The Useful Idiocy of the Left
The Useful Idiocy of the Left
By Duncan Whitmore
The typical libertarian is unlikely to open his YouTube account or Twitter feed without encountering a cascade of material in which a) the left is drawing attention to itself in a loud and obnoxious manner; and b) libertarians, conservatives and their fellow travellers are castigating the left for whatever it is doing. Given all of this attention paid to the left one would have thought that they must have something important to say. Let us look at a few recent examples to see if this is true.
On August 11th it was reported in the news that around a hundred or so protestors had appeared in the constituency of Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths to demand his resignation. No doubt the motivation of a small crowd of Mr Griffiths’ constituents to give up their afternoon and don placards calling for his head owed itself to something extremely serious. After all, surely we would only bother to march through the streets to protest if the matter was as grave as an illegal war, right?
Actually, the flames of fury were ignited by something altogether less serious. Mr Griffiths, who is married, had been sending a considerable volume of lewd text messages to two barmaids, the contents of which were published by the Sunday Mirror. The high crime which had fuelled the protestors’ rage was that Mr Griffiths is a “misogynist”, the protest calling for nothing more than a rejection of his “behaviour and attitudes”.
As most readers probably already know, there was considerable fallout from former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s description of those who choose to wear the burqa (the all-enveloping garment worn by some Muslim women) as looking like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” – ironically in an article in which he defended the right of women to wear it. Mr Johnson, who has remained intransigent in his refusal to either apologise for or retract the comments, is now facing an “inquiry” by the Conservative Party which the Muslim Council has demanded should not be reduced to a “whitewash”.
And as we almost all certainly know, the visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK last month was met by thousands of protestors in London, who took to flying an anchored balloon depicting Mr Trump as an orange-faced baby swelling with anger. According to Time magazine, a spokesperson for the campaign group “Stand Up to Trump”, which helped to organise the protests, revealed the aspects of their eponymous target which had fuelled their vitriol:
Hundreds of thousands of people have expressed their outrage and opposition to his racism, Islamophobia, sexism, warmongering and climate change denial, and are ready to march together against Trump when he visits.
Left wing columnist and activist Owen Jones was a little more succinct, narrowing Mr Trump’s catalogue of atrocities to just two: “We need to show the world what millions of people in this country think of the bigotry and the hatred that he represents.” [Emphases added].
And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had chimed in the previous month by stating that the 45th President should not be welcome in the UK, sending him the message: “We live in a multicultural society, we’re proud of it. Get over it and start living in one yourself.”
As a libertarian it is, of course, difficult to contain one’s delight when politicians are denigrated and hounded by protests, or when they are busier fighting amongst themselves rather than raiding our wallets. Yet is there not a peculiar sense of vacuity in the objects of vitriol running through all of these stories – “racism”; “bigotry”; “hatred”; “misogyny”; “sexism”; “attitudes”; and so on? Compared to some of the real horrors that the state is capable of unleashing (and has unleashed) – inflation, wars, financial collapse, the burgeoning and bankrupt welfare state, to name just a few – are these things not altogether rather trivial? Indeed, for those of us who possess a keen understanding of the evil nature of the state, complaining about an MP sending some dirty text messages is akin to fussing over whether a murderer broke the speed limit as he fled the scene of the crime.
It is this relative triviality, embodied in the specific complaints against the individuals we just mentioned, that serves to indicate the inherent useful idiocy of the left – useful to the leftist/statist/liberal agenda that is. This is because such preoccupations demonstrate to the rest of us that the left is populated by little more than juvenile, emotional, reactionary and, thus, gullible, manipulable simpletons. Consequently, we shall see that, while our hounding of the left is not unimportant, it may, however, be getting to the point where it is becoming more of an unhelpful distraction rather than a productive enterprise. In other words, all of our furore over what the left thinks, says and does may be at the expense of more important endeavours for our time and resources. Let us explore this in detail.
Words, not Deeds
Sifting through all of the commotion we can see quite clearly that the passionate protesting, chanting, whining and complaining is directed not so much at things which Trump, Johnson et al. have actually done as much as at things which they have simply said. In other words, these are mean, unpleasant and nasty people because they say mean, unpleasant and nasty things which are “offensive” and hurt people’s feelings. Never mind the century or more of mass killing and extermination that people have suffered at the hands of leftist dictators – the embodiment of all evil is Trump’s Twitter feed.
Somewhat amusingly, it is not always clear that the defendants are necessarily guilty of being all that bigoted, racist, misogynistic or whatever. Take Mr Griffiths, for example. Interestingly, neither the BBC nor the Sunday Mirror reveal whether the two barmaids were complicit in and/or welcoming of the approximately 2,000 text messages they received from the now disgraced MP. If they were so complicit, then it is difficult to see how acts and attitudes in which women participated willingly could be described as “misogynistic”. If they were not complicit, however, then as many as 2,000 unwanted text messages in the space of three weeks would surely constitute genuine harassment (i.e. a crime), in which case charges of “misogyny” are superfluous.
The same arguably goes for Mr Trump. Contrary to the popular view, a more careful look at his blunt, brash and brazen rhetoric will show it to be directed not towards entire groups but, rather, at specific people (nearly always those who have crossed him in some way). Some of these particular targets happen to be members of an ethnic minority or women, and so the comments are extrapolated to ethnic minorities or women as a whole. It is, in fact, a lot more difficult to find instances of when Trump attempts to characterise an entire group in its own right. Even the ultra-leftist Huffington Post, which carries an article dedicated to occasions on which Trump was apparently “racist”, struggles to find one which doesn’t involve him targeting either a particular person who is from an ethnic minority background, or particular behaviour which happens to have been carried out by one or more members of ethnic minorities. The only real exception – when Trump allegedly complained of blacks being “lazy” and that he “hated” black accountants – was the product of hearsay.
