Trying to understand liberals

Thoughts on socialism and leftism generally

Trying to understand liberals

Postby Gavin » 01 Apr 2013, 11:50

I've been musing recently... the funny thing is, when it comes to left-liberals there seem to be two broad types: the Diane Abbott's but also often some quite intelligent ones. These are usually vocal on Twitter as anti-war, Green Party supporting, pro-gay rights, pro-Islam/Palestine feminists. Quite extreme actually, when you think about it. One can hardly open a dialogue with them, due to their absolute self-righteousness and intolerance.

What is wrong with these liberals, or wrong with us?

I think it is various things. I think they want to fix the world instead of fixing themselves. It's a kind of egotism. As TD has noted, it is interesting to see how often liberals declare undying sympathy with the whole world yet can be quite unpleasant to individuals (swearing, demonising opponents' positions etc.).

Some are sheer hypocrites, saying one thing while doing another as a path to power.

Some might suffer from what we could even charitably call an "excess of goodness". They really are very good people and they just cannot bear to accept that we live in a world where people might actually be bad. Their need to "see the good in everyone" and their belief in egalitarianism simply blinds them to the facts of the world. This in itself can be a form of evil, though. The pacifist can get everybody killed. Of course, we have a desire to see everybody do well and meet their full potential too, but this is balanced against facts.

Liberals have a default advantage over us because they are so permissive and this seems, on the surface, to be so positive. They appear to stand for "freedom", "acceptance", "equality", "open-mindedness" and all those things that sound very commendable. We are prepared to grant that some really may be well-meaning, but they are rarely, if ever, as charitable towards us. The problem is, as (ironically when it comes to politics) Richard Dawkins (himself quite PC) noted, "it is a good thing to be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out".

Inconvenient facts get in the way of their great mission. The fact is that people are not all the same, from birth. There is a spectrum of ability and probably of disposition too. The fact is men and women are very different. The fact is people are generally drawn towards their own kind. Further, the fact is that people are often responsible for their own actions and the blame for their behaviour cannot always be diverted onto someone who happens to have more money/be more successful, or indeed just happens to be more male or more white.

The liberals often live somewhere like Brighton. Such liberals are usually strongly in favour of multiculturalism, but if everyone was dropped on a desert island to "start again" I wonder if they would ultimately end up in the team of white engineers or with the Africans doing something else. (While not all black people cause harm, of course, most engineers are white - white males actually.) The liberal would probably be attracted most to his own kind and his own kin, I think, eventually, and he might even have to be with them for safety's sake. Something white liberals often miss but which is borne out by empirical evidence is that all ethnic groups tend to identify with members of their own and self-segregate. But white people are the only ones who the liberal will ever condemn for doing this.

What all of our debates boil down to, I think, is a difference in perception of human nature. It seems to me that liberals cannot have faced too much hardship in their lives. They believe that human beings are essentially good, we believe that human beings are essentially fallible. They believe "give a man a chance and he will be good to those around him". We believe he might be but might well not be, it depends on the person and on the situation. We do not even necessarily hold ourselves exempt from such risks.

So to my mind liberals are just not realistic enough. We would all like to see a better world. It may surprise them to learn that of us. But we believe we can do it through every little interaction, every little politeness, and by working hard and paying our taxes. They, in what seems to be self-importance, have to make it some kind of heroic mission, and selectively blind themselves to evidence that might shake the worldview they have formed.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Caleb » 02 Apr 2013, 01:37

I think people are basically irrational. At best, we can recognise our own irrationality and try to put checks and balances on it. That's why we should have impartial observers and arbiters, such as in the legal system. By not doing so, we run the risk of making all sorts of mistakes. The trouble is that such mistakes do not always show up immediately, and it can be easy to explain them away due to other circumstances if we so choose.

I don't think this is necessarily a liberal phenomenon. I notice irrationality in people of other political persuasions also. I notice it in myself. I think it manifests itself differently in different groups of people, depending upon their own particular outlooks. I think your analysis of how it manifests itself in liberals is correct.

One thing that I find extremely frustrating is that I know virtually nobody, except online or through figures such as Theodore Dalrymple or Douglas Murray, with whom I am strongly aligned on a wide variety of issues.

Almost everyone I know falls into one of two camps: broadly liberal or irrationally conservative in a completely reactionary way. For instance, my father is absolutely adamant that 10,000 scientists are wrong on climate change. Fine, maybe they actually are (I really don't know). Yet he can't even describe the carbon cycle, and if you ask him why those scientists are wrong, his fall back position is that a columnist in a popular newspaper says so. AHH!!!

What particularly frustrates me is I even know a few people who fully recognise the irrational nature of people (some people even require and acknowledge this in a professional sense), and yet they hold all sorts of irrational political views (of a liberal nature) that contradict their other beliefs.

