proves whatever you want it to prove, whether it's that capitalism will melt the icebergs, homosexuality is genetically fixed or oil is about to run out. Scientific objectivity has no more meaning to you than it did to the Caliph who torched the Library of Alexandria. If science is worth anything, then it's progressive. And if it doesn't, then it's worthless.

As a teacher or professor, you teach your students to challenge whatever their parents taught them, while accepting whatever you teach them. Your goal is not to teach them to think, but to trap them in a closed loop of progressive thinking, forever looking down at the less enlightened while striving to become more enlightened without actually giving up any privilege.

As a lawyer, you work to create a closed system where no one gets any rights except through the progressive narrative. An open system is no longer in your favor now that you think you control it. You have no idea why anyone who is right would want to let those who are wrong speak out and spread their ignorance and hate.

Across a variety of fields, open institutions become closed systems. Their purpose is finished now that they have led people into the maze. What was once open inquiry has become closed indoctrination. The legitimacy of the institution and the system no longer concerns those who run it, now that they believe that there are no more alternatives to them. These systems have become discredited but those who run them believe that the debate is over.

The open mind was a useful tool in the past because it enabled the questioning of another way of thinking, doing and being. But now it's an obstacle because the way of thinking, doing and being is owned by the former questioners. Dissent is only patriotic when you're one of the patriots. Questioning authority should only be done when you are the questioner, rather than the authority.

Or to put it another way, the men who run them are no longer liberals who sell journalism, science, the law or ideas. They think that the revolution has come and they only sell one thing now. It comes in a little red box that closes and never opens again.

The trap has closed, but the trappers are as much inside it as anyone else. Worse still, they are as unaware of being inside it as fish are of water. The closed system is all they know. Doublethink displays of cynicism and faith based on party affiliation are second nature to them.

They have forgotten how to think about things, but they are very good at thinking about how to convince others of those things. They no longer explore ideas, they only missionize. They are great marketers, but failed intellectuals. Their only skill set is a social media strategy backed by the right font choices. They can convince people to do something, but they can't ask whether the thing should be done.

The American liberal of the age is dead from the neck up. A member of the elite, he rules, but has no talent for it. Like the Bolsheviks, he is adept at blaming others for everything and at manufacturing simple slogans. And like them he thinks only in terms of crude power, of control and leverage, without understanding why his intellectual predecessors abandoned such revolutionary tactics in favor of institutional influence. 

Generational degradation has robbed him of any sense of time. He is always living in the present, which also seems to him to be the future. The past to him is a treasure trove of eccentricities. And he cannot conceive of any future that supersedes him and his way of life. Patience, like objectivity, is a foreign notion to him. Nothing can wait for tomorrow or ten years from now. Everything must come about right now. Battles are won, but wars are lost. The liberal hare races ahead into the post-everything future, never considering that in the long-term, it is the slow conservative tortoise that wins the race.

29 comments:

IgorR said...

Arguing with today's liberals leaves one feeling both frustrated and dirty: it's like trying to explain to self-confident, misogynous rapists that rape is wrong or to psychopathic serial killers that murder is wrong. Their arguments are always illogical and occur within the context of some artificial reality where black is white and white is black. I keep asking myself why they persist in being so disconnected from readily observable facts, but there is not use. Michael Savage was right: liberalism is a mental disorder, and growing up hearing nothing but this insanity makes them not only unable but unwilling to question themselves. We are "lucky" enough to have the worst of their kind leading our country. Leading it straight towards destruction.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Those are good analogies.

Higher ideas have been fragmented. What remain are private realities defended by emotion.

Naresh Krishnamoorti said...

Are you saying that the cultural marxists believe that the Hegelian dialectic is over?

Anonymous said...

This might be off subject, or it might be dead on. I have noticed that in our computerized entertainment existence that many people cannot think. They are not just unwilling to try, many people seriously cannot think through even mildly complex ideals if it takes longer than 30 seconds. In essence, the ideals of Freedom as envisioned by our Founding Fathers is totally beyond their grasp. Many of these people are considered intelligent and capable people, but only in a technical way and usually only associated with their job field.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Golly, that is one of the best summations of the Left I have ever read! Well Done, Sir!

meema said...

Fortunately for you, Daniel, you write so far over liberal’s heads you can hide in plain sight, wielding your word sword. Which begs the question: can cool intelligence win the war with hot mess dumbed-down emotion?

Edward Cline said...

