Here are highlights from this work in progress by philosopher Rony Guldmann:
In ways not seen since at least the McCarthy era, Americans are finding themselves increasingly constrained by a rising class—what I call the progressive Clerisy—that accepts no dissent from its basic tenets. Like the First Estate in pre-revolutionary France, the Clerisy increasingly exercises its power to constrain dissenting views, whether on politics, social attitudes or science.
The rise of today’s Clerisy stems from the growing power and influence of its three main constituent parts: the creative elite of media and entertainment, the academic community, and the high-level government bureaucracy.
The Clerisy operates on very different principles than its rival power brokers, the oligarchs of finance, technology or energy. The power of the knowledge elite does not stem primarily from money, but in persuading, instructing and regulating the rest of society. Like the British Clerisy or the old church-centered French First Estate, the contemporary Clerisy increasingly promotes a single increasingly parochial ideology and, when necessary, has the power to marginalize, or excommunicate, miscreants from the public sphere.
Rony writes: Enjoying the plausible deniability provided by a façade of democratic idealism, the liberal elites have quietly colonized a host of powerful social institutions—the judiciary, academia, public public schools, large foundations, the media, entertainment, and others—through which they now pursue unofficially what earlier clerisies had to pursue officially. They do not marginalize or excommunicate in the name of some codified orthodoxy like Catholic teaching or Talmudic law. But conservatives believe that the cumulative social prestige arrogated by this “rising class” is the functional equivalent of such an orthodoxy, imbuing the liberal elites’ pronouncements with a special power to cut off debate and silence dissent. Seeking above all to maintain this power, this new secular priesthood will badger, scold, and bully all who defy it. And this means conservatives. If they strike liberal professors like Connolly as angry and obstreperous, this is as a natural reaction to this new regime, to provocations whose very existence the elites refuse to acknowledge.
* Liberalism is not just a political orientation, but a totalistic worldview and way of being that has by now crept into the American psyche itself and can always be discovered at work in the seeming trifles of social life and pop culture—suffocating conservatives from all sides. Liberalism is not sustained by reason and argument, but by the mores and pieties that liberals have quietly entrenched as the unquestioned, taken-for-granted background of things—a parochial ethos into which the populace has become progressively indoctrinated by small, often imperceptible increments. In issuing their claims of cultural oppression, conservatives seek to awaken their fellow Americans to this hidden reality.
* Diagnosing the roots of liberal hostility toward home-schooling, Kevin Williamson observes: “The Left’s organizing principle is control, and the possibility that children might commonly be raised outside of its control matrix is an existential threat from the progressive point of view. Institutions such as free markets and free speech terrify progressives, because they are the result of arrangements in which nobody is in control… Home-schooling isn’t for everybody, but every home-school student, like every firearm in private hands, is a quiet little declaration of independence. It’s no accident that the people who want to seize your guns are also the ones who want to seize your children.”
* Like many on the Left, conservative claimants of cultural oppression believe that “the personal is the political.” Given liberals’ insatiable lust for control, what were once purely private preferences on how best to educate one’s children have now become political acts—“quiet little declarations of independence” through which to hold off left-liberal hegemony for yet another day. Conservative claims of cultural oppression seek, not primarily to highlight liberalism’s flaws as a political philosophy, but to expose its transgressions as a social practice that works to demoralize and delegitimize those who remain steadfastly loyal to “traditional American values”—gun owners, home schoolers, housewives, church goers, the police, ranchers, small business entrepreneurs, and others. The ordered liberty of the conservative is a basic threat to liberal control and so must be targeted at every turn as a danger to the civilized order, the idea of which has now become identified with liberalism itself. If liberals are hostile toward the home-schooling to which some conservative parents are drawn, this is because those parents cannot be counted upon to civilize their children in the manner prescribed—that is, to raise their children as liberals. That is why those children must be seized.
