Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Rights of The Right

One thing I've always noted in Hollywood movies is that left-wing leaders and governments are portrayed as benevolent and freedom-loving while right-wing governments are seen as controlling and dictatorial.  What fascinates me about this is how this is the opposite of real life.
One live example of this is the current political debate going on in the United States.  On the right the Republicans are having one of the most boring nomination campaigns in history but the presence of Ron Paul and his strong libertarianism as well as the (waning) influence of the Tea Party is forcing the candidates to discuss such issues as individual freedom and the role of government in the lives of its citizens.
On the left, however, no such discussion is happening.  Actually, it's quite the opposite.  Two current themes are coming out of that side: (1) The government is right to expand its role into people's lives, especially in health care and (2) if you disagree with lefist views and values you are wrong and stupid.
Not of a different opinion.  Not reaching a different conclusion.  Wrong and stupid.
Now one can certainly appreciate the value of such an attitude. For one thing it saves you from having to actually defend your positions in any debate.  Why  go through the bother of having to develop an intelligent base for your position when you can simply slag the other side and declare its opinion null and void simply because it disagrees with yours?
What the definition of "legitimate scientist"?  One who believes in global warming.  If you don't, it doesn't matter how much information you have to back up your position.  You can't be legitimate because legitimate scientists support global warming.  Therefore your opinion doesn't count and it can be states that all legitimate scientists agree that global warming is a man-made phenomenon which will ultimately destroy all life on the planet.
Want to talk about abortion, possible on regulating it or restricting it so it doesn't act as a form of birth control?  You hate women.  You think they can't think for themselves.  You're a evil person who wants women to die of septic shock from the complications of backstreet abortions.  You couldn't possibly be reasonable because the definition of reasonable is "believes in abortion without restriction".
Consider the left's response to the rise of Rick Santorum in the Republican nomination race.  Now, I'm not a big fan of Santorum.  From what I've seen of the pathetic field of candidates I think that Mitt Romney is the most presidential and I base that on his haircut more than anything else.  Frankly I think Newt Gingrich might do a good job of it but he looks like a troll.  No Oval Office for him.
But it's the reaction to Rick Santorum that I find fascinating.  It's visceral and hateful more than anything.  Here's a guy who, unlike Romney and Gingrich, is offering a socially conservative platform.  He's standing on things like restricting abortion, the role of religion in the public square and so on.  And the left has been driven into a frenzy.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, two men whose jobs exist simply so the right can be made fun of, can't stop attacking him.  The press is having a field day.  "I can't believe he thinks that" and "I hope he doesn't win" seem to be the most popular things to say about him.
What happened to the democratic process?  If Rick Santorum's view disagree with your then don't vote for him but is the left suggesting through their rhetoric that he has no right to those views at all?  Is democracy for them a competition between left and lefter because other views are simply not allowed?
Perhaps the difference between the left and the right is best seen in the difference between the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements.  The latter organized, spread and then worked to put its representatives into office so they could influence the course of government.  They didn't expect to change America by shouting but by proving their ideas in the political marketplace.  The former hung out in parks, whinged and engaged in public vandalism and then went home when the weather turned cold.  They had no interest in engaging in politics because they didn't think they should have to turn to something as banal as the democratic process in order to force their ideas down other people's throats.
Another great example is the recent statement of Justin Trudeau's up here in Canada.  For America readers, Trudeau is the son of the most snobbish, arrogant and self-centered prime minister Canada ever had.  For Pierre Eliot Trudeau others were inferior creatures designed to be remade in his image of what the average docile Canadian should be.  It is no wonder that his son recently stated that if Canada, under its current (nominally) right wing government continued its crusade to change the country then he would consider supporting the separation of Quebec since la belle province would be the only "right thinking" place left.
Again, take a step back.  The current government has said nothing about regulating abortion (currently completely unregulated up here) or curtailing homosexual marriage rights (currently available across the country).  That didn't stop Trudeau from accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of imminently revoking eligibility for both.  The lack of evidence of any actual attempts means nothing to him since Harper is clearly opposed to both and that's enough for him.
A final example is Canadian scientist-celebrity David Suzuki's musings recently that any politician opposed to accepting global warming as "fact" should be put in jail.  Not voted out of office by the electorate.  Not debated in a public forum.  Jail.  Why debate when your opponent is so obviously wrong?  Why trust the election process when the people might make the wrong choice (ie. not yours)?
It is ironic that the leftist attitude that disdains any contradicting opinion to its own is ultimately what disqualifies them from being able to have intelligent debates.  Perhaps in the future someone will arise from that side of the spectrum that is capable of articulating left wing positions intelligently but it doesn't seem to be the case now.