What a coffin-nailing essay on the epistemology of the 21st century liberal.

I made this comment on another writer's article about liberal journalists, which can also apply to liberal academics, PC scientists, community-organizing lawyers, and progressive politicians, that they all adhere to what is fundamentally a fantasy woven in the Tolkien-esque Middle Earth of Progressivism, with a few facts suffocated in generous dollops of verisimilitude and practiced ambiguity.

Yes, the American liberal is dead from the neck up. Which poses the question: Are we being ruled by The Walking Dead?

Anonymous said...

I dimly recall the McCarthy hearings and my parents'interest in them. Later, I remember being terrified of 'the bomb' and Communism.
I was not alone in the experience. Subsequently in college, I participated in protests against the Viet Nam war. To show solidarity, I also protested and supported the ban on lettuce, and as I recall, grapes, even though I knew nothing about migrant farm workers, having always lived in a city.
This was fairly typical behavior for privileged youth in those days.
The protests may have been also about was Not becoming our parents, who lived life according to fairly inflexible rules, as we saw it.
So we allowed, in fact, encouraged, the pendulem to swing Far Left, all in the name of freedom, which turned out not to be free after all.
The irony of all this is that now, when we look in the mirror we see our parents, and when we speak, we hear them, not to mention most of us still miss them every day.
If anything has changed, it may be that this kind of naivete used to be limited to inexperienced youth, it has now spread to people we used to rely upon to be grownups.

Ping Jockey said...

I've observed for a long time that IF liberals/leftists even have minds, very few bother to actually use them.

AG said...

It really is funny to watch how inflexible and closed minded the Left is. Anything coming from outside the Left's bubble is always wrong no matter what. If a Republican claims 2+2=4 they will deny this and tell you "NO! 2+2=Bunny!" Ask them to back it up and they tell you to google it and sure enough, there is some Motherjones or Alternet article explaining how mathamatics is a Conservative racist conspiracy and therefore 2+2 can equal anything your heart desires.

Which get's to the point. We on the right spend far too much time argueing with these bubbleheads. As a recent study from Britain's University College London actually proved that Liberals think with the parts of the brain that effect emotion while people on the right tend to use the parts of the brain used for rational thought.

fsy said...

This has been said a million times, but I have to repeat it in the context of this article and its title:

The word "liberal" has been usurped and distorted to mean the opposite of its genuine connotation.

The 1950's liberal still had a strong connection to the original meaning of the word and therefore still saw some value in freedom and the open society, but today's "liberal" knows only that "liberalism" or "progressive ideas" mean total control over everyone and everything.

It's hard to see how good can win when language is so distorted. "Liberal" and "Progressive" just sound so good, and "Conservative", sorry to say, sounds so closed-minded and out of touch.


The liberal hare races ahead into the post-everything future, never considering that in the long-term, it is the slow conservative tortoise that wins the race.


We pray.

Chris said...

Wow.

Cogent.

Compelling.

Pogo-revisited-writ-large per the ersatz-"liberal" community -- We have met the enemy and he is us.

And they are sublimely self-unaware of it ever having happened.

Anonymous said...

Here are 2 things to pose to a liberal. You're sure to shake your head at their responses.

1. Remember their uproar over the NY pol who dressed up for Purim in blackface. Ask your liberal if they were enraged at Dan Akroyd's train scene in the movie "Trading Places".

2. There was an excellent study released a week or two ago establishing the disporportionate effects of gun violence on blacks, all black on black crime. Suggest to your liberal that the gun control solution logically dictates that guns be kept out of the hands of blacks.

Have fun.

Anonymous said...

First Anonymous,

I wonder if the inability to develop a thought, or even hold a focus for moe than a few moments is maybe a result of too much time being shaped by the rapid fire, "psychedelic" conditioning of Sesame Street from the 1960s on. Earlier kiddie shows were somewhat more leisurly paced, allowing kids to develop concentration and follow a simple plot. Sesame Street trained them to jump from one image to another in ra[pid-fire time. Also inculcateds ADHD.
-Rurik

eh said...

You are the best topical, daily, journalist in America. The quality of the writing, and thinking, is impressive, the fact that you
produce it on an daily basis is astounding.

EH

Anonymous said...

The mind ought to be focused on the things that matter-God and eternal life.

Modern man has simply refused to focus on either and is spinning around with his head loose and finding that he keeps repeating the mistakes of history because he doesn't believe in reality. Reality is much too difficult for modern man because he is used to substituting it for a false reality that insists he is his own god and thus reality is simply that which he chooses.

