Thursday, August 11, 2005

More circle dancing

Michael Totten has drawn our attention in this post to an article by James Wolcott. Totten writes that Wolcott is beating up on liberal hawks (he singles out Roger L. Simon in particular) for making common cause with conservatives by supporting the Terror War.

Not a surprise, not in the least. Nor is the particularly vicious tone of the Wolcott article. I've written many times before about the phenomenon of the left turning on its apostates with a vengeance, both
here
as well as in most of my posts about David Horowitz's Radical Son.

As I wrote in Totten's comments, there's something extraordinarily mean-spirited and small in Wolcott's article. Instead of just saying that he himself thinks the liberal social and domestic agenda that people such as Roger may still aspire to is being compromised by their supporting Bush, Wolcott is especially snide and supercilious.

Wolcott seems to think that Simon and others of his ilk are clinging desperately to the notion of themselves as social liberals because, clearly, that's the only way to keep their self-respect. He wants to take them down a peg or two--or three or four or more. He seems to think the only shreds of self-respect they have left are the remnants of the liberalism they retain, and he wants to tear even those last shreds from them.

I don't think Wolcott can even conceive of a sane person being proud of a conservative point of view--to him, the only good people are liberals, and if Simon and others are no longer totally liberal, then they no longer can stake any claim to being at all good. Liberalism is an all-or-nothing proposition for Wolcott, and he is intent on drumming out of the fold those who don't buy the entire package as Wolcott defines it.

This is the type of thing I'm talking about, from Wolcott's article:

...no doubt futile effort to educate Roger L. Simon in the finer points of not making a fool of himself in the future....

...with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride.


Once again, I'll let one of my favorite writers, Milan Kundera, have the last word. Here's a relevant excerpt from his wonderful Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978), about that circle dance which Wolcott is currently so angry at the Roger Simons of the world for leaving:

I too once danced in a ring. It was in the spring of 1948, the Communists had just taken power in my country, the Socialist and Christian Democrat ministers had fled abroad, and I took other Communist students by the hand, I put my arms around their shoulders...

...just about every month there [was] something to celebrate, an anniversary here, a special event there, old wrongs were righted, new wrongs perpetrated, factories were being nationalized, thousands of people went to jail, medical care became free of charge, small shopkeepers lost their shops, aged workers took their first vacations ever in confiscated country houses, and we smiled the smile of happiness. Then one day I said something I would better have left unsaid. I was expelled from the Party and had to leave the circle.

That was when I became aware of the magic properties of a circle. Leave a row and you can always go back to it. But once a circle closes, there is no return. It is no accident that the planets move in a circle and when a stone breaks loose from one of them it is drawn inexorably away by centrifugal force. Like a meteorite broken loose from a planet, I too fell from the circle and have been falling ever since.

16 Comments:

At 4:25 PM, August 11, 2005, Anonymous Larry said...

Good post, as usual, neo. I think this left-liberal rage at apostates is a real social/political phenomenon, and is a vivid indication of a belief system that sees itself as threatened or endangered. Here's another blog post along similar lines (also picked up by Michael Totten, interestingly), the comments to which provide more evidence of the phenomenon.

In particular, in these pieces and elsewhere, you can see an extreme sensitivity to the supposedly magical properties of a political label, as though threatening to attach the "wrong" -- i.e., conservative -- label just by itself should be enough to spook any sliders or free-thinkers. Here's what I wrote in the comments on this (sorry for self-quoting):

People on the left seem to spend a lot of time obsessing over labels -- who's "lurched rightward", who's "DLC", who's "hard left", "rightwing", "neoconservative", etc. -- and not so much actually thinking about, and making, an argument. It's as though they think assigning a label just IS an argument. But it isn't. I understand, of course, that such labels provide a kind of context and shorthand for a beleaguered community, but they also tend to short out thought. Those worried, consciously or subliminally, about excommunication from the community will need to worry about the label-slinging, it's true. But those more concerned about being "reality-based" will follow their thought where it leads and let the labels fall where they may.

 
At 5:17 PM, August 11, 2005, Anonymous vanderleun said...

In more ways than one Wolcott lives a barren life. Barren people always seem to tend towards the mean and bitter.

 
At 7:55 PM, August 11, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

I think it's probably widely agreed that the accusation of "racist" is a manipulative scam.
"Do what I tell you or I'll accuse you of racism."

The giving or revoking of "liberal" seems, instead, to have genuine mana to liberals. They actually BELIEVE, which it is pretty clear they don't when slamming accusations of racism or homophobia or whatever.

Very strange.

 
At 8:55 PM, August 11, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

They do appear to be lashing out in frustration and fear. 9/11 put a big crack in the liberal ideology of extending the principles of good faith, benevolence and fair play to 3rd worlders, having the notion that terrorism is really in response to capitalism, oil and pax americanaism, primarily a 3rd world response. Reason, logic, empathy, understanding, generosity, guilt alleviance, all combined can overcome social ills you know. The wealth and religion of bin laden and relative middle class standards of many of the 9/11 terrorists hit them hard. Their education and stark raving commitment to jihadism startled them. They still can't fully accept that it's mostly about religion. The bona fide and unquestioned existance of al qaidah training camps startled them again, followed by a rash of bombings, particular the Bali night club slaughter and the unheard of malaysian/philippino connections. Then the UN headquarters and the Red Cross headquarters in Iraq got blown up, bastions of what liberalism essentially stands for, the beheadings started, then came the London attacks, which really opened up the crack in their ideology, given the nature of British liberalism and cultural pluralism. Defections can't be tolerated - the covered wagons are circled but some of the wagons are peeling off, knowing there is no hope in staying surrounded.