Moreover, whenever the left stumbles across an actual deed of Mr Trump’s to complain about, they struggle to characterise it as something that a) was not perpetrated also (and often to a degree far worse) by one or more of his predecessors, or b) is not part of the legitimate functions of the Presidency. For instance, the furore in June of this year over the separation of the children of illegal immigrants from their parents was made in ignorance of the fact that similar conditions existed under the Obama regime, and only blew up because the Trump administration is actually prosecuting these people under a “zero tolerance” policy for breaking the law.
None of this means to say that Donald Trump is categorically not a racist any more than it says that Andrew Griffiths is not, in fact, a lecherous pervert. We do, however, know enough about these individuals to at least question the surface appearance that such allegations are true.
Face Values, Idealism, and Lack of Principles
Unfortunately, surface appearances are all that matter to the left. The typical leftist appears to be somebody who perceives one or more “bad” states of affairs in the world – a set of circumstances that do not appear to be the way that they should be. While such outcomes may be the plights of other people (“women”, “blacks”, “LGBT” etc.) they may also concern the leftist’s own lack of achievement or consequent lack of self-worth – as if the world has failed to recognise him and his talents and reward him accordingly. Essentially, however, the typical leftist is an emotionally incontinent bleeding heart, bursting into tears at unpleasant sights, sounds and other immediately appreciable sensations.
As a result, the leftist possesses no ability or principled theory to determine why the identified problems exist or even if they happen to exist for a good reason – such as to prevent a far worse problem from coming about. In this sense the leftist is a true idealist, who (quite literally, given his preoccupation with “race”) sees the world only in black and white. All phenomena are categorised by the leftist as either “good” or “bad”, and he believes that his sole endeavour is to vanquish everything that is “bad” in order to leave behind everything that is “good”. He is wilfully blind to the fact that very little in the world can be categorised so neatly, and that possible, sustainable outcomes must be weighed in terms of relative goodness rather in terms of what is absolutely good or absolutely bad.
For instance, a typical leftist chant at this time is that Trump should not entertain Russian President Vladimir Putin for the simple reason that the latter is a “dictator” and “dictators”, being “bad”, must be rejected.
Now yes, in an ideal world, it would be very nice if we could just get rid of all “dictators” or at least not have to bother dealing with them. Yet the fact remains that, between them, Messrs Trump and Putin possess the launch codes to the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons – a dangerous situation indeed when Russia presents a critical strategic threat to the current order of US-led hegemony. So regardless of the deplorability of the particular Russian regime and method of government, it is extremely important that the US and Russia work together to de-escalate any tensions, even if that means their leaders have to engage in nauseating and half sincere mutual flattery. You can’t just walk away from the table when the nasty man on the other side holds all the cards – or is pointing all of his guns at you.
That the typical leftist is devoid of any thoughtfully constructed principles that are more than skin deep is revealed by the fact that much of his advocacy is contradictory.
For instance, the leftist will almost certainly be a vocal supporter of the rights of women and of LGBT rights. Yet he will also rail against so-called “Islamophobia” while quietly forgetting the plight of women and gays in Muslim majority countries such as Saudi Arabia. The leftist will be up in arms over the so-called “rape culture” on Western university campuses but will turn a blind eye to the very real rape epidemic that has resulted from his championing of mass migration into Europe. He will merrily point out the relative lack of women in board rooms, C-suites and in the lucrative professions while failing to mention that men also dominate menial, unpleasant or dangerous jobs such as bin men and miners, and are more likely to die by suicide and in car crashes. Surely there must be something sexist about vehicle construction or road traffic regulations when so few women are smashing themselves into lamp posts?!
Leftist London mayor Sadiq Khan approved the flying of the Trump balloon on the grounds that the UK has “freedom of speech” and “freedom to protest” and so it is not his job to act as a “censor” who decides what is in “good taste or bad taste”. And yet censoring is precisely what he does through his zealous targeting of so-called “hate speech” online. The leftist will defend the “de-platforming” of Alex Jones by Facebook, YouTube and Apple on the grounds that private companies should be free to disassociate from him, yet they will force private bakeries to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
The leftist is even confused over the nature of the burqa. It is rather easy to regard it is a symbol of cultural and religious expression when you are a privileged, educated Muslim woman living in Great Britain who already has the freedom to wear whatever she wants – whereas for women who are forced to wear it in Muslim majority countries under the pain of arrest or worse it is more a tool of female oppression.
When faced with the realities of these contradictions and hypocrisies the leftist, instead of evaluating his values and ideas, will, more often than not, resort to a childish temper tantrum.
For instance, following the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Owen Jones, who was keen to emphasise the distinctly homophobic nature of the attack, stormed off a television set when his co-stars preferred instead to discuss the incident as part of the wider problem of Islamic terrorism.
Sadiq Khan was all in favour of the Trump balloon on the grounds of “free speech” but when Conservative MP Michael Fabricant tweeted a depiction of Mr Khan in a sex act with a pig Mr Khan demanded “action” against the perpetrator.