God is the only truth and the only reality. As he has been shoved aside, forgotten, mocked and relegated to mere superstition, man has and will continue to flail about as a fish without water and one day perish.

Elaine

Pisang said...

Good analysis, as always. But I see no reason to believe that the conservative tortoise will win. Your rather convincing writings over the past few months don't give me any reason either.

Anonymous said...

@Rurik,
I think that Sesame Street, The Electric Company and all of the children’s shows that followed have much to do with the deplorable cognitive state of modern man. The TV producers learned that they could force your attention to remain on the screen by switching the picture every 7-12 seconds, which you will notice is common in all shows these days, quite often attained just by changing camera angle. The effects on an adult mind is to compel you to pay attention, as your mind registers that as movement and a possible threat in the more primitive parts of the brain. The effects on a undeveloped child’s mind are to scramble their ability to pay attention (think ADD/ADHD) in the long term, along with a bevy of other possible negative effects.
On top of that, you have an education institution that has no desire to produce critical thinkers, but rather compliant, non-thinking but capable technicians, whether they are to become lawyers, plumbers or fry cooks. Think the Beta’s and below in the Brave New World.
On top of that, we have entertainment and distraction constantly yammering at us; Smartphone, IPADS, social media, dance with dogs, online porn, latest hock-ball scores and stats, etc., all of it absolutely meaningless and meant to distract (Daniel has already pretyy well covered the shallow, formulaic nature of most all entertainment these days). I occasionally take college courses even at my advanced age and find it shocking that at the break times, everyone goes outside and immediately starts using the smartphones to facebook, twitter or chat rather than dealing with the real people right there. In this last, maybe I am just old fashioned, but something seems distinctly unhealthy about such conduct.
On top of that we are the most hopped up, medicated, sugar-high population on the face of the Earth. Some may drink more alcohol per-capita, but none compare to our use of Prozac/Ritalin and their off-spring. Something like 50% of the American population is on some psychotropic drug.
On top of that we have a media/news/government complex that produces crisis after crisis. Has anyone else noticed that not a week goes by without some crisis? Sandy-Newtown-Iran-Sequester-etc. All breathlessly reported as if the expectations are that with each we should get up, run about the room screaming with our hair on fire and then flog ourselves to tears.
All combined, this produces a numb, shell-shocked, zombie shuffling populous. For him or her, thinking isn’t just alien, but painful, oh so much more painful than simply sitting down and enjoying another episode of dancing with zombies or see how they are trending on twitter or see if they can vicariously gain some sense of self-worth through the victories of their favorite badminton player.

Anonymous said...

Reversing the course of this is train is impossible. An outstanding analysis, something that I have considered, but nothing I could have broken down and expressed so eloquently.

Now the problem is how does someone like me live out my last 25 years in a world that wants to sweep me into a dustbin.

Joe Ynot said...

I think that Naresh Krishnamoorti's inadvertently illustrates SK's point, which is that modern "liberals" (pace FSY's comment), do not even know what Hegelian dialectic is. Their predecessors in the 50's that SK refers to would have, but the modern liberal has arrived at Fukuyama's "The End of History," and so has no need.

To my eyes, modern liberalism resembles most closely certain aspects of the kind of Catholicism Luther rebelled against: Rote repetition of uncontemplated dogmas, the purchase of indulgences, an elite to interpret and decree what is moral and good, etc.

Anonymous said...

This, and other similar articles along with their comments, are very good. Just not any help. What can be DONE, that is what needs to be said. And, yes, I know I'm not helping since, I too, do not have an answer.

DenisO said...

My self-defense to insanity that has worked for almost 4 decades is the pendulum; it always swings too far before it changes direction. Now, I sometimes wonder if it isn't welded in place, but I have faith.
The Leftist true believers that I know are self-blindfolded and deaf to the pain of reality whenever it clashes with the certainty of their beliefs. They worry that they will appear disloyal if they recognize an argument or look on evidence that contradicts their religious belief in a great State that cares. Nothing could be more embarrassing than to be seen as disloyal, even momentarily, by actually considering points of view that are not "loving" and supportive of "the children" and "the poor". Results don't matter; it's all about good intentions. That is all that can be judged. A very smart, University trained friend answered my challenge with "Ask the polar bears." OMG. He's an Electrical Engineer among other technical accomplishments!
The current Administration is forcing them to be guides in the Potemkin Village, and it is stressing them to the point that they are beginning to realize it, which they hate.
What will happen is that some indignant Liberal columnist or talking head will get FAME for pulling back the curtain, and it will be fashionable to be a rebel, again. Like hating religion, it will be refreshingly cool. Hopefully, they will be medicated enough to endure the initial shock. Some may not survive.
Denis

Anonymous said...

