Friday, May 06, 2005
(The following post elaborates upon the issues addressed in an earlier post. Admittedly, it's more emotionally motivated tirade than a practical analysis – in other words, “just bitching.”)
I've always sought to avoid becoming ensnared in one of the many on-line arguments which occur regularly on many web sites, not because I'm particularly docile or well mannered but, more simply, because I’d find it a waste of time.
I'm one of those guys who will occasionally tell the writer of an impressive blog post that they've stated their case well, or in some instances, I’ll write a few general comments of agreement or vent a few of my own passions on a given topic. I’d never consider wasting hours dredging up facts and citations to prove to another individual or a few onlookers that, "I'm right and you’re wrong." Recently, on one blog site, I came close to being pulled into just such a time-consuming and wasteful enterprise.
The leftist I sparred with comments often, in incredibly lengthily diatribes, clearly frazzled that the blog's writer and some other commentators, like me, have dared take a view different from his own. In terms of political views and style, this character's comments are a cliché version of all I've come to know and despise from the Jacobin crowd. In this sense, my on-line encounters with him are perfect examples of what conservatives and libertarians regularly encounter from most "progressives." His approach (when I refer to "him" I stress his significance as a symbol more than a personal polemic nemesis), is classic left in all ways; constant citing of Chomsky, obsessive criticism of anything American, and constant defense of any totalitarian enterprise, so long as it is anti-capitalist. Because his arguments often run pages and pages, it literally indicates that he has massive amounts of free time on his hands or can research, contemplate, and type, at miraculous speeds. At times, the obsessiveness of a stalker has come to mind when scrolling over his comments, which are often longer than the original blog post. His greatest gripe with me, and others of like persuasion, is that we won't specifically respond to his meticulous points. I've made it clear in my own blog on more than a few occasions, that I consider it to be futile arguing fine points with such characters – where does such an investment get either side really? I can surely loose sleep and leisure time over more worthy and productive endeavors. I realize that not responding with my own lengthily lists of scholarly retort implies defeat – oh well. To tell the truth, I can write all I want on my own blogsite and readers can agree or disagree all they want. The real world contains many contending viewpoints and most have some merit in some contexts with some people, so why should any of us go in to court-case mode in the fanciful hope of swaying a true believer (in this case the irony of a true believer in skepticism). I’m not going to surrender my belief in the virtues of free and open society, and the opposition will surly not relinquish allegiance to the socialist worldview – again, oh well.
So…I don’t like the left’s take on things. None the less, I’m more than willing to acknowledge that many spokespersons for their cause are quite bright, often well read and, may on occasion genuinely be motivated by a noble purpose (at least in their own eyes). No such dignity is afforded the libertarian right. Even in the most civil debates with the left, they always manage to imply -- or directly state -- that we conservative / libertarians are intellectual inferiors, unschooled in historical fact, and usually morally corrupt enough to earn the pervasive label, “fascist.” The particular polemic opponent I had dealt with skirts that issue by merely calling, “[my] ideas” fascist – thanks.
Jacobins love a straw man. Somehow appreciation for my countries character, history, and system, or my defense of it from the likes of Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky, is morphed into flag-waving nationalism in the mind of such opposition. This is the only way the left can view anyone who actually likes America, when comparing conservative views to their own excessive dislike for everything the U.S. represents (particularly its free market economic system). To dare like the U.S. (historical warts and all), and to desire limited government and a free economic system can only be judged by them as examples of rabid patriotism, intellectual ignorance, and, of course, “fascism.” Such critics are the same people who will respond to comments regarding the domination of academia by the left with the usual statement that this is because conservatives simply aren’t smart enough to make it into academe -– and they’re completely serious when they say this. They actually believe that intelligence correlates with a specific political philosophy -- theirs (too bad about Winston Churchill and Edmund Burke).
Most of us who are conservative or libertarians are well aware of the tragedies, misdeeds, and acts of horror done by the American government though its history. None the less, we still favor our relatively adaptable and open system, especially when comparing it to the one party dictatorships that the left all too often defends (often denying that they are in fact dictatorships).
The left's obsession with matters of patriotism (the topic of a future post) now regularly produces an increasingly heard retort that they are the "real patriots," that their "criticisms" (i.e. Michael Moore's, "Americans are the dumbest people on the planet”) are made because they care so much about the US. Who could possibly read the average leftist appraisals of America and miss their true sentiments regarding the country? They clearly do despise the US in general (not just its government or selected personalities in power at a given time).
In the left’s fantasy scheme there are conservative flag-waving fools who see no wrong in anything their country has done, and on the other side, themselves, the wise intellectuals, all knowing and unswayed by any doctrine. Such noble self appraisal would hold more credibility if it weren't for these character’s constant defense of communist dictatorships (i.e. China, Cuba, Vietnam). This attribute is so consistent amongst the left that I think it can be accurately said that, to them, the worst is always assumed of the U.S. and the benefit of a doubt always laid at the feet of any authoritarian institution so long as it is left of center.
Another conflict which inevitably colors my own encounters with the socialist crowd involves the different way people appraise ideas and circumstances in general. I don't know if it's a conservative trait specifically, but I personally prefer to deal in "generalities" and the more basic motivating factors that drive particular worldviews. People can debate minutia endlessly regarding the Enron scandal, McDonald’s marketing, or unfair labor practices but, in the end, one’s reasons to side with capitalism or socialism are beyond any such details they may wish to bring to the argument. All too often I find that the left wants to ramble to no end on fine points (and it seems, endlessly increasing points), often completely unrelated to another's simple call for less laws and government regulation. I don't think this particular quirk of character is necessarily a coincidence; in fact I find the leftist concern for detail to be a characteristic trait of what I call bureau-mind and the desire to micro-manage in general. Instead of recognizing that some people prefer to see things in “the big picture” the left often just discounts the value of an entire worldview if one chooses to not respond to their specific prosecution style “questions.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with citing examples to make one’s case but in confronting the left, all too often I find that my mere desire to live under limited constitutional government or favor individualism is deemed invalid unless I can specifically cite scholarly evidence and facts that prove that the Sandinistas were authoritarian, or that the numbers killed by Mao Zedong are completely accurate. To the left, responding to their specifics and details are critical to debate, to me…I couldn’t care less, and I don’t think my preference to view things in generalities somehow disproves my right to be free of the imposed collectivist schemes so cherished by the left. I think it's bad that Communist governments regularly control, coerce, and kill people to establish their vision. Arguing that the actual numbers harmed or persecuted may be exaggerated may make a valid micro-point but hardly contradicts the value of the initial sentiment.
One of the more typical accusations that continually emerges in debates with left-land is their pervasive implication that one is somehow a fascist (nationalist/statist/collectivist/authoritarian) for holding classical liberal views (a definite contradiction to say the least), and that somehow one's intellect and moral character are found weakened by their stance in support of limited government. I don’t believe that those of us who side with individuality, liberty, and self-government as value systems need apologize for our chosen position. We needn't "prove" our values are worthy amongst contending ideas, and we are under no obligation to justify ourselves before the specific micro-interrogations of Chomskyites, Trotskyites, or garden variety socialists. Also, our intellect, morality, or value systems are not somehow weakened by not having read the specific tracts a leftist would demand we read (I really wouldn't expect or demand that they read "our" stuff).
It's amazing how often the demagogues of the left-wing intelligentsia insult America, religion, traditional values, and anyone who fails to follow their demanding drummer. Is this the way they hope to expand their following?
This is admittedly a rather long winded whine motivated more by emotion than the much prided intellectual detachment of our Jacobin betters. I think I can speak for many of us on the libertarian right however, in stating that our beliefs are valid, and worthy of sober consideration. We needn’t feel compelled to respond to polemic micro-points and demands of left-land’s court of bogus accusation ("admit your crimes!"). There are certainly many libertarian / conservative writers who do address fine points and statistics if a leftist is so desperately in need of such.
The leftist polemic defines open-mindedness and inquiry as, consulting their sources and adopting their viewpoint. Is it any wonder that on many college campuses today the very concept of, “diversity and tolerance” is defined, in effect, as eliminating the conservative view altogether.
Of course, it can be said that I’m being general and subjective and that I'm offering no "facts, proof, or citations" as would be demanded from the holier-than-thou high priests of the left -- so...
I'm a free individual who believes in open and free society and limited government -- a fairly simple concept. If someone wishes to counter this value system with lengthily lists “proving” that America is selfish, greedy, and evil and that communist dictatorships are really crusaders for “the poor,” then…go for it. Just don’t assume that everyone who fails to bow down before your secular inquisition is lacking in intelligence, character, or morality…and, oh yeah, get over this “fascist” labeling thing. Fascists believe in one party centralized tyranny, the complete opposite of free-market classical liberalism, and in fact more closely akin to the socialist bureau-state that most on the left favor.
The prosecuting attorneys of the left will continue to state their smug demands that evidence be presented to "prove" -- to their satisfaction -- that a free constitutional republic (The U.S.) is preferable to their own favored systems of bureau-imposed collectivism. But, what exactly have they proved? -- beyond their own capacity to present themselves as arrogant elitists.
We don't want the product you're selling. Now, go back to your commune and leave the rest of us alone.