And when faced with the realities of feminism and leftism by speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson the left resorts to disruption of the proceedings with chanting, protesting, and violence. Indeed, alternative points of view are so painful to the leftist that rational rebuttal is substituted by shutting the opponents down and dismissing them all as “fascists” spouting “hate speech”.
“Diversity”, “Equality”, “Oppression”
The typical leftist celebrates differences when – again – he can see them on the surface with his own two eyes. Differences in skin colour, sexuality, and so on are all acknowledged and – moreover – to be promoted with zeal by the leftist under the banner of “diversity” (although differences in gender are somewhat confusing for the leftist at this point). But for intangible concepts that are invisible to his direct perception the leftist instead maintains a rigorous, steadfast fidelity to a superficial understanding of equality.
Thus, to the leftist, all lifestyles have the same worth; all cultures have equal value; every decision is as judicious as another; all causes should have the same effect. The leftist will in no way regard the lack of either effort or intelligence as valid reasons for failing to achieve your dreams – everyone should be welcome under the banner of “inclusion”. At its worst, such an attitude culminates in the inversion of values – that feelings trump facts; that ugliness is beauty (think modern art); that banality has meaning (ditto); that noise is music; that grotesque obesity is a positive lifestyle choice; and so on.
As a result of this commitment to equal fundamentals the leftist is confused by a world that presents him with unequal outcomes – that some people are richer than others; that the majority of boardroom seats are filled by men and not by women; that whites earn more per hour than blacks; etc. With his mind constricted by the straightjacket of “equality” he cannot see any explanation for this “outrage” other than that of “oppression” – that the only possible, logical explanation is that some people must be crushing others for their own benefit.
Thus, to the leftist, workers are “oppressed” by capitalism and the capitalists; women by the “patriarchy”; blacks by “white privilege” and so on. The leftist characterises the world as an arena of constant struggle between the dominators and the dominated. Such an attitude extends to a truly absurd level when differences that should be readily perceivable as a result of physical reality are ascribed instead to, for example, “sexism” – such as in the much higher standard of sporting prowess displayed by men, who are naturally stronger and more athletic compared to women.
The significance of such “oppression” translates into a warped view of world history for the leftist. The leftist, for instance, cannot understand the great and glorious achievements of western, pre-dominantly white, Christian civilisation unless he ascribes it to “imperialism” or to “slavery” – as if all of the material comforts that we enjoy today are the legacy of wealth and riches stripped from the lands of brown skinned people while the latter were whipped into submission. Never mind that every abominable practice carried out by the West has existed for centuries in every other culture as well. Let us forget, for instance, the umpteen imperial dynasties of China; the Caliphates; the Ottoman Empire; the Persians; and the Mongols. Let us hear nothing about the Arab or Barbary slave trades or the kidnapping and enslavement of Christian boys through the Ottoman devshirme. Never mind that the most racially intolerant societies on Earth are estimated to be in the Middle East and Asia while Anglo and Latin countries are, in fact, the most tolerant – “only whites are racist”!
Let us forget also that the West was, in fact, pre-eminent in producing ideas which rejected these abominations. For instance, the left will hear nothing of the fact that everything Mahatma Gandhi came to achieve and symbolise would have been unrealisable without the influence of his Western education and of ideas that germinated in the West. They close their ears to the fact that slavery was mostly abolished across Western Europe in the middle ages and that the abolitionist movement was the product of Western, enlightenment thought that largely swept slavery away completely in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – whereas countries such as China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan each retain millions of slaves in 2018.
To the leftist, the West is uniquely guilty of imperialism, racism and slavery for the sole reason that it was successful, achieving an increase in prosperity, health and longevity unheard of in the entirety of human history. And yet it is puzzling how this success is attributed solely to the aspects that the West had in common with other cultures (and, at worst, simply practised more proficiently) rather than to the attributes in which it differed. Scarcely mentioned is the fact that the West embraced a religion which, for the most part, was complementary to (rather than the antithesis of) reason and served as a check on state power more than as an enabler. Nor is there is any acknowledgment of the philosophy of and a commitment to liberty that allowed the West to industrialise rapidly and provided it with the wherewithal to build empires and global trade.1
As a corollary of all this the typical leftist ascribes very little to personal responsibility and private effort. People are produced by their environment, their statuses are pre-ordained, their actions and achievements – whether they are criminals or company chairmen – are determined by “society”. The result of this is that an overwhelming sense of helpless victimhood – either of himself or of others who have, in his eyes, been “oppressed” and downtrodden – pervades the attitudes of the leftist.
Thus, if he is a member of an ethnic minority, he can blame, say, his failure to earn a better wage on “white privilege”, the legacy of centuries of white oppression; if she is female she can blame her failure to get a promotion on the sexist patriarchy, the result of an antagonism between the sexes that has allegedly served to thwart the ambitions of women for the entirety of time. (If the latter was true one would think that, after several millennia, women might have found a way around the problem by now. Perhaps, contrary to the leftist narrative, it is the case that men and women have always worked together as complements rather than in antagonism as enemies?)
As if that was not enough, the ranks of the left are bolstered by the guilt-ridden as much as by the envious, self-styled “victims”. These are the assortment of white, middle class, twenty-going-on-twelve year olds, those smug, self-righteous sophists, the magnanimous “manginas”, those insipid soy boys, all of whom have replaced the intolerable privilege of their male dominance, their six bedroom suburban homes and their private school educations with the more bearable privilege of moral superiority. Needless to say, of course, they manage to stop short of any serious self-flagellation by conveniently forgetting to opt out of all of their material comforts.