17 comments:

Y. Ben-David said...

It's sad to say but although it was thought at one time that Israel would adopt eventually adopt American attitudes towards free markets and democracy, in fact, the opposite is happening and the US is becoming more like Israel.
The founders of the existing Israeli political system...the MAPAI and MAPAM socialists along with their fellow travellers in the General Zionist movement were NOT inspired, as were the American Founding Fathers, by an English-style view of individual rights and democracy which go back to the Magna Carta and the early founding of Parliament, but rather by Eastern European Socialism and Marxism.
In the Marxist system, one is required to acknowledge that Marx was the infallible prophet of Socialism, and that to disagree with him was not merely "wrong", but actually dangerous and ILLEGITIMATE. Thus, political disagreements were not merely differences of opinion, but a war between the "sons of light and the sons of darkness". Political opponents of the ruling Leftist Socialists must not only be outvoted, they must be removed from society.
A recent book of memoirs by Shimon Peres regarding his "rebbe" David Ben-Gurion points out that Ben-Gurion viewed Lenin as the "Ideal Leader"....cold, hard, emotionless, willing to sacrifice a whole generation for his view of "utopia".
Fortunately for Israel, Ben-Gurion also realized that Israel needed to ally itself first with the British Empire and then with the United States, so this prevented him from creating a police state, but he tried mightly using the organs of the state, the state-controlled electronic media and other forms of coercion to prevent the political opposition (mostly the Revisionist-Herut-Likud Right-wing) from being given a fair platform to present its views, always facing a barrage of insults, delegitimazation and even worse in order to prevent them from being able to eventually wrest power democratically.
Finally, as the Israeli population matured politically and became disillusioned with Socialism, see its corruption and suffocating of national economic activity, the ham-handed coercion began to wear thin and the Israel population began to think for itself....however if you read newspapers like Ha'aretz and read Israeli Leftist discourse on the internet, we still see the same delegitimization of the secular and religious political Right.
So what is happnening in the US where we see the same sort of attitudes by the political Left? They don't have the "prophet" Marx to use in order to convince themselves that only they are right and the opposition is not only wrong but actually evil and destructive.
Maybe it is due to a decline in religious values. The secular Israeli Left was willing to adopt underhanded methods to maintain their control...maybe the secular Left in America feels the same way...anything goes...."what's right is what you can get away with". Add to this the coarsening of American culture with foul language becoming acceptable and pornography the norm in the media.
The Torah teaches us that things like this not only damage the individual involved in it, but it damages society as a whole, so people become less tolerant of their neighbors who don't agree with them. In any event, these trends are worrying.

Canuck said...

Good post, Garnel Ironheart. I agree that leftists often disdain those who hold contradicting views. But, I think what prevents them from debating the issues intelligently isn't only their disdain or meanness, but their ignorance of opposing views and their inability to understand their own biases. Leftists tend to base their opinions on emotion - they prefer views that make them feel generous, kind, smart, cool, etc. They usually haven't analyzed the facts, but fall for the indoctrination they received from teachers and mentors. Basically, they ignorantly accept the narratives promoted by the elite opinion makers. Mainly, I blame the schools for failing to teach students how to research opposing views, analyze facts, and be skeptical.