Daniel Greenfield "Higher ideas have been fragmented. What remain are private realities defended by emotion."

Sounds like post-modernism: There is no objective truth, there is only power.


5/3/13

Anonymous said...

Oops, name was supposed to be pst314.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading snippets of your commentary on American Digest for a while and finally got around to visiting your site. Keep up the good work.

Will48 said...

http://youtu.be/4pKMV6e5kEo prime example of what Sultan said - the liberals' view of the past just as a source of eccentricities. Oh they are so far above it all!...

Donald Sensing said...

I posted about "scientific deconstructionism" in 2009.

One of the basic tenets of postmodernist linguistic deconstructionism (which I learned how to do in my postgraduate studies at Vanderbilt) is that all text is tainted by bias and that objective points of view are impossible. Hence, the objective of expression is to exercise power. (Formerly the type of expression so designated has been confined, mostly, to those of history, literature and politics. But now we see that even mathematics may be considered biased and subjective.)

Hence, there is no such as thing as objective truth and statements are never more than propositional in nature. A statement's truth content is never more than opinion, and opinions are nothing but expressions of power. Therefore, in a basic sense, all speech is power directed.

This is a fundamental world view of the Left and is derived directly from Marxism, as reworked by Leninism. Since Marx held that his communist theory was literally scientific, his economic-historical forecasts were not simply likely, they were certain. To understand and partner with this inevitability was to be "on the right side of history" (which is where that overused cliche comes from). As formulated by Lenin et. al., truth is therefore not statements of objective facts, but assertions that move the communist revolution and its fulfillment closer to reality. "Truth" is therefore pliable and impermanent, the concept of truth being only practical. In practice, all of language became subservient to the dominance of the party, a fact recognized by George Orwell in his novel 1984 and its concept of Newspeak.

Dave Ellett said...

Thank you for articulating so fluently many of our thoughts on the liberal mind.

So many good comments too. One of the best comments is number 21 by ANNONYMOUS:

“This and other similar articles along with their comments are very good. Just not any help. What can be DONE, that is what needs to be said.”

Actually, we must accurately define and articulate the problem before we DO anything, so the article is of great value for some of us who were less enlightened and perhaps a refresher for others. Nonetheless, what can we do is now of critical importance and we all seem to be rather lacking at the moment.

Comment 16 by ANNONYMOUS (signed ELAINE) offers an excellent hint on the direction I think we need to go and what will happen if we do not:

“The mind ought to be focused on the things that matter-God and eternal life.
Modern man has simply refused to focus on either and is spinning around with his head loose and finding that he keeps repeating the mistakes of history because he doesn't believe in reality. Reality is much too difficult for modern man because he is used to substituting it for a false reality that insists he is his own god and thus reality is simply that which he chooses.
God is the only truth and the only reality. As he has been shoved aside, forgotten, mocked and relegated to mere superstition, man has and will continue to flail about as a fish without water and one day perish.”

If there is no absolute right and wrong, then there is no arguing with a liberal beyond history and objective evidence. Both should be very persuasive in their own right but, as Mr. Greenfield points out, the liberal is willfully incapable of understanding. Perhaps since the liberal deals in faith he might be persuaded by faith?

Highly doubtful! Their arrogance seem almost impenetrable.

In which case we can only fight until the point at which the reset button is pushed and then we start over again. Such is the history of every pre-existent nation. The most painful regrets will be for those who did not fight and do their best.


EDWARD CLINE comments:

“Yes, the American liberal is dead from the neck up. Which poses the question: Are we being ruled by The Walking Dead?”

And I thought all this recent buzz about zombies was just entertainment. OMG!

Anonymous said...

great stuff Daniel especially the explanwtion of pomo deconstructivism or lets just call it progressive groupthink. My question is...what to do? Move to Utah or Idaho on land with goodwater and soil or boil like frogs enjoying the illusion all will last until after weare gone. Whats your plan...whisper these words of (amazingly fecund profundity) or bug out...?

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