Leftism and the State
The leftist seeks solutions to all of his problems through the state because, in full accordance with his preoccupation with words rather than deeds (and coupled with the aforementioned disregard for personal responsibility and effort) he believes that all of the problems he identifies are not, in fact, his to solve. He will not seek solutions that make a difference through his own actions and lifestyle, but will instead expect other people to do it for him. The leftist is nothing more than a virtue signalling mouthpiece, caring only about words that are spoken and having only words to offer in return.
Thus, the leftist will be a campaigner against “climate change” while at the same time eco-warriors have been found to be the least likely to recycle, buy green products, make use of reusable shopping bags, and travel on public transport; he will happily spend £50 on a t-shirt emblazoned with “Feed the World” or “Poverty Sucks” instead of giving that money to charity; the leftist will demand that “businesses” pay their workers “more money” without starting a business himself that will do so; and he will make impassioned pleas on behalf of “migrants” and “refugees” without bothering to invite any into his home.
Moreover, because the leftist fails to examine the causes and effects of his problems according to any logic or principle, he believes them to be the outcome of an absence of intervention, the prolongation of which will only cause the situation to deteriorate further. Consequently, he believes that the world must be forced to adhere to his vision and to his values – a vision which, in accordance with his ability to appreciate only surface phenomena, involves the state stepping in and changing only that which can be seen in front of one’s nose without any regard for the hidden and longer term consequences.
Hence, the leftist will advocate “higher wages” for the “poor” yet he will not bother to understand why this will lead to their unemployment; he will call for “free childcare” without giving any thought as to why it is so expensive in the first place; he will cry for “more money” for the NHS while remaining puzzled by the burgeoning demand for medical services; he is an activist for “green energy” and the decimation of fossil fuels, but then blames so-called “fuel poverty” on the “profiteering” of energy companies. In order to both justify and dismiss the calamities of his ignorance the leftist ameliorates his conscience with the hubris of having “meant well”.
To add icing to the cake, although the leftist will never solve any of his identified problems through any personal effort, he will still guard them jealously as his own – as if he has some kind of unique talent in weeding out cruelty and injustice in the world. Thus, anyone who actually does find a workable solution to any problem is shouted down, particularly if that solution involves taking personal responsibility or is otherwise contrary to the leftist narrative of cause and effect. Thus, the torrent of abuse hurled at Kanye West when he likened the black mantra of victimhood to voluntary, mental imprisonment as opposed to the result of white “oppression”.
Because the leftist knows that he is helpless in countering such opposition with rational argument he instead resorts to a refusal to discuss issues in objective terms, replacing references to facts with subjective thoughts and feelings. Thus, if a white person expresses a view on racism he is “whitesplaining”, or if a man wishes to discuss sexism he is dismissed as a “mansplainer”. The overall result is not the resolution of the destitution and “victimhood” that the leftist so readily perceives but, instead, its continuation and proliferation. Cynically, of course, one suspects that, with such victimhood being the leftist’s raison d’être, this is the very aim in the first place. Certainly such proliferation plays into the hands of the state by keeping it stocked with a ready supply of dependents.
Dissent from within the Ranks
Because of his commitment to vacuous values and because he possesses a mental capacity that can cope only with conformity and groupthink, the leftist is particularly confused by outliers and those who buck the trends that he perceives – in other words, people whom the leftist should be able to claim as his allies yet have, mysteriously, joined the “other side”.
For instance, the left failed to understand why any woman could have possibly had any interest in voting for Donald Trump, with former First Lady Michelle Obama going as far as to say that these women “voted against their own voice.” They are puzzled by such pre-eminent figures as Thomas Sowell, Walter E Williams and Clarence Thomas, all of whom happen to be black and yet have spent much of their careers challenging the liberal orthodoxy on race. The city of Charlotte’s Gay Pride event couldn’t stomach the possibility of permitting a parade float to “Deplorable Pride”, a pro-Trump LGBT group in the area.
Very often the level of hatred displayed towards these “treacherous” individuals and groups exceeds that hurled at straight, white men – as Clarence Thomas discovered after the death of his colleague, Antonin Scalia, and when Hillary supporters physically attacked and intimated a black, homeless woman for defending Trump’s star on Hollywood Boulevard.
The Leftist as Useful Idiot
None of this should be taken to mean that the left is devoid of any intellectual calibre. Indeed, the typical leftist may well be smart, articulate, and, at least within the confines of his own assumptions, knowledgeable and well read. Moreover, any movement or group will sift itself, quite naturally, into a hierarchy of leaders/opinion makers and followers – the influencers and the influenced.
The problem, however, is that the left’s most prodigious minds belong to the class of person whom Nassim Nicholas Taleb has described, quite incisively, as the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” (IYI). In the author’s own words:
[IYIs are] the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for […] [The IYI is] the semi-erudite who thinks he is an erudite […who…] pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited […] They are so blinded by verbalistic notions such as science, education, democracy, racism, equality, evidence, rationality and similar buzzwords that they can be easily taken for a ride.2
It is this last point of being easily “taken for a ride” that reveals the left’s primary role as useful idiots – idiots whom the establishment can whip up into faux outrage which is subsequently directed at whichever pre-ordained target the establishment has selected. In both the metaphorical and crude senses of the term the typical leftist is often nothing more than a tool.