Y. Ben-David said...

Another factor I frequently see in Leftist/progressive advocates is a general pessimism about life, other people and the future. Thus, the hysteria about the Global Warming theory ("we are all doomed unless you do what I say"). A good example is Yossi Sarid who now has a column in Ha'aretz. On TV he has a perpetual frown. His columns are an endless repetition about how stupid everyone is, how we are doomed, how all politicians (except him) are corrupt. He never has a good word to say about anyone. Ehud Olmert as Prime MInister stated that "Israel is doomed unless we create a Palestinian state immediately". Even Leftist columnists got on him for saying such a thing (BTW-if he is correct, why should the Palestinian WANT to make peace if not making peace will get rid of us quicker?).
I will never forget one of the last appearances on TV of Israel's Leftist "prophet" Yeshayahu Leibowitz. Some asked him about Israel's sitution. He had a sour, crumpled face and he said "bad...very bad". Of course, we can say that he was very elderly at the time and probably not in the best of health, but he had a long history of such attitudes.
This can have an ominous meaning for those who believe in democracy....if someone really thinks that everyone is corrupt and stupid, then what value are elections and choices made by the public.....this is the thinking behind Rahm Emanuel's infamous statement "one should never waste a good crisis"...meaning that politicians can exploit crises in order to frighten and railroad the public into accepting measures that clear thinking and calm reflection would never sanction.

Adam Zur said...

My complaints about the left: Mainly I see it as rabidly anti-semitic. That is a flaw in my eyes. But further i see the major problems to be thus: Marx is a bore and totally disproved. Lenin tried to redeem him with the idea that colonialism enabled capitalism to survive longer. But as a theory of history which is the definition of Marxism, it was proven wrong. It made a scientific prediction that did not happen. So the Left tries to make up the difference but putting in interesting people like Nietzsche and Weber and Freud. They don't seem to notice that Freud and Nietzsche are direct contradiction. Weber and Marx are also in direct contradiction. And Nietzsche certainly made Marx's "Moment in time" seem stupid from then on. But when all this nonsense is presented as one package people swallow the bait. Because Marxism in its essence proved a way for people to justify stealing from the rich and to feel good about it. It is a powerful social glue. To see the complete intellectual bankruptcy of the left see the Sokal affair for further details. He wrote an article of complete utter nonsense that was published in the most prestigious Post Modern journal around.

Canuck said...

I believe Garnel's essay concerns the moderate left (now the majority), not the far left. Few people actually study Marxist theory; and while socialism is alive and well, communism has been discredited everywhere. Far left socialists in Israel are perhaps more mainstream than their moderate comrades in North America. But, socialism in Israel has left a society divided into mutually hostile interest groups, each fighting to grab more shekels from the hapless taxpayer. Unfortunately, once socialist programs are implemented in nominal democracies, they are very hard to eliminate. Canada is a perfect example - a Conservative government can't eliminate socialist programs, but can only promise to manage them more efficiently. Socialism has become a cultural problem rather than a political one. Only a near fiscal disaster can force positive change.

Y. Ben-David said...

I should make it clear that although it was the "certitudes" of Marxism (class-struggle, the inevitability of the triumph of Communism, the objective 'iron-laws' of history, economics as the prime motivation of human behavior, etc) that defined the early founders of the current Israeli political system, the Israeli population already was becoming detached and alienated from it in the 1960's. What has remained is the ATTITUDE of the ruling elite that is decended from these early MAPAI-MAPAM-General Zionist Socialists....i.e. the belief that only "our" camp has the right to rule, the "stupidity" or "inferiority" of those who support opposition ideals, the idea of "entitlement", meaning the right to take taxpayers money since their great-grandparents drained the swamps making the whole country their private possession, etc.
I don't want to give a too pessimistic view of things in Israel...there are improvements. Young Israelis are more open minded and the anti-religious tendencies have to a large degree died out (I do not consider someone who thinks Haredim should serve in the IDF as being anti-religious...most of these people have no problem with Haredim living their own lifestyle so long as they don't bother other people with it. This was not the case in the early years of the state where religous observance was viewed as deleterious to national development). However, there is still a long way to go.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

It was only a few elections ago that a Labour MK referred to the Likud's supporters as the "asasfsuf", the unwashed masses. Perhaps that's the biggest reason Labour gets smaller and less important with every election. They still think they're the natural governing party of Israel and can't understand why the voters don't just get it.