Another issue for me is that I am both right wing (in most ways) and an atheist. I know that quite a few people at this site dislike New Atheism, yet they're still atheists. Both Dalrymple and Murray are atheists too. I think, though can't confirm, that certain other people, such as Victor Davis Hanson, are also atheists. He at least doesn't talk openly about his religion, which, in American conservative circles I take as code for not being religious. Fred Reed seems, if not atheistic, then at least agnostic, and extremely sceptical at that. P. J. O'Rouke is extremely sceptical of religion as far as I can tell. Yet how frequently do you meet people who are simultaneously, a) intelligent, b) conservative, c) atheistic/agnostic? Such people are as rare as hens' teeth.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Gavin » 02 Apr 2013, 02:00

I'm certainly in that group. I agree it is a rare combination, though one would think it should be a pretty common sense one. I've mentioned my frustration with this quite a few times on this site (I had to stop going to National Secular Society meetings, for example, because they weren't just secular but obviously left-leaning).

The calm, thoughtful and reasoned conservative, who is also (due to being rational) an atheist. That's what TD has brought us as a public figure - not many others seem to be able to do the same. What a rare and valuable writer.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Gavin » 11 Apr 2013, 11:51

It really is interesting to consider the near total dominion of naive left wingers on social networking sites. They seem to have a great deal of time to follow and engage in very superficial chit-chat and are always very self-righteous.

The balance is surely explained in part by more conservative and realistically minded people being... busy working! I have had to eliminate all banter from my Twitter account, only allowing those who post useful news announcements (nearly no-one!) and I only just have time to write on here occasionally, and feel I should make the effort just to offset the tidal wave of rubbish we hear from the Left.

In any case, I think the apparent Left wing monopoly can be substantially explained by this. More right wing minded people simply don't have time to indulge in frippery. This and the fact that left-wingers always superficially appear more virtuous due to being so permissive, whereas more thoughtful people can see that this is not necessarily the case.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Roger » 12 Apr 2013, 12:20

I think that liberals, at least to a greater extent than conservatives, characterise the wider cultural trend in the west towards narcissism. We are all somewhat familiar with narcissism and most of us have a basic awareness of its etymology, but as a current social phenomenon there is less of a discourse (although you do see some mainstream discussion, often pertaining to social media). As a treatise on this issue I would recommend the book The Narcissism Epidemic by Twenge & Campbell.

Now, as a diagnosable personality disorder we are still talking about a small percentage of the population, but the thrust of the argument is that a diluted form of the pathology has infected or is transmitted by many aspects of our modern culture, examples being consumerism ("Because you're worth it!"), the aforementioned social media and the current obsession with self-esteem, particularly in schoolchildren.

The narcissist creates an image of themselves, an identity, that does not match up to reality and feeds off the narcissistic supply given to them by others - "you're a great person", "you're so kind and generous", "you travelled the world by motorbike? That's amazing!" etc. Anybody in a position to undermine this constructed persona and expose the lies and half-truths is at risk of receiving the resulting narcissistic rage. Narcissists will become incensed when exposed.

I believe this chimes with a lot of the behaviour we see in your typical modern liberal. The Guardian reader, social justice warrior type. They have constructed an idea of themselves as fighters against injustice, champions of the poor, on the right side of history, vanguards of progress and battlers of evil. This is understandable when you consider human psychology and the warm feeling of satisfaction to be found in righteousness. We all silently whoop and cheer when the hero cleans up the bad guys in the last act of an action film.

However, all this emotion and chest beating has to be tempered with reality. The laws of physics do not care and the universe does not oblige. We owe it to ourselves to understand our biases and work towards discovering the truth even if it is painful. If not, then our misguided and unthinking efforts to avert evil can result in a far greater and deeper evil. Painful truths or even uncomfortable hypotheses can be hard to deal with (to be fair, this is not specific to the Left, as seen with, for example, creationists) and if your self worth is tied up in an idea then opposing ideas are a hostile threat. The opponent then becomes not a debater but a demon.

We often see the outcome of this in online discussion. If you question welfarist economics then you are just rich Tory scum. If you have problems with feminism and its dubious statistics then you are a misogynist rape apologist. If you are wary of large scale immigration then you are must be a thick racist. If you celebrate greatness and achievement then you obviously hate the poor and unfortunate.