This is evident most of all in the case of Donald Trump. What the left fails to realise is that whatever personality flaws Mr Trump may happen to possess – all of his brazen “bullying”, his “misogyny”, his “racism” etc. etc. – are not the reason why the left’s politicians and pundits reject him with such vitriol. The real reason, of course, is that Trump largely rebuffs the consensus of political globalisation, multiculturalism, open borders, and the ceding of ever greater degrees of political, legal, financial and military control to the texts of trans-national treaties and fixed alliances such as NATO. Moreover, he is extremely distrustful of the ceding of sovereignty to and the consolidation and centralisation of state power in supranational organisations such as the EU. Trump is an American and as the American President he sees it as his role to put the American nation-state first, regarding the burden of maintaining the current order of US-led hegemony as a hindrance to that priority.
Further, in spite of some very significant caveats (such as his stance towards Iran), it is not unreasonable to suggest that Trump is more of a peace maker than he is a war maker – or, at least, as we acknowledged earlier, his overtures towards Russia make peace more likely than not. Consequently, Trump is a threat to the plunderous yet profitable industrial warfare machine, the likes of which rely on a constant flow of bogeymen whom the bombs can keep on blowing up.
These real reasons, however, cannot be acknowledged explicitly for they are difficult to defend in terms which fail to make their danger apparent. After all, who would openly declare their desire for more war for the sake of profit?
Instead, therefore, the mainstream media circus digs out clips of Trump wanting to grab women “by the pussy”; they run headlines of him having called women he doesn’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals;” they create a fury by highlighting Trump’s suggestion that a judge could be biased against him because the latter is “Mexican”; they whip themselves up into a frenzy for Trump’s description of Putin as “very smart”. Thus the attention of the snowflake left is drawn to these occurrences and the latter is led to conclude that Trump is unfit to hold office for the sole reason that he is essentially not a very nice person – a nasty man who “challenges” the supposed “spirit” of “openness, tolerance, diversity” and all the rest of the liberal insipidity.
In fact, had Mr Trump, like more or less any other presidential candidate, been supportive of the establishment agenda then he could have behaved in exactly the same way, and could have said and done exactly the same “sexist”, “racist”, “misogynist” things that he is alleged to have said. And yet all of it would have been completely ignored, with the left instead being prompted to praise him as a paragon of progressivism and social justice. Indeed, we could probably go as far as to say that even if everything the left complains about – racism, sexism, etc. – was absolutely true and that these abominations really were deeply engrained causes of injustice in our society, it would still be the case that these would not be the real reasons why the establishment chooses to spit so much hatred at Trump.
That this is true is evident in the fact that many of Trump’s political predecessors, competitors and foreign counterparts have been guilty of exactly the same behaviour or worse, yet have somehow managed to get off scot-free.
For instance, if Trump’s “misogyny” is enough to disqualify him from office then why is the left not busily trashing the presidency of Bill Clinton for his debacle with Monica Lewinsky? Or why are they failing to highlight the fact that Clinton has been accused of actually raping – not just saying nasty things about – at least four women? At the very least, why is there no mention of the fact that Hillary Clinton – Trump’s opponent in the race – has remained married to and supportive of her presidential Priapus of a husband for several decades? Was she not supposed to be the candidate who stands up for women? The reason for all of this is, of course, that Bill Clinton is a liberal icon, and so these issues are never raised.
As for Hillary herself, we scarcely need to mention her comprehensive catalogue of criminality. But to continue with theme of Hillary as the “women’s candidate” vs. Trump’s “misogyny”, try to imagine the fuss there would have been if Trump, rather than Mrs Clinton, had been the lawyer mounting a controversial defence of an accused rapist in the 1970s.
What about the beloved Barack Obama? The left charges Donald Trump with “Islamophobia” for banning travel from selected Muslim-majority countries while forgetting that his predecessor threw 20,000 bombs at most of those same countries. But never mind about that – all that the left ever heard was Obama’s paeans to pious platitudes such as “hope”, “unity”, “change”, ad nauseam.
Over here in the UK, the fatuously inflated egos of the London protestors allowed them to exalt themselves as an army of mini, Churchillian warriors, likening everyone else’s failure to “stand up” to Donald Trump to the failure to oppose Hitler in the 1930s. And yet where were all of these people during the UK visits of, say, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, both of whom are ruthless consolidators of political power that has effectively established them as quite real dictators in their own countries?
Moreover, surely one hallmark of a “dictator” is that he claims the extra-judicial power to kill whomever he likes? And yet is this not precisely what the Obama administration claimed was the right of their peace prize winning President? Was this right not effectively exercised through the endless drone strikes that killed an estimated 4,700 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – 176 of whom were children?
Even worse, while Obama would never be so indecent as to brag about grabbing a woman “by the pussy”, he did, apparently brag about his killing success. Yet the left seems to think that glorifying oneself as a child slaughterer is not worthy of the attention that should be paid to someone who is merely proud of his lechery.
Similarly, the left is directed to castigate Trump for his adulation of Vladimir Putin because Putin, like Trump, thinks in ethno-nationalist (as opposed to globalist) terms and so Russia presents a threat to the current order of Western hegemony.
The left, however, believes it is because Putin is an evil dictator who is busy meddling in US elections. But if the latter is true then why does the left make no equal condemnation of Western relations with Saudi Arabia, the theocratic, absolutist monarchy which treats women like dirt and has one of the lowest human rights records in the world? What about all of the other despots and dictators whom America has cajoled and supported when it has been in its interests to do so – some of whom, such as Saddam Hussein, have flip flopped from friend to foe once they stop dancing to America’s tune?