Adam Zur said...

Canuck wrote: "I believe Garnel's essay concerns the moderate left (now the majority), not the far left. Few people actually study Marxist theory."
The social studies in America are Marxist without saying so. They use weasel words to cover the doctrines. Just take a look at the books that are studied in the humanities department of your local collage and then tell me you don't think they are preaching Marxism. (Especially look at the women studies and black history.)


The place where Marx is in fact excluded is in the Economics Department --the one place where he thought he had validity.

Canuck said...

Adam - I appreciate your comments, and agree that radicalism and identity politics has invaded many university departments. But, how often are Karl Marx's writings cited these days, even to confirm an academic's political agenda? And, why blame Karl Marx for that? I'm more concerned about the soft socialists in many university departments, including economics and business schools, where they indoctrinate students with ideas that will bankrupt us down the line. It seems in Israel, that leftists academics and politicians are closer to their Communist (or Progressive) predecessors, and that might explain the more radical rhetoric described in the earlier comments.

Canuck said...

Adam - You may be right about the humanities and social sciences having been grossly corrupted by left wing ideology. I experienced just a bit of this at university, since I opted for a technical course of study. But, the young kids today are not being educated, but rather indoctrinated, even in elementary and high schools.

Adam Zur said...

you wrote: "....including economics and business schools, where they indoctrinate students with ideas that will bankrupt us down the line."
This could be but i have the impression that Marxism and the so called new Marxism has been excluded from economics for a long time. And the giants in economics like Brian Caplan and David Friedman are pure capitalists. In fact I have been encouraged recently to see the people at the top of economics being really great thinkers (MIT and Princeton. But i cant say much about Harvard.They seem to be on the way down). I am thinking that from the great thinkers a lot might trickle down to the less prestigious universities also. Even in law one of the most prestigious names of the century is Ronald Devorkin (the great anti positivist thinker--who is a professor at New York University). Seeing people like that gives me hope that the lower universities might get back on track someday. (I admit though that business schools i know nothing about)

Devorah said...

I don't know. The candidates for the extreme right seem pretty dictatorial and controlling to me. Perhaps you're not concerned when a candidate expresses negative views towards women, birth control, separation of church and state, ridicules minorities, asks that poor children become janitors, strategizes to reduce health insurance for the poor, and positively idolizes further war with other countries, but to me, that seems less than benevolent.

While socialized medicine doesn't always work out in real life, the health care concerns and economic concerns for the less-than wealthy (which, as a physician, you might be less than understanding for their plight as you're not one of them), are very valid and completely ignored and even demeaned by the extreme right.

Adam Zur said...

There is no such thing as a right to receive money, goods, or services from anyone else. Social benefits and health care are charities, not rights.

Friar Yid said...

I'm not sure how much I buy of this dichotomy, Garnel.

First of all, it's a little disingenuous to compare the Republicans debate season with the Democrats given that the Democrats have an incumbent. Second, in my experience, not a whole lot gets hashed out in primary debates that actually means much. While there are a few nuggets here and there, for the most part it amounts to a lot of posturing, snide comments, and emotional appeals to the audience. It's a show. At the end of the day, whoever gets elected is going to pursue whatever agenda they or their inner circle please, regardless of what they said at a debate. That's just a fact.