Conservative claimants of cultural oppression see themselves, not only as the losers in a “war of ideas” that was always rigged against them, but furthermore as a quasi-ethnic group being encroached upon by a foreign colonial power that is endlessly contemptuous of their native folkways and bent on replacing these with its own supposedly more advanced culture. The National Review laments: “The crusade against private gun ownership is, for the Left, a kulturkampf. The sort of people who are likely to own or enjoy firearms are the sort of people who are most intensely detested by the social tendency that produced Barack Obama et al. — atavistic throwbacks and “bitter clingers,” as somebody once put it. The Left’s jihad against hunters, rural people, shooting enthusiasts, and Second Amendment partisans will do effectively nothing to prevent lunatics from shooting up schools or shopping malls. That they would exploit the victims of these awful crimes in the service of what amounts to a very focused form of snobbery is remarkable.”
Notwithstanding their ostensible egalitarianism and pragmatism, the liberal elites are committed to their own particular brand of identity politics, complete with its own special kind of otherization. The “bitter clingers” who stand in the way of gun control are not merely criticized as misguided, but despised as occupants of a lower moral and cognitive order, atavisms of a barbaric past that liberals alone have superseded. Whereas now eclipsed traditionalist hierarchies revolved around perceived differences in things like sexual purity, work ethic, religious affiliation, family pedigree, and ethnic bona fides, the new status hierarchy of liberalism is rooted in “cognitive elitism” and centers around a morally charged division between those who are “aware” and those who are not, those who possess the psychic maturity to accede to liberalism and those who lack it and must be reformed. This kind of identity politics will always take refuge in some pragmatic-sounding pretext—e.g., the dangers of firearms or the inadequacies of home schooling. But conservatives dismiss this pragmatism as an elaborate façade for a status hierarchy that liberals refuse to acknowledge. If this hierarchy can go overlooked by “thinking people,” by the “educated,” this is because thoughtfulness and education are themselves now defined by the liberal dispensation. These have become mere badges of honor to be conferred on liberals and withheld from others. Liberals’ near-monopoly on the means of cultural reproduction lets their own kind of identity politics pass under the radar screen, camouflaged in an aura of hard-nosed utilitarianism.
Conservatives believe they see through this camouflage, however, and that the threat represented by this insight propels liberals to denigrate, not only conservative thought, but conservatives themselves. Alan Groves writes that “[b]y nature, many conservatives are placid, compliant, and respectful toward others. For the most part, we are civil, patriotic Americans who simply want to be left alone to be with our families (and yes, Mr. President, our guns and religion).” And so conservatives are left speechless and stupefied by the “never-ending onslaught of personal attacks, lies, and name-calling” that the Left rains down upon them.9 Conservative claimants of cultural oppression are united in the conviction that liberalism’s rationalistic façade conceals what is a campaign of psychological warfare whose purposes is to undermine the self-confidence of the conservative culture and supplant it with the liberal one. Hence the profound incongruity between the good-natured innocuousness of ordinary conservatives and the venomous vitriol to which liberals would subject them.
In prosecuting these verbal pogroms, liberals reduce conservatives’ deepest convictions to outward manifestations of unconscious hostilities—not positions to be understood but symptoms to be diagnosed and diseases to be attacked. While liberals may characterize their antagonism toward conservatism as just vigorous disagreement with a set of failed ideas, conservatives believe that this antagonism bespeaks something more visceral and reflexive, a primordial animus toward conservative identities for the challenge they pose to liberal ones. The real target is not anything the conservative may have actually said or done, but his basic God-fearing and freedom-loving nature, which the liberal elites despise as vulgar and retrograde. Hence the ignominious regime of mockery, slander, and intimidation that bullies conservatives into silence and submission. Knowing that liberals will seize upon any pretext to slander them as bigots of one kind or another, conservatives and the ordinary Americans they champion have been gradually reduced to quiescence, rendered passive and deferential before liberals, who have been privileged to define the social identities of conservatives.
* Jerry Shenk writes in The American Thinker: “Objective? Diverse? Inclusive? Thoughtful? Reality-based? Benevolent? Not really. Progressives — liberals — are the worst offenders of their own axioms when they talk about the “evils” of those who dispute liberal versions of facts, policy, or, especially, morality. The bigotry liberals direct toward those with whom they merely disagree is staggering.”
