Ed Driscoll

Check Their Premises

As Pat Moynihan once told an interviewer, “Hannah Arendt had it right. She said one of the great advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.” And it may date that far back, as this quote by French intellectual Raymond Aron from 1976 discovered by Diane Ellis at Ricochet in a post titled “Misplaced Leftist Outrage:”

Leftists should be angry with President Obama for his failures in handling the economy and for his administration’s exposed habit of corruption that continues to come to light.  Instead they’re angry at anyone who might benefit from the revelation of dark truths.

This characteristic of the left is nothing new.  Writing in 1976 on European “Leftism” (in an essay included in Ricochet Member Flagg Taylor’s The Great Lie), French thinker Raymond Aron described the same peculiar trait among European Leftists.

… “Leftism” is, so to speak, the elaboration of the principle according to which everything is measured by two different scales.  It matters little what a man of the Right actually says, his views will be rejected in advance.  If he mentions Soviet concentration camps, then it is not because he loves freedom and loathes the repression of one man by his fellows, but because for reasons which he cannot admit he has chosen the camp of the “Rightists” (or the conservatives, or the reactionaries)…

And of Leftist poster boy Jean-Paul Sartre, Aron wrote:

At a time when people in the West were discussing the fact that there were concentration camps in the Soviet Union, [Sartre] directed his anger not so much against the Soviet authorities who had established these camps, nor against the Communists who had denied their existence, but against the anti-Communists and the so-called Rightists who were suspected of rejoicing in the fact.

I find some strange, perverse comfort in learning that there are substantial precedents for the seemingly irrational behavior of American liberals.  Though leftist ideology may be thoroughly unreasonable, at least it’s completely consistent.

Since the conversation will be so predictable, why not have some fun and do an end-run around it, particularly at cocktail parties? That’s the tactic that Belladonna Rogers suggests in a recent post here at PJM, proffering advice to a woman frustrated at leftists assuming she has to vote for Obama merely because of her gender:

You may have heard the one about the out-of-towner who asks directions in Manhattan: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”  The New Yorker replies: “Practice.”

That’s also the secret of dealing with liberals.  Before you attend another party, practice saying calmly, “I don’t accept the premises underlying your assumption.” Say it as many times as necessary to feel comfortable uttering that sentence whenever you encounter a liberal.

In the context of your dinner conversation, here’s how it would go:

“What do you mean?” the shocked liberal will ask.

“First, I wouldn’t assume that anyone to whom you put that question would vote for Obama under any circumstances.

“A second premise of your question is that I vote as a woman.  That’s a classic Democrat assumption.”

Again, you’ll be facing a flummoxed liberal.

A word of warning: the more you say, the more the liberal’s response will turn to enraged apoplexy. By the time you’ve finished lucidly expressing your views, the liberal will react like a shrieking, psychopathic hyena being laced into a straitjacket.  More on this below.

Read the whole thing, including a terrific response to the expected liberal apoplectic rage, which is currently at 156 comments and counting.

Related: Ann Althouse quotes from a 1951 essay by Bertrand Russell:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.,,,

As Althouse writes, “‘Liberal’ meant something once!” Are there any men or women of the left remaining who still hold any of the premises that Russell expounds?

(Headline inspired by up and coming novelist Alisa Rosenbaum.)