A significant number of these people have not experienced the real world or achieved anything of note. Many have not yet even graduated university. Therefore their view of themselves and the causes they attach themselves to are all they have, their only way of interpreting reality. In a world of consumer satisfaction the liberal opinion package is an ideal product. Instant self worth, just add water and resentment.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Gavin » 12 Apr 2013, 12:46

What an insightful post. As for the way narcissists tend to react, that reminded me of this video.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Michael » 12 Apr 2013, 16:35

My wife and I have often had discussions like this while venturing home from a party with liberal friends, or after reading a comment by a liberal friend or family member on Facebook. My wife (very conservative, like I am) is somewhat distressed by the unbending liberalism of our friends because she feels like it closes down possibilities for communication. She would like to discuss politics or education or social issues with them, but knows she cannot start such a discussion and have any chance to reveal her actual opinions - the friends will just start attacking her position and this might lead to a rupture that would require time and effort to heal.

Roger, I agree both with the existence of a trend towards narcissism and its being predominantly a liberal affliction. I see this especially when I look at the projects liberals undertake to change the world (the focus always being on changing the world and not themselves, as Gavin correctly noted). These projects always involve raising "awareness" - whether of violence against women or drought in sub-Saharan Africa or urban poverty. They hold marches, they distribute fliers, they put on charity nights at bars or hold concerts. None of these things are arduous, they do little to help the afflicted, and they allow liberals to feel great self-satisfaction.

Last night, my wife and I were out for a (non-liberal) friends birthday party at a monthly event called Nerd Nite. It's a fun evening at a local social club where three different presenters come and, for 20 minutes, describe their geeky obsession or career. The first presenter (by far the best) talked about her work in forensic anthropology, helping to reconstruct skeletons to identify the deceased. The second presenter talked about the history of printing ink, and let us all play with fountain pens and gall nut derived ink. The third presenters were a DJ group called The Urban Monks, who gave us a history of electronic dance music.

During the history lesson one of the presenters made a comment that raised the hackles of my wife and I - he was talking about the growth of rave culture in the 1980s, and talked about how it was a reaction to Thatcherism, a kind of protest about the neo-classical economics and politics of the Conservatives. There were also "boos" from the audience at the mention of Thatcher's name. By my count only one person in the entire club was British, and they were too young to have any memories of Thatcher's government.

After the party I said to my wife "Yes, rave culture was a highly effective form of social protest - that's why Thatcher was prime minister for only eleven years!". We discussed the self-serving nature of liberal protest: its ineffective, it is self-directed, and it is purely for self-satisfaction.

Relatedly, in Adam Curtis' brilliant documentary The Century of the Self he charts how 1960s radicalism petered out from a political force into Eastern mysticism-inflected psychoanalytic navel gazing. The spoiled children of the Baby Boomers realized that changing the world through politics was hard and fraught with compromise, so instead they sought to 'be the change', by "tuning in, turning on, and dropping out." Maximal self-satisfaction, minimal risk, consequences borne by someone else: modern liberalism in its essence.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Andreas » 12 Apr 2013, 17:27

Roger and Michael,

Thank you for these thoughtful posts and pointing out the book and documentary. I wonder if the authors use the idea of an epidemic of narcissism the way Dalrymple uses the concept of sentimentality to explain our current state.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Caleb » 13 Apr 2013, 00:29

Yes, great posts from Roger and Michael.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Gavin » 13 Apr 2013, 01:48

Yes indeed, excellent posts, both.

It's such a shame one cannot even let on that one is conservative in the workplace today - even at trendy capitalist companies the staff pretend to be lefties. That really is a glass ceiling you can hit today. You have to keep any social comments firmly in the acceptable lefty progressive vein, if you make them at all, otherwise you might just find you're not promoted or your contract is not renewed: you have committed a social faux pas - you might not be a "team player", to use another absurd expression.

That's not nice, not easy, for those of us need work but want to be honest. I suppose we have to just be neutral towards, and not flatter, those we dislike. If we crawl to them we become like them. And we just need to do work at work and keep the intelligent discussion for places that can handle it, i.e. here.

I have always applied this separation, of course, and remain silent, but it is still a bit galling that leftie comments are considered acceptable pretty much anywhere, while conservative ones are not. Especially when the conservative ones are by far the more compelling. Even if you can prove you are right though, will typically just annoy the left-winger more since they generally argue from ego and emotion rather than in pursuit of truth.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Roger » 13 Apr 2013, 09:04

Speaking of Facebook, Michael, I remember a good few years ago when Facebook was new and all the rage amongst my peers. Everyone was urging everyone else to sign up and add each other as friends. I started adding my profile details and got to the entry regarding political orientation.

I'm somewhat embarrassed now to admit that I put "Liberal" in there. Everybody else I saw who filled it in was the same, except for one particular chap who identified as conservative, although he was not really a friend despite being on my "friends list". After all, being liberal stood for all that's good and progressive and hopeful, so what kind of twenty-one year old wouldn't be one? I wasn't thinking this wholly consciously, but looking back I can see the thought process behind my decision. It was less a decision arrived at through careful political analysis and introspection and more equivalent to a badge letting everybody know I was one of them, not one of those sticks in the mud. I was cool, tolerant, fun-loving and so on.