* The liberal virtues are in reality gestures of identity-assertion designed to come at the expense of conservative ordinary Americans. Imagining themselves uniquely objective, inclusive, thoughtful, and so on, liberals have cultivated an automatic social reflex that dismisses conservative opinions as mental or emotional immaturity, mindless reptilian instinct, unthinking fear and hatred that are easily recognized as such by sophisticated souls. With this social reflex having become integral to the liberal identity and with this identity now woven into the social fabric, conservatives find themselves suffocated by an insidious and pervasive conservaphobia, America’s last socially acceptable bigotry.
* For the essential argument of conservative claims of cultural oppression is that liberalism has yet to extend its vaunted ideals—tolerance, diversity, understanding, etc.—to conservatives, the new pariahs.
* …conservative claimants of cultural oppression strive to expose the inequalities that privilege liberals over conservatives and thereby to remedy what they consider to be an inequitable distribution of moral and cultural capital in America today. This means exposing how the moral and intellectual failings that liberals would associate with conservatives are being subtly mirrored in liberals’ own treatment of conservatives. To expose this is to finally make liberals answerable to their own professed ideals, which it has now fallen upon conservatives to uphold.
* The conservative claimant of cultural oppression seeks, not to defend some traditional “order of things” before which all upstanding, God-fearing citizens must submit, but to unearth the subterranean structures of liberal discourse, to expose how that discourse naturalizes the unearned privileges of liberals as the timeless order of things, passing off a contingent status hierarchy as reason itself. In claiming cultural oppression, conservatives hold themselves out as the counter-culture to the dominant liberal culture, the last holdouts of resistance against the false consciousness of left-liberal hegemony.
* The conventional wisdom of liberals is that conservatism thrives on vague cultural resentments that duplicitously channel essentially economic grievances into symbolic obsessions with the depredations of an imaginary liberal elite, whose haughty pretentiousness is speciously contrasted with the basic goodness and authenticity of the conservative ordinary American, the much beleaguered salt of the earth. In this way do conservative propagandists divert the attention of these ordinary Americans away from the transgressions of their real ruling class, the business elite, who know how to harness social conservatism toward their own advantage. Liberals believe this diagnosis is amply supported by the historical record, by the story of the modern conservative movement, and by common sense about the average American’s real interests. The hypocrisy and opportunism of conservative leaders seem like prime evidence for the contrived nature of cultural wars rhetoric as the cheapest form of identity politics, a new opiate of the masses to which a sizable segment of the American electorate is now addicted.
* If liberals cannot be brought to acknowledge these grievances, this could be because their very identities inure them to that to which the grievances are reactions. It is a perennial theme of the Left that oppressed groups can perceive iniquities that dominant groups are disposed to overlook. And so the intellectually consistent liberal must ask whether the relationship between liberals and conservatives in America today could be yet another instance of this phenomenon, must ask whether liberals have transgressed against conservatives in ways that their very “liberalism” will not allow them to recognize. Liberals may dismiss conservative claims of cultural oppression as empty posturing, but is it not to be expected that a ruling class will thus dismiss the outcries of an oppressed group? Liberals’ bemused incredulity toward conservative grievances may itself be a natural byproduct of the very oppression being alleged, because the dominant culture’s language and concepts will always privilege the perspectives of its ruling elites, who shape the “common sense” to which oppressed groups are made to answer. The critical theorists of the Left have long made such arguments on behalf of racial minorities, women, and gays. Our question is whether they can also be made on behalf of conservatives.
* The liberal elites believe they stand above a retrograde conservatism because they believe their Enlightenment ideals have liberated them from the various “hero-systems” to which conservatives remain beholden. Hero-systems are social teleologies, systems of collective meaning-production, and liberals see conservatism as sustained by an atavistic attraction to these relics of a benighted pre-modernity. But the conservative suspicion is that liberalism is a hero-system in disguise, a hero-system that stays concealed behind a secular façade of enlightenment, pragmatism, and utilitarianism. While liberals may wish to see themselves as committed solely to ordinary human fulfillment shorn of any higher metaphysical aspirations, conservatives perceive that liberalism is unbeknownst to itself driven by a religious impulse and spiritual ideal that play themselves out through the medium of ostensibly secular goals. Liberalism is a hero-system that disguises itself as the transcendence of all hero-systems.
* The aspiration to “rise above” the merely human was once conceived in expressly theological terms, as fealty to the City of God over the City of Man. Today, this aspiration has become secularized and transpires politically and culturally as the imperative to rise above conservatism toward liberalism, which affords its adherents a special feeling of spiritual purity that stands exalted above the fallen realm of conservatism. Thus seen, conservatism is not a competing philosophy to be refuted but an ingrained sinfulness to be exposed and disciplined away.
* Whereas the hero-systems of the Right—e.g., “God, Country, and Family”—must operate in full public view, the hero-systems of the Left can operate surreptitiously within insulated institutional enclaves whose specialized discourses provide them with a pragmatic veneer. This is what distinguishes the power of the Clerisy from that of its “rival power brokers,” who do not enjoy the benefit of this plausible deniability. Hence the proliferation of conservative laments about the cultural decadence of various liberal elite enclaves, like academia, the media, Hollywood, and so forth, which are understood to be perpetuating this inequality and deception. It is these enclaves and the prestige they exude that allow liberals to imagine that they have transcended the primitive, often unconscious identity-affirmation needs of conservatives in favor of a new rational autonomy that can dispense with these.
* Today’s “cultural wars,” I argue, are most profoundly viewed as a contemporary recapitulation of the struggles by which the modern first emerged out of the pre-modern, a clash between elites trying to inculcate the disciplines and repressions of the modern identity and the unwashed masses trying to resist this extirpation of their traditional, often disordered folkways—a role now filled by “traditional American values.” If conservatives can feel culturally oppressed by power-hungry, control-obsessed liberals where the latter see only right-wing rhetoric, the reason is that, having less fully internalized the modern ideal of the self, conservatives are more viscerally attuned to its cultural contingency and more averse to the particular forms of disciplined, disengaged agency into which liberals have been more successfully socialized. Contemporary liberalism represents the apex of the disciplinary impulses that spawned modernity. It is the latest and most extreme outgrowth of the secularization of religious asceticism and the democratization of courtly sociability, the now forgotten pre-Enlightenment roots of progressive sensibilities. What liberals celebrate as their superior “civility” is a modernized and politicized variant of these supposedly superseded impulses. And it is these impulses that fuel liberals’ reflexive aversion to conservativism as a kind of rude and crude animality, a sinful indiscipline and affront to the higher refinement of liberal sensibilities.
* Politically incorrect gun enthusiasts are the “most intensely detested” of liberalism’s many enemies, as National Review notes, because they refuse this training, with the result that they now serve liberals as premier social symbols for the unhinged impulsivity and potential violence of the undisciplined, pre-modern self lacking the disengaged self-control and self-possession of the modern liberal identity. Having defined themselves in opposition to this barbaric past, liberals must shame and stigmatize all who would remind them of it. Conservatism and conservatives are replete with such reminders, which must therefore be extirpated.
* Liberals’ position at the vanguard of the modern West’s “civilizing” process necessarily thrusts them into the role of disciplinarians, in reaction to which conservatives have cultivated their own special kind of emancipationist ethos. Conservatives could have absorbed the moral and intellectual reflexes of the Left, developing a post-modernism and multiculturalism of the Right, because they are the targets of the same “civilizing” norms which the Left protests have been imperiously foisted upon non-Western peoples by a condescending European colonialism.
* Liberalism is covertly illiberal because it can flourish only inasmuch as it is prepared to coerce its particular brand of self-discipline and self-control upon the unwilling, whose suffering and alienation in the face of this undeclared agenda never enters liberalism’s moral calculus.