 
At 9:25 PM, August 11, 2005, Blogger Rafique Tucker said...

It's really the age-old problem that arises when someone is so blinded by their ideology, that all manner of reason and civility are cast aside. In other words, it's groupthink run amok. You see, for a ideologue like Wolcott, anyone who differs from the Party line is no longer fit for the kingdom. Liberal hawks must know what this is like, having been forced to prove our liberal credentials to the inflexible "true believers."

The intellectual disease infects all ideologies, including liberal ones. For men like Wolcott, and the antiwar Leftists who agree with him, we've all lost our minds, and have been seduced by the sweet-talk of the "neo-cons."

Of course, we know this is absurd (unless you really have been seduced by the neo-cons). The fact is, they say we've abandoned the Left, when in actaulity, they've abandoned their OWN principles.

Last I checked, liberalism and liberation were like brothers.

 
At 4:29 AM, August 12, 2005, Blogger Clive said...

I've had Wolcott on my blogroll for ages, but have just decided it's not worth bothering any more. He's an interesting source for Manhattan coterie gossip. The rest is just full of bile.

 
At 6:08 AM, August 12, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

My friend Susan is into square dancing, and my sister Debbie likes line dancing.

As for myself, I can do a fairly impressive Limbo...not to be confused with Limbaugh.

 
At 6:25 AM, August 12, 2005, Anonymous Paul said...

Left?Liberal rage at apostates? No way! Seriously it can be vitriolic when a person dares go against the party line ! As an old Leftist I know first hand that this happens a lot.

 
At 7:13 AM, August 12, 2005, Blogger knoxgirl said...

Totten's post had a link to Wolcott's blog. I poked around and did some reading... and I truly can't believe how lame Wolcott's rantings are. This guy is a paid writer for a major magazine??

I didn't expect to agree with the guy, but I certainly didn't expect there to be strings of vitriol against people like Glenn Reynolds and Roger Simon. I mean, these guys aren't exactly Rush Limbaugh... Wolcott has the sort of rage toward them you expect to see directed only toward people like, well, the 9/11 hijackers, for example.

Further sad proof, I guess, that there really is no room for diversity of opinion among the left anymore.

 
At 8:34 AM, August 12, 2005, Anonymous hg wells said...

Here's the first couple definitions of liberal according to dictionary.com

* Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
* Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

I live in San Francisco and my journey since 9-11 has been similar to neo-neocon's and probably many others reading here. I still consider myself a liberal and by these definitions I qualify.

But the US seems to have gone through the looking glass somewhere in the last decade or so, and the word liberal has been appropriated to mean identification with a very particular, dogmatic, and intolerant political viewpoint.

 
At 10:45 AM, August 12, 2005, Anonymous David Thomson said...

“..having the notion that terrorism is really in response to capitalism, oil and pax americanaism...”

Deep in their guts, if not even consciously, the Left is convinced that terrorism is merely the logical blow back of our allegedly imperialistic policies. The terrorists are victims of capitalist exploitation. It is therefore foolish to fight these murderers when we should instead remove our foot off their necks. In other words, the Leftists are highly influenced by Marxism. Unfortunately, one is charged with McCarthism when pointing this out.

 
At 10:58 AM, August 12, 2005, Blogger PatCA said...

Nick Cohen is the latest apostate. Our ranks are growing!

Kundera also talked about the lure of the grand march of history

Some of the leftists still need that fix of euphoria that comes from "national liberation" movements, bright flags, camaradery. Seductive...for a time.

 
At 11:17 AM, August 12, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

knoxgirl--I hated linking to Wolcott at all and giving him any hits. I didn't explore his page too much when I got there myself, but I'm not surprised that it would contain the sort of stuff you describe.

Another theory I'm floating (and this is a complete guess, since I don't know much about the guy) is that his attacks on bloggers come from the fact that he sees them as a threat to his own livelihood-- amateurs trying to usurp the pro.

 
At 11:53 AM, August 12, 2005, Blogger Bookworm said...

It was funny to turn to your blog today -- which I did to pick up a link to your blog for a post I was doing -- and to discover that you were posting along parallel lines to mine. My post, which is here, examines the idea that deep biases prevent the Left from being able to review and analyze any facts that are contrary to their dogma. I also posit that those who have made the journey from liberal to conservative have had some epiphany that's enabled them to step back from their biases -- and I mentioned your "A Mind is a Difficult Thing to Change" series in connection with my post.

 
At 12:17 PM, August 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 11:45 AM, August 12, 2005, David Thomson said...
...the Left is convinced that terrorism is merely the logical blow back of our allegedly imperialistic policies. ...the Leftists are highly influenced by Marxism....

Actually, Marx never made a big deal out of imperialism... if anything he though it was good because it would industrialize the less developed areas of the world. Hitler bitched about it a lot, but it called it interference from the 'plutocracies' (allegedly with Germany via some kind of Jewish / Capitalist / Anglo conspiracy)...

It didn't become a leftie issue until the 50s and 60s. By then, it was obvious the plight of the proletariat was getting better (re: they wouldn't not rise up and fight for them) and they needed new issues to be outraged about...

Its fun reading about lefty progressive history… real eye opener…

 
At 3:32 AM, August 18, 2005, Blogger Kenneth said...

This is an unfortunate tactic that the Left learned from Communism, which is very strict about party (or just ideological) discipline and uses bullying, personal attacks, and excommunication as tactics.

 

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