Ideology unbound

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

UC Berkeley faculty called for a Campus-Wide Boycott of Class to protest the visits of conservative speakers to the campus.

The faculty and staff who wrote the letter acknowledged UC Berkeley is “bound by the Constitution to allow all viewpoints on campus,” but also said there are “forms of speech that are not protected under the First Amendment.”

“We recognize that as a public institution, we are legally bound by the Constitution to allow all viewpoints on campus. However, there are forms of speech that are not protected under the First Amendment,” the letter said. “These include speech that presents imminent physical danger and speech that disrupts the university’s mission to educate.”


If the Left now think they can determine the limits of free speech they are more trapped than empowered, captives of their own stare decisis. They are on a treadmill sometimes called a “national conversation” from which they cannot get off. Often when the Left talks about having a national conversation they mean the thoughts that occur to them and no one else. Then having adjudicated their own internal reflections they author what they regard as binding opinion on themselves and all the rest. As Mark Lilla told David Remnick in the New Yorker the only flexibility ever available to a progressive is tactical.

It’s important to speak truth to power out in society. We’re journalists, right? We need to write about this kind of stuff. But, when we go out on the stump, it makes no sense to call out to various groups, as Hillary Clinton did, and inevitably leave people out. …

I want to get this across: we cannot do anything for these groups we care about if we do not hold power. It is just talk. Therefore, our rhetoric in campaigning must be focussed on winning, so then we can help these people. An election is not about self-expression. It’s not a time to display everything we believe about everything. It’s a contest. And once you hold power, then you can do the things you want to do.

Imprisoned by their own imperatives they arrive at policy positions — such as limits on free speech — which they regard as “settled” even though hundreds of millions may not even know what they are talking about. This insidious process of begging the question is typical of totalitarian propaganda which made abundant use of expressions like “undeniably”, “unquestionably” or as “everyone knows” or their more modern equivalents like as “all decent people agree …”, “the science is settled” or “this is not who we are” to assume what must otherwise be proved. But it nevertheless compels obedience like a herd driving itself along.


This has the effect of positing a consensus which in fact may not exist. The inevitable outcome of a “national conversation” is conflict declared upon a population that may never have heard of the casus belli before. But it does more than that. In many cases it also creates its own anti-universe. The paradox Ben Shapiro represents is that he as an entity should not exist but inexplicably does. Yet he exists because he must. Many of most of the monstrous figures that make progressives physically sick  have their origin stories in the framing of the narrative itself.

One of the most unsettling effects of the Left’s inward journeys is how it can instantly redefine everyone else. A population, for example, can go to uneventful sleep and awaken the next day to find the papers proclaiming they’ve been afflicted with cisnormativity or some other disorder, in a process not unlike how Kafka’s Gregor Samsa became a giant cockroach. Overnight there are suddenly 71 genders.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls.


The key difference is it wasn’t the vermin’s dream that produced the metamorphosis but someone else’s. That people didn’t frequently wake up as cockroaches was due to a political balance which is now lost. The ideologues used to be shaken awake into the cold light of day before their dreams could go too far. The suddenness with which progressives have become captives of their own extreme narratives may be due to the lost the anchor of backroom politics. Black Lives Matter and Chicago City Hall; Bernie Sanders and Rahm Emmanuel were two sides of the same coin that could not exist independently of each other — until now.

In retrospect, the worst tragedy to befall the Left in 2016 wasn’t the triumph of Donald Trump but the defeat of Hillary Clinton. She represented the line back to shore without which it was too dangerous to venture near the falls. In an interview with Ezra Klein after her defeat, Hillary Clinton defended the practice of taking money from Wall Street in terms Klein could not accept.

Hillary: I mean, Barack Obama took more money from Wall Street in ‘08 than any other Democrat has ever taken, and turned around and imposed the toughest regulations under Dodd-Frank since the Great Depression.

I tell people all the time, if you’re in a high income tax bracket, I want to tax you. If you still want to give me money, you are going in with your eyes open. I think it’s theoretically an interesting conversation, but you look at somebody like President Obama, who took a lot of money from a lot of different interests, but it didn’t affect how he governed. And so let’s get to the second level here.  … Well, but, you know, it’s always been thus. I mean, if you’ve seen the musical Hamilton, you know, if you’re running a raucous—

Klein: I actually haven’t gotten tickets to that.

Hillary: Well, we’ll see if we can help you on that.


Hillary for all her faults represented a load which kept the traditional Democratic engine of ideology from overspeeding. Historically, every socialist regime has been irredeemably corrupt and perhaps they needed that; without wheeling and dealing Bolshevism could never have survived. They were always a coalition, always competing, always in balance. In Russia today, as Brian Whitmore writes, corruption is the new communism and the backroom has the upper hand. In America, by contrast, it is the SJWs that temporarily drive the agenda.

Nothing is free, not even socialism. Too bad you can’t talk about this at Berkeley.

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The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II, by Gregory A. Freeman. This book is an account of Operation Halyard, the OSS mission to recover more than 500 American airmen shot down and trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. While local Serbian peasants gave refuge to the soldiers while they waited for rescue, once the operation started, the risks were incredible. The starving Americans had to construct a landing strip large enough for C-47 cargo planes — without tools, without alerting the Germans, and without endangering the villagers. And the cargo planes had to make it through enemy airspace and back — without getting shot down themselves.


Tank: The Definitive Visual History of Armored Vehicles, by DK. A visual history of armored vehicles, from the early tanks of World War I to present-day models, created in association with the Smithsonian Institution. It combines comprehensive photographic spreads with in-depth histories of key manufacturers and specially commissioned visual tours of the most iconic examples of their groundbreaking firepower. With two exclusive prints of a 1940 M3A1 (Stuart) and a 1940 StuG III.

Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, from David’s use of deception against Goliath, to the modern use of game theory in economics; from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to those of Achilles and Odysseus in The Iliad, of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, the great military innovations of Baron Henri de Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the insights into corporate strategy by Peter Drucker and Alfred Sloan, and the work of leading social scientists working on strategy today. He tackles the core issue at the heart of strategy – whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one’s control – and emerges with a picture of strategy through time – and inherently unpredictable circumstances – that is fluid and flexible.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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