While you're right that the left can have a tendency toward developing a pretty strong party line, I don't see how you can claim the same isn't true of the Republicans. There may be some issues where the GOP is split between moderates and conservatives and there's a tactic agreement to live and let live, but these days that seems to be fewer and far between. If you think that grass-roots activists as well as establishment organizers in the GOP don't firmly believe in its message that the government shouldn't be involved in your life (except, of course, when a Republican is in office) and that people who disagree with them are wrong and stupid, you haven't been paying attention. Yes, the left trash talks, but so does the right. Maybe the left plays the stupid card more, but the right is more than happy to up the ante with "clueless," "traitorous" or other cheery terms. Don't believe me? Watch some Fox News or read a conservative news blog. They're far and away just as condescending, dismissive and insulting as their lefty counterparts, if not more, depending on the issue and the day.

On to Santorum: You seem to be only looking at Santorum's record and policies during this recent election cycle. Most of the younger left's reaction to Santorum is based on his history as a Senator. The man routinely made extremely nasty comments about women, gays, liberals, and essentially anything he didn't like that crossed the line dividing reasonable debate and being a political troll. He regularly jumps on the GOP's rhetorical crazy train and talks about seeing Satan being involved in America's decline, comparing Democrats to Nazis, and generally blaming liberals for all of society's evils. Gee, I can't imagine why people don't think he's Presidential or want him to win the election!

Relative to his party, Santorum's policies and principles to tend to be on the extreme end of conservative-- and that's certainly an issue for the left. But I don't think he's being shut out or marginalized specifically because of his policies. Rather, it's because he's spent years placing himself in the role of a bombastic and angry conservative commentator as opposed to an elected official-- more Rush Limbaugh than Ronald Reagan. And honestly, I don't think even the Republicans are interested in electing Rush as President.

Combine Santorum's troubling policies (and even if you were just looking at them intellectually, there's definitely some issues there) with his antagonistic style and it's no surprise that people, especially the young left, are hostile to him. He's made himself into a clown, so he's being treated like one-- something he seems eager to accept from the left as a way of proving his culture warrior bona fides.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Devorah, at the extremes right and left pretty much merge into one another. The political spectrum isn't so much a line as a circle.
FY, both you and Devorah seemed to have missed my point.
Take Rick Santorum. As I indicated in the post, it's not that I support him (I don't). It's that I support his right to campaign for elected office and to carry through on his platform if he wins. He has a right to submit himself to the electorate and allow them to choose him or not.
The problem is that the left
a) says that he should have his ideas in the first place
b) shouldn't be allowed to express them
c) shouldn't be allowed to campaign for office on them
d) shouldn't implement them if he's democratically elected.

Friar Yid said...

Garnel- We seem to be talking past each other a bit. Here's my point: I question how much of your anecdotal evidence is actually happening. Granted, I don't watch as much news as I used to, but I haven't heard people saying Santorum shouldn't be "allowed" to run for office. I've heard people saying they think his ideas are bad ideas, and yes, that some of his beliefs are stupid. A bit personal, perhaps, but when you compare people with animals or say Satan is the reason our economy is bad, I think you open yourself up a little bit.

My point is that I'm not seeing the level of extreme delegitimization you're talking about. I've noticed plenty of ridicule, but I see that as being consistent with the kind of politician Santorum has chosen to be. Someone who deliberately antagonizes half the country is not an ideal person to lead it. That's just a fact. It's why I don't think George Soros or Bill Maher would be great Presidents, either.

Incidentally, Garnel, looking at your list of supposed leftist beliefs about Santorum, replace his name with Obama's and you pretty much get Conservative media since 2008. And, in both cases, there's generally a significant gap between the stupid things people say about politicians and what they actually are willing to do to accomplish them (notice how no Tea Partiers are storming the White House to stop the radical Socialist Jihadist's conquest of America-- just like no one from Occupy or NOW or GLAAD would be likely to do it to "stop" President Santorum).

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer said...

Garnel,

I can't locate your email address just now. If you want to arrange learning over Pesach, it would be good if you:

a) Contacted Ben and told him that rather than the customary lectures, you would like to be able (open to additional participants) learn something in-depth over the course of yom tov.

b) Would let me know if you have something specific in mind, or even generally in mind, or I should make suggestions.

KT,
YGB
ygb@aishdas.org