* Liberals cannot see the broader context of their idealism because their antiquated Enlightenment view of reason as predominantly conscious and disembodied leaves them insensible to this layer of human experience, and so overconfident of their ability to recognize oppression and inequality.
* The time was a few weeks before the 2008 election and the place was MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Under discussion was the increasingly unhinged racism and xenophobia that seemed to be gripping crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, where some attendees, apparently driven batty by the prospect of an African-American president, reacted with shouts of “terrorist” and “kill him” at the mere mention of Barack Obama’s name. The show’s mild-mannered conservative host, former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough, responded that these outbursts were surely beyond the pale. But he then seized upon these reports as an occasion to remind liberals that that they should also pay attention to their own incivility problems and stop judging conservatives by a double-standard, as though they were the only ones capable of lapsing into incivility. When a few misfits behave outrageously at Republican campaign events, this is taken by liberals as evidence for the latent racism and general depravity of conservatives. But no objections are raised when a well-respected liberal commentator like Thomas Frank writes What’s the Matter with Kansas?, a book that took aim, not at one man, but at an entire state, dismissing its conservative-voting citizens as a bunch of “yahoos,” Scarborough observed. A conservative like him was willing to turn around and criticize his own when they crossed the line. Yet liberals seem unwilling to engage in similar self-policing, unwilling to acknowledge, let alone denounce, the hatred and bigotry that grows in their own ranks.
* …why conservatives are routinely held accountable for the slightest modicum of real or perceived bigotry while liberals can casually indulge their own bigotry in plain view without fear of reproach.
* Liberals routinely excoriate as beyond the pale any and all speculation into the genetic basis and heritability of intelligence whenever race or gender are in the mix. But then they are astonishingly hypocritical in their “gidd[iness] to entertain the notion that conservatives have broken brains—based solely on the fact that they are conservatives.”
* Goldberg believes this impulse was illustrated in Satoshi Kanazawa’s argument in Psychology Today that liberalism represents a genetically novel dispensation. Our evolutionary history in close-knit tribal societies naturally disposes us to restrict altruism to kin. But liberalism, in its willingness to devote large proportions of private resources for the benefit of genetically unrelated others, represents the transcendence of our merely natural state, a freedom from the rigorous genetic logic that binds other animals. And this, argues Kanazawa, is the reason why liberals are smarter than conservatives, the reason why “apart from a few areas in life (such as business) where countervailing circumstances may prevail, liberals control all institutions.” Being “on average more intelligent than conservatives,” liberals are more likely to attain “the highest status in any area of (evolutionarily novel) modern life.”13 But the Achilles Heel of this argument, retorts Goldberg, resides in the exceptions it concedes. If conservatives are successful in business, the reason is that business, just like the military, law enforcement, engineering, and the hard sciences, does not create institutional ideological filters to screen out conservatives. The bottom line in business is the bottom line, profit, rather than “an affinity for social engineering, liberal group think, or progressive do-goodery.” This is why conservatives can thrive in these fields as they cannot in liberal-dominated milieus. In short, Kanawaza’s genetic argument is only plausible if we first discount the obvious cultural, historical, and sociological explanations for discrepancies in liberal and conservative performance in fields like academia, entertainment, and publishing. Anyone who knows how these institutions actually work knows that their gatekeepers “aren’t simply keeping stupid conservatives out; they’re keeping conservatives out, period.”
Goldberg’s disagreement with Kanazawa mirrors the well-known historical dispute between white supremacists and their egalitarian adversaries. After all, the liberal here is attempting to defend an unequal status quo as the natural expression of biologically immutable differences. By contrast, the conservative is decrying this explanation as self-serving ideology, issuing claims of pervasive prejudice and discrimination, and highlighting the need for egalitarian change. Whereas Kanazawa suggests that liberals are a “master race” of sorts, Goldberg retorts that this is a social illusion generated by unequal power relations.
We can imagine this debate continuing along the same tracks already laid down by the debate about race. The gatekeepers of academia, publishing, Hollywood, and other bastions of liberalism believe they are judging merit. But so too have many whites at the very instant they were unconsciously discriminating against blacