Michelle Goldberg over at the Nation published an excellent article on the #CancelColbert controversy arising out of what she has dubbed the “New Political Correctness”:
It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.
Radicals thrive on crisis. The crises they are generating are evidence of how truly free we are as a nation. Panicking over statuary is as #FirstWorldProblem as you can get. Yet we should not be fooled: The chaos of radicals always has a serious motive.
Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”
Whether it is in a public forum or a private business (as with last week’s case of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich) “no-platforming” is the desired outcome of the radical-induced chaos. Whether it is used against the presumed liberal (feminism) or conservative (anti-BDS) cause, the outcome is the same: a clampdown on free speech and individual expression, marketed as kind-hearted, feel-good social legislation. Orwell would not be surprised.
Call it left-wing anti-liberalism: the idea, captured by Herbert Marcuse in his 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance,” that social justice demands curbs on freedom of expression. …both the belief that correct opinions can be dispassionately identified, and the blithe confidence in the wisdom of those empowered to do the suppressing. This kind of thinking is only possible at certain moments: when liberalism seems to have failed but the right is not yet in charge. At such times, old-fashioned liberal values like free speech and robust, open debate seem like tainted adjuncts of an oppressive system, and it’s still possible for radicals to believe that the ideas suppressed as hateful won’t be their own.
If “left-wing anti-liberalism” was so easily earmarked in 1965, why haves conservatives been so slow to champion themselves as the true, classically liberal group? Moreover, Marcuse defined the social justice movement as a separate and distinct entity in and of itself, one with radical tendencies and oppressive behaviors. Instead of championing this idea, conservatives continue to cling to archaic notions of “evil liberals,” helping to subdue the notion that any political party could ever be subverted by a radical sub-group bent on a chaos-induced government suppression of freedom. As a result, we now have empowered a group of radicals who are crafting a climate of chaos through legislation impacting our economy and our political participation in order to inevitably justify oppressing us for our own good.
“One of the most striking characteristics of ‘60s radicalism was its aversion to liberalism,” wrote Alice Echols in Daring to Be Bad, her history of radical feminism. “Radicals’ repudiation of liberalism was not immediate; rather, it developed in response to liberalism’s defaults—specifically, its timidity regarding black civil rights and its escalation of the Vietnam War.” Something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale, happened after Bill Clinton ended welfare as we know it, and it’s happening now, as economic misery persists under Barack Obama. There’s disenchantment not just with electoral politics, but with liberal values as a whole. “White liberal” has, once again, emerged as a favorite left-wing epithet.
Radicals are not liberals. In fact, they hate liberals for not embracing Marxism strongly enough and quickly enough to institute rapid, overnight change. (For further proof, simply search the #liberalzioniststrategies tag on Twitter.) We have learned from Obama and his “Rules for Radicals” cronies that radicalism can be dressed up and marketed as “liberal” because the “ends justify the means”. That is when, as Goldberg points out,
“…activism becomes less about winning converts and changing the world and more about creating protected enclaves and policing speech.”
The radicals in liberals’ clothing feed this chaos-induced “need” for government protection by drumming up carnal emotions about race, class, gender, sexuality, even religion. Ask yourself what you first noticed about the above-quoted paragraph: The fact that radicals have an aversion to liberalism, or the racism apparent in their expression “White liberal”? Like magicians, radicals distract their audience by demographically baiting them, all the while performing slight-of-hand with Constitutional freedoms.
…Anti-liberalism is, after all, supremely useful to the right. Some day president Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz or Rand Paul is going to be sworn in, and an ascendant, empowered conservatism will once again try to curtail dissent in pop culture and academia, just as it always does. Public art won’t be taken down because it’s considered triggering—it will be taken down (or covered up) because it’s considered indecent. There might be another #CancelColbert campaign, but it won’t come from the left. Maybe people will be ashamed, then, that this one did.
What hit your trigger? Her accusation that a leader from the Right will somehow squash freedom of expression? Her assertion that the morality of the Right isn’t a good enough method for defining acceptable and unacceptable forms of public speech? Was your first reaction to rise to the defense of Ryan, Cruz, or Paul? Or, to get stymied in a debate over which one is the better conservative? Or to defend the Judeo-Christian morality of America? If so, congratulations: You’ve fallen for the trick. When the next law is passed, you’ll gasp at it just as you would at the rabbit being pulled from the hat.
The first thing we should take from Goldberg’s article is the theory that we must be the watchdogs for anti-liberalism, real liberalism, on both sides of the aisle. Such unity is possible. Take, for instance, the many liberal gay marriage supporters who were outraged by Eich’s forced resignation from Mozilla this week. Need further proof? Leftist Goldberg’s thesis confirms conservative Seth Mandel’s declaration: “Religious Americans and others in favor of natural rights should not be complacent when a specific battle on this front is fought that doesn’t involve them, because the ground is continually shifting beneath our feet.” Now is the time for conservatives and anti-radical liberals to rise up and lay claim to America’s classically liberal roots, distinguishing themselves from the radical Marxists who seek to fester chaos, trigger crisis, and take over, lest we allow ourselves to get hashtagged out of existence.