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Caricatures of Liberalism

Posted by Rick · January 27th, 2005 · 7 Comments

I have an acquaintance from school who, in some ways, is like me. He espouses liberal ideals. But that’s exactly where the comparison that makes him “like me” ends. In fact, he belongs to a category a professor once described to me: “Liberal by accident of birth.”


Frankly, I detest this sort of liberal nearly as much as I detest conservatives. You can no more discuss anything with them than you can with the neo-cons. Both groups have achieved “true believer” status. In fact, there’s just one difference between that sort of “liberal” and the conservatives who are ruining our country. Though they often hold exactly the same views regarding the question of whether the ends justify the means, the liberal version is — as noted — accidentally less dangerous. Or maybe not…

Make no mistake: this sort of “liberal” is just as unthinking as the neo-cons. Therefore, they deserve no praise, no approbation, for the cosmopolitan beliefs they “just happen” to support.

True liberalism loves thought and reason and will reject even dearly-held beliefs when they are found to clash with those ideals. With these pseudo-liberals, you can’t even rightly say they “believe” in the things they espouse — does a mosquito “believe” in biting people? Lacking any intelligence of its own with which to make informed decisions, this sort of “liberal” just does.

Whether that means standing on a street corner holding cardboard signs that essentially say “Do something significant, substantial, world-changing! You know, like, uh…uhm — oh! I know! — honking your car’s horn, if you agree with me” or blasting people with forwarded email messages — written by someone else — which may, or may not, contain pieces of truth, they’re just acting. No thinking required.

After all, like the neo-Pharisees I wrote about a couple days ago, they’re in it for the praise they receive. They’re proud of being “open-minded.” If their “cause” accidentally lands them a few recruits…great! That many more to help get people honking horns at us! (Wouldn’t it be better to encourage people to actually write their congressional representatives, though?) Trouble is, they’re so open-minded it’s a surprise they don’t slip and fall, holding those signs on the street corner with their pitiful semi-solid brains sloshing around their feet whence they fell.

These are the folk who make it so difficult for us to actually achieve anything; slavish followers of “stars” like Michael Moore, they’re too far “out there” for anyone to pay much attention to their arguments. Worse, these are the folk so tightly identified in the public’s mind with liberalism.

But they aren’t liberals; they’re caricatures of liberals. Like all caricatures, they accentuate particular aspects of the things they represent. The parts they usually leave out contribute to the making of well-reasoned arguments.

As caricatures, they’ve contributed greatly to the near death of liberalism in the United States. Because of the excesses of this crowd and the view of ordinary Americans that they faithfully — that is, most accurately — represent liberalism, true liberalism has difficulty getting a hearing.

“What in the heck brought on this diatribe?”, you may be wondering.

For the last week, I’ve spent as much time researching and responding to bogus statements contained in emails received from “liberals” as I have spent blogging about neo-Pharisees. In doing so, I tried to explain that there are good reasons to say some of the things we might want to say. Those reasons should be presented sans falsehoods. The falsehoods add nothing to our message; rather, they detract from it. Mixing lies with the truth provides fodder for the unthinking folk in the conservative camp. “You can’t believe and should not even bother listening to liberals!“, they say. “Look! This [some untruth spoken by a so-called “liberal”] is provably false. But that’s how they fight!” Nevermind that the neo-Pharisees do the same.

Last night, the source of many (not all) of these emails wrote to me “rebutting” one of my comments (by simply saying what amounts to “uh-unh!”) and added, “That said, my list is not a discusion [sic] list.” My reply was admittedly harsh. But, for one thing, he’d worried about the potential that I was going to upset his community of caricatures before and I had, in reply, suggested that he might wish to quit including me in his list. And I’ve grown tired of the fact that you can no more have an adult discussion with his group than you can with the neo-Pharisees. One side is always right because G-d is on their side; the other side is always right because they think they are gods. I suggested that he remove me from his list, since he doesn’t like me hitting “reply all” and letting the others receive the links to stories and explanations of the facts, along with my opinions, when they clash with his. (But further proving the points I made above, he has often taken things I sent to him, with which he agreed, and re-forwarded them out to his group. In the process, I get back a copy of what I sent him, although, as you’ll see below, I’ve “never been on a list.”)

In a follow-up to my overheated suggestion that he remove me from his list, since he doesn’t want me replying with corrections or counter-opinions, he tells me:

You gave [sic] never been on a list, Rick. I have very deliberately copied things to you that may figure in some of the stuff that you write. Rather than write me directly, you, Mr. email etiquette himself, choose to invade the entire list out of some desire for granduer. [sic]

“Granduer” — unbeknownst to me, I’ve never really been interested in setting the record straight. My true goal — grandeur — doesn’t involve convincing anyone of anything. My arguments are merely grandstanding.

I’m not sure how I was supposed to know I’ve “never been on a list,” when I receive between one and three emails per day and there are — in the last few emails — fifty-eight names in the “To” list.

Even more ironic, the reference to me as “Mr. email etiquette himself” is because I once suggested that he could hide the recipients of the email by using “bcc”, for “blind carbon copy”, instead of putting everyone in the “To” line. I suggested this because some people don’t actually like their email addresses advertised to others. If he had followed my advice, he’d have gotten exactly what he apparently wanted; I couldn’t have replied to anyone on the non-existent list, except him.

And since there have been other times that other recipients have used “reply all” to respond to one of these emails, I’m just not sure I get how I was supposed to know that a) it’s not a discussion list (and so I shouldn’t “discuss” by replying) and b) I wasn’t even on it anyway.

At any rate, my blast last night — although I regret it now because I don’t like being that harsh with people who just can’t help being what they are — seems to have finally gotten me off this list. Or so he says.

If only it were that easy to get him to quit spreading b.s. to the rest of the world and causing them to think all liberals are fruitcakes.

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 LQ // Jan 28, 2005 at 6:14 am

    True liberalism loves thought and reason and will reject even dearly-held beliefs when they are found to clash with those ideals. With these pseudo-liberals, you can’t even rightly say they “believe” in the things they espouse — does a mosquito “believe” in biting people?

    Well said. I too, am driven crazy by these sorts. Debates usually turn into flamewars heh 🙂

  • 2 LS Butts // Jan 29, 2005 at 8:10 am

    We label others and we label ourselves. It all seems like a waste of time. It distracts us from the issues. It sets up roadblocks and it closes minds.

  • 3 Rick // Jan 29, 2005 at 8:26 am

    Not sure I understand the last comment.

    In fact, I initially barred it with mt-blacklist, because I mistakenly thought it was one of those spam comments that says nothing, but lives only to get someone’s URL up. Then I realized it came from someone whose blog I occasionally read and had to manually re-input it.

    “Labeling” is natural, normal and all creatures (not just humans) do it. It’s true that we have to be careful about our labeling activities. It’s just silly, though, to think that the problem is with the very act of labeling.

    If I understood your “[i]t all seems a waste of time” comment, I can’t agree. Without the labeling, there is no thinking. There are no issues. After all, try to talk about an issue without calling it something. It’s impossible.

    Proof? Didn’t you “label” the things from which we become distracted “issues”?

  • 4 Mark // Jan 31, 2005 at 7:42 pm

    Rick,

    I have to agree with LS Butts that labels, for people at least, can be more distracting than useful. Take “conservative.” I have one very good friend who believes that he is a conservative. Yet he genuinely cares for “the little guy” and makes his living fighting for the rights of people who are getting ripped off by the corporate conglomerates we call “insurance companies.” A guy like that doesn’t sound conservative to me.

    Another friend of mine was recently elected to the city council in his town. He describes himself as a “Republican.” Yet, he believes in fiscal responsibility. Even my Republican friends can’t argue that being a Republican and believing in fiscally responsible government is quite a contradiction.

    Most who know me would describe me as very “liberal,” yet I firmly support the death penalty — a stance that many of my “liberal” friends find repugnant.

    Labels can get in the way, and all too often do.

  • 5 Rick Horowitz // Jan 31, 2005 at 9:50 pm

    Well, there you have it.

    You’ve all convinced me. I will no longer “label” being truthful as “good.” Saying that being truthful is “good” is just labeling it. I will no longer label lies as “bad” — what, after all, is the point of such a label?

    Does it matter whether one is a Democrat, or a Republican? The words mean nothing, of course; they are merely labels. Why do we even have two parties? Won’t one do the job just as well? To call someone a Democrat, as opposed to a Republican, or a Republican, as opposed to a Democrat…. These are mere labels. In the end, there is no reason to vote for one, as opposed to the other.

    Life itself is but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    Words. Labels. Nothing.

  • 6 Mark // Feb 1, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    Howard Dean is a Democrat. Joe Liberman is a Democrat. Those two are about as different as night and day.

    George W. Bush is a Republican. John McCain is a Republican. Again, vast differences (McCain, for instance, has at least some morals and a sense of decency).

    Above are just a few examples of when labels are so meaningless that they hinder, rather than help, discussion and thought.

    I’m not saying that labels are always bad or that they are always counter-productive.

    At the same time, labels are not always good and/or useful.

  • 7 Rick Horowitz // Feb 1, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    The mis-use and abuse of labels is problematic. No doubt about it.

    Your claim goes too far, though, in that labels are unavoidable.

    When you trace the argument back to its source (Butts’ almost non-sensical response to my comment), you’re able to see both those points demonstrated.

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