And if we are so worried about the immunity of America’s elections from foreign influence then why is there not at least a cursory mention of Israel? Or, better still, of all of the tens of millions of foreign dollars that flowed into the Clinton Foundation?
That the thinking of the left is completely inert to these kinds of (not particularly difficult) questions is revealed also by the fact that American leftists seem to view Trump as both the source and embodiment of all of their problems – as if he is some kind of invading troll or ogre thumping the walls of the castle, and that once he alone is vanquished then peace and harmony will be restored to the kingdom. They never acknowledge the fact that Trump was, in fact, elected by some 63 million of their fellow countrymen (except to point out that Mrs Clinton won the “popular” vote, albeit by a majority which came almost entirely from Los Angeles). Regardless of whatever happens to Trump these people, and their hopes, frustrations and motivations – i.e. their reasons for electing him – will still be there if he goes. What does the left intend to do about all of these people?3
Ironically, the left is so blinded by their hatred for Trump that they completely miss the fact that he is actually one of the more socially liberal occupants of the Oval Office, especially so for a Republican. For instance, he has voiced support to legalising medical marijuana and is the first US President to enter the White House supporting gay marriage – something that Obama didn’t get around to doing explicitly until the last year of his first term. In greater contrast, liberal hero Bill Clinton signed into law the Defence of Marriage Act and the HIV travel ban. Moreover, while Trump is a “pro-lifer” and opposes the legalisation of drug use more widely, he formerly held extremely liberal views on both issues that seemingly only changed for his presidential campaign. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that his current policies are designed to appeal to his base, and that if he survives long enough to reach the electoral immunity of a second term his stances on these issues may soften.
The Trends that Drive the Left
None of this means to say that the preoccupations of the left do not have direct use for the state and that, in turn, the particular preoccupations of the state are not shared by the left. For instance, the disintegration of traditional (and competing) moral and cultural values for which the left is an advocate is extremely beneficial to the state. Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, the proliferation of an aura of victimhood and dependency continues to provide the state with a perceivable purpose. In turn, the leftist, possessing no ability to distinguish “the people” from their government, will typically approve of consolidating and centralising statist projects such as the EU in pursuit of vapid causes such as trans-national “unity”.
One should also not draw the erroneous impression that the left is a solid monolith that is immune from competitive infighting and conflicting values and priorities. In fact, it is inevitable that a movement the values of which lack any rigorously principled foundation, and which is characterised by an aggressive intolerance for opposing views should eventually cannibalise itself.
What we can learn from this, however, is that it is probably a mistake to regard the left as the definer and shaper of our times more than it is simply the product or the expression of them. Consequently, any assessment of the left’s long term formidability with regards only to whatever it happens to be doing today may well be misplaced. In fact, it is likely to be the case that, once it within the interests of the state to change the narrative, the narrative of the left will change in lock step. As a result, it may be more important for us to identify the underlying trends that are driving these interests than it is to tackle the current pervasiveness, proliferation and success of the left head on.
In this regard, there are at least four of such trends which have developed over the past thirty to forty years – trends which have served to determine and characterise the precise nature of the state and statism in our time, and which, in turn, has served to characterise the nature of the left.
First, the gradual decline of socialism in the late 1970s and 1980s, culminating in the collapse of the Soviet Union, completely gutted statism of its distinctly economic power. Indeed, today, even liberal-political-hack-masquerading-as-economist Paul Krugman, who is as far removed from Austro-libertarianism as you can possibly get in the mainstream, will claim, quite unashamedly, that he is “a believer in the market economy. I’m a believer in capitalism. I want the market economy to be left as free as it can be.”
The growing vacuum was filled incrementally by those who placed a new emphasis on achieving a distinctly cultural, rather than economic revolution. Often referred to by libertarians and the right by a variety of labels such as “Cultural Leftists”, “Cultural Marxists”, “Gramsci-ists”, and so on, these people paved the way for the likes of Clinton and Blair (amongst lesser others) in the 1990s, whose regimes differed markedly in its variety of leftism from that of their predecessors. Virulent anti-capitalism, economic determinism and collectivism were swept aside in favour of “Third Way”, centrist, social democratic, and ethical socialist commitments to “social justice”, “multiculturalism”, “reformism”, and “political pluralism”.
Second, as a result of their metastasising welfare-warfare states, the burgeoning budgets of Western governments are having to be increasingly devoted to the funding of pre-existing promises and entitlements – the present value of which is anything between $100 trillion and $200 trillion for the US alone. In other words, today’s politicians don’t actually have any money left over with which they can dangle the promise of new goodies in the faces of voters. Consequently, the political battleground has shifted from fiscal issues and onto social issues – from the redistribution of wealth to the redistribution of status. If, on the other hand, the state was actually piled high with cash that it could spend easily it is difficult to imagine politicians rabbiting on about racism and transgender rights ahead of promising oodles of more money for X, Y and Z.
Third, the left has achieved its current degree of success not because a majority of Britons hold leftist views but because the latter have, instead, been gradually bullied and browbeaten into tacit acceptance of the left wing agenda.4 As a result of a saturation of the media and intellectual classes with leftist dogma that now pervades all aspects of professional and social life, the typical person is simply too afraid to speak out against some politically correct policy or attitude for fear of being labelled a “racist” or a “sexist” etc.
For instance, if he is a middle manager responsible for hiring and firing in a firm, he may disagree with a policy of “diversity” on the grounds that it detracts from hiring the best person for each job. Yet such an objection will remain unspoken and he will go along with it anyway. Moreover, his own superiors may be equally dubious yet they do not want their company to become the subject of headline news for being “too white” or “too male”. Indeed, the reign of terror is so complete that it is impossible to voice even sensible observations about differences between the races and sexes. Anyone brave enough to stick his neck out precedes his remarks with a suitable qualifier such as “I’m not racist, but…”
Moreover, Britons have been practically banned from any expression of patriotism or celebration of their predominantly white, Western culture and heritage – as the proprietor of a shop selling mostly British themed tourist trinkets discovered to his chagrin. Men have been effectively neutered by the demonisation of their traditional gender role as “toxic masculinity”, shying away from even asking a woman out for a drink in fear of being slapped with a “sexual harassment” charge.
Fourth and finally, there is the aforementioned movement towards the centralisation and consolidation of political power and sovereignty in supranational institutions which has required the breakdown of allegiance to traditional and competing centres of morality, culture, convention and custom.
All four of these trends are now in a state of flux, a flux which will in turn have a profound impact on the nature of the left.
Regarding the first two trends, we could start by pointing out that there is now a generation of voters too young to remember socialism and communism, and to whom the economic case for statism is distinctly appealing. Thus, economic leftism may be making another ascendancy, and has already received a considerable boost from the popularity of Bernie Sanders in the US and, lingeringly, of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.
More important than this, however, is the fact that one day, the looming bankruptcy of the western welfare-warfare state will have to be addressed. There will come a point when it will simply not be possible for the state to continue to tax, borrow, inflate and waste without either a) addressing the question of rationing the existing promises, b) defaulting on its mountain of debt, c) hyperinflating the currency, or d) some combination of all three. All of these issues will come to dominate the political narrative.5
Regarding the third trend, we are now at the point when the silent majority is starting to fight back against leftist dominance. For much of this we can, ironically, thank the left itself because the leftist crusade has not been able to metastasise without a) denying the existence of basic, obvious truths; b) alerting attention to its contradictions and hypocrisies; c) demonising action which is reasonably viewed as innocuous and normal; and d) policing such action according to the ethereal minutiae of subjective feelings rather than clear, obvious boundaries.
Indeed, the natural result of an increasingly carefree use of words such as “racist”, “sexist” or “offensive” to describe all sorts of behaviour is that they simply lose their value – much like the word “f*ck” has lost its power to shock as a result of its proliferation in everyday conversation. Whereas once an accusation of being “racist” may have paralysed a person with terror, it is now being recognised for what it is – a tired old cliché deployed in order to silence debate on more substantive issues (such as immigration).
As a case in point, Boris Johnson’s remarks on the burqa were more notable for his steadfast refusal to apologise than for the original comments themselves. After all, most politicians utter some kind of “controversial” opinion at some point before grovelling for forgiveness. The fact that Mr Johnson feels safe enough to stand by his comments indicates that the era of political correctness – and that of the sanitised, smooth-talking, spin-doctored politician – may well be in its twilight, with the coming dawn favouring those who are more brash, bold and blunt. In other words, those who tell it how it is in plain English. Indeed, such words amount to a succinct description of Donald Trump.
As for the fourth trend, we probably do not need to say too much about the fact that centralising and consolidating projects such as the EU are being met with considerable obstacles in the form of a re-assertion of national identities and sovereignty, of which the Brexit vote was the first.
As the state will have to move in tandem with these trends, then so too will the intellectuals, pundits, politicians and public which make up “the left”.
Conclusion – why is this important?
In his unfavourable review of the record of Margaret Thatcher, Sean Gabb identified the “colonisation of the state sector” by cultural leftism as occurring during the Thatcher government – for which he charges the iron lady’s war against the trade unions with identifying the “wrong enemies”.6 Whether one agrees with this specific thesis is beside the point. A more general lesson is certainly correct: we cannot concentrate on fighting today’s battle at the expense of preparing for the battle tomorrow.
Unfortunately, by focussing so much effort on what the left is saying today, this is precisely what libertarians and other free marketers may be doing, setting themselves up to make more or less the same mistake that Gabb concludes was made a generation ago. In other words, it is time that we turned our sights more towards what we need to be saying in five, ten, or twenty years from now instead of uploading more “feminist fails” videos.
This is not intended to trivialise the cultural transformation that has been wrought by the left over the past generation (even though, as we have seen, most of what the left spews does indeed amount to little more than trivial garbage – or at least the trivial embodiment of more serious undercurrents). To be clear, cultural appropriation and the systematic shaming of people for their Western cultural heritage and values is important. Nor does it mean that today’s priorities, preoccupations and issues will be hermetically sealed from those of tomorrow. Indeed, the inflationism and welfare statism that has proceeded without a bound since the post-war era were already causes of social, cultural and moral degradation before the latter became explicit leftist aims.7 In fact, given that economic and cultural debauchery influence each other in a feedback loop it is even possible that everything might end up in the same, over-boiling cauldron. Moreover, when it comes to libertarian responses to all of this mess, building a distinct counterculture is likely to be a useful bulwark against statism in any circumstance.8
Nevertheless, there is a strong case for suggesting that libertarians, and the right more generally, are underestimating the specific ramifications of the day when the state finally falls into bankruptcy. When the state cannot pay people’s pensions; when it cannot afford all of the current raft of unemployment benefits; when it cannot care for the sick, dying and elderly; when it cannot pay for even basic medical care; on that day the modern, paper-money fuelled, corporatist-welfarist-warfaring state, taken for granted since the end of World War II, will essentially be in its death throes. Even if this is ultimately conducive to liberty the process itself could be very painful as the existing elite attempts to prevent the delicate house of cards supporting all of its wealth and power from collapsing – and they will try every trick in the book to do so, from increased authoritarianism, capital controls, hyperinflation leading to financial collapse, and, of course, real war. In such an environment it is not likely to be the case that anyone will have much time to worry about “diversity” in the public sector.
As a worst case scenario we may look to countries such as Venezuela as our dress rehearsal. In a less nightmarish situation, we will still need to work out how the new priorities and preoccupations will influence and change the relationships and tactical alliances between the state, the bureaucracies, the left, interest groups and the various factions of voter, and how we will respond to these to drive a pro-freedom agenda.
However – to end on an optimistic note – as every emperor throughout the West will be revealed to have no clothes, there is a real chance that the reliability, steadfastness and seeming omnipotence of the state will be shattered. Thus, all faith in and allegiances to the state in general will be broken and its purpose, nature, and scope will be open questions. Given that this will present a momentous opportunity for liberty, surely now is the time for us to turn our attention to deciding how we will answer those questions?
In this regard, Gary North’s observations in relation to the US provide some suitable, closing comments:
The battle over dividing up the loot in Washington is going to expose the Constitutional settlement as a deeply flawed experiment. Americans are going to have to re-think the relationship between Washington and local governments. It has been a one-way train to centralization ever since 1788.
Will the conservatives and the Christians have some kind of philosophically grounded, morally grounded worldview to justify the re-establishment of decentralized political power in 2050?
Ideas have consequences, but it is not clear who will have the ideas. I think we are going to have at least a decade in which the issue of decentralization will be one of the crucial political issues in America. When Washington’s checks bounce […] America’s academics, intellectuals, social theorists, website editors, and even a handful of pastors will have to deal with the fiscal and political reality that nobody is talking about today.
Today’s dominant ideas will not shape what happens over the next 35 years. Money will shape it. More to the point, the absence of money will shape it. The battle over the nondiscretionary budgets will shape it.
This is the grand opportunity today.9
1All of this is before we get into any in-depth discussion of how much the Western empires benefited their colonies and whether anti-colonialism was, in fact, the force that retarded their continuing prosperity. For an illuminating argument in favour of this view, see Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, Arlington House (1974), Chapter 18 at p. 339.
2Extract from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, https://medium.com/incerto/the-intellectual-yet-idiot-13211e2d0577#.pbipdn1dg [emphases in the original].
In the experience of the present author the typical leftist is distinguished not so much by his lack of intelligence as much as by an inability to think laterally in a way that shakes him of his fundamental dogmas and methods. Such un-shakeability seems to be underpinned by a distinctly emotional, rather than an intellectual commitment, a disposition expressed at its worst through the notion of having been “triggered”.
This does not mean to say, of course, that the libertarian is, conversely, devoid of passion for his values and that libertarian debates can never become heated and emotional. The difference is, however, that most libertarians have already had to go through the process of rejecting widely cherished, orthodox assumptions in order to arrive at their commitment to the philosophy. The leftist, on the other hand, simply has to pick up a copy of The Guardian or turn to BBC One in order to find his ideas fully validated. Consequently, the libertarian is already likely to be adept at discovering ideas that are neither immediately obvious nor realisable through simple, vertical logic. It is in this sense that the typical leftist, compared to the typical libertarian, is a juvenile thinker, characterised more by an emotional fragility that prevents him from leaving the cushioned comfort of his mental play pen, than by any explicit stupidity.
3This is precisely the question that Jordan Peterson posed several times to a liberal talk show panel, with his point repeatedly going over their heads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FduxSTXvc0g.
4For instance, contrary to the leftist narrative that they represent the “majority” of Britons, more of the latter were actually in favour of Trump’s UK visit going ahead than were not: https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-popular-britain-heres-what-polling-says-1016136. Similarly, feminists will claim that they represent the interests of women yet only 9% of women regard themselves as feminist: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/only-7-per-cent-of-britons-consider-themselves-feminists/
5Cf. Gary North, Guns or Granny: the Looming Political Battle of the West, https://www.garynorth.com/public/16615.cfm
6Sean Gabb, Margaret Thatcher: A Conservative View, Speech to the Property & Freedom Society, September 2nd, 2016. https://www.seangabb.co.uk/margaret-thatcher-conservative-view-sean-gabb-september-2016
7Cf. Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, Yale University Press (1962), pp. 512-5.
8Unfortunately, the argument that libertarians have failed to invigorate such a counterculture is a compelling charge. See Sean Gabb, Anti-Leftism: A Century of Failure https://misesuk.org/2018/07/07/anti-leftism-a-century-of-failure. Cf. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Libertarianism and the Alt Right. In Search of a Libertarian Strategy for Social Change, speech delivered to the Property & Freedom Society, September 17th 2017, https://misesuk.org/2017/10/20/libertarianism-and-the-alt-right-hoppe-speech-2017/; Duncan Whitmore, Identity Politics – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, https://misesuk.org/2018/02/24/identity-politics-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/. Further, the present author has not, at the time of writing, had the opportunity to read Gabb’s recent book, Radical Coup – A Case for Reaction, but it appears to deal squarely with these matters. https://www.seangabb.co.uk/radical-coup-plan-reaction-description/.
9See footnote 5.