Of course some time afterwards I realised that not only do people not really care about my political orientation (or my favourite books and bands, for that matter) but that the liberal label wasn't accurate. I then began removing a lot of this unnecessary filler from my profile.

Facebook (and Twitter among others) allows that kind of lazy activism that people love as it gives them that warm glow from zero effort. "Like" this picture if you hate domestic violence! What nonsense. Americans recently had everyone change their profile picture to an equals sign in support of gay marriage. How many of those people had actually analysed the issue, the history of marriage, what it means as a cultural institution, whether or not the state should recognise marriage at all etc. and how many just wanted to wear the badge of honour because all of their friends were doing the same and they didn't want to be left out?

Andreas, it's been a while since I read Dalrymple's book on sentimentality, but I would imagine he includes the self-esteem angle which is quite prevalent in the book by Twenge & Campbell. There has to be a fair amount of interplay between the two phenomena, e.g. the narcissistic obsession with celebrity and the sentimental appetite for public apologies. It's quite clear that all authors concerned see these developments as a form of emotional stuntedness that is symptomatic of a worrying decline.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Gavin » 01 May 2013, 10:58

Dalrymple on this topic.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Elliott » 01 Jun 2013, 19:13

I've just stumbled upon a truly mindboggling example of the liberal mentality.

A white, liberal human rights activist called Amanda Kijera was in Haiti in 2010. I don't know what she was doing there - she says she was there to "to fight 'the man' on behalf of my brothers", but I don't know what that amounts to in actual physical activity. Anyway, she is all mad about white oppression of blacks and has taken it as her vocation to fight on behalf of blacks.

As part of that fight, Kijera began writing an article intending to defend black men from the charge that they frequently rape women, to preserve "the dignity of Black men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages".

Unfortunately, before finishing that article Kijera was raped by a black man.

Apparently the incident took place on a rooftop and went on for many hours.

Here is Kijera's account of what happened, but the crucial bit is that she not only forgives her rapist, but is "grateful" for the experience of being raped by a black man:

While I take issue with my brother’s behavior, I’m grateful for the experience. It woke me up, made me understand on a deeper level the terror that my sisters deal with daily.

Truly, I have witnessed as a journalist and human rights advocate the many injustices inflicted upon Black men in this world. The pain, trauma and rage born of exploitation are terrors that I have grappled with every day of my life. They make one want to strike back, to fight rabidly for what is left of their personal dignity in the wake of such things. Black men have every right to the anger they feel in response to their position in the global hierarchy, but their anger is misdirected.

Women are not the source of their oppression; oppressive policies and the as-yet unaddressed white patriarchy which still dominates the global stage are. Because women–and particularly women of color–are forced to bear the brunt of the Black male response to the Black male plight, the international community and those nations who have benefitted from the oppression of colonized peoples have a responsibility to provide women with the protection that they need.


It's difficult to know what to say, really.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Caleb » 02 Jun 2013, 12:03

The Facebook comments are pretty scathing. Take this one by Tate Andersen, for instance:

You speak as if you're one of them at the end, your pathetic case of Passover Syndrome is disgusting. You get raped by a savage and you blame whites for it. The rapist could have been blue with zebra stripes for all I care, but since you're ignorant.. you actually think these people "like" you, but in fact they view you as just another white person with no avail to your "exploits" in Haiti and other nonwhite parts of the world. Be proud of who you are, but don't sell out your own people for something the majority of us had no part of. If you're that sorry to be white, then you'd be just as sorry to be black. It's in your genes how pre dispositioned ypu are to act out the fantasy world in your head.


Others are less polite.
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Re: Trying to understand liberals

Postby Gavin » 03 Jul 2013, 11:51

I often remember some of the points made on this forum and one I remembered today was Roger's earlier comment:

Roger wrote:We often see the outcome of this in online discussion. If you question welfarist economics then you are just rich Tory scum. If you have problems with feminism and its dubious statistics then you are a misogynist rape apologist. If you are wary of large scale immigration then you are must be a thick racist. If you celebrate greatness and achievement then you obviously hate the poor and unfortunate.


This is the problem we face from the Left. They will never hesitate to twist remarks and use straw men wherever they can. In fact, the more true something is the more they will resort to these underhand tactics. They deliberately misunderstand and misrepresent the conservative position. They'll argue the West into extinction, helped all the way by the BBC, if we let them.

I was in the pub the other day, by the way (having breakfast), and I saw The Sunday Politics on again on the BBC. There was some Muslim representing the "Conservatives" and Laurie Penny ranting about something. Fortunately the sound was off, but the whole situation was just so bizarre. It looked to me like Penny is not far from an invitation to present on Woman's Feminist's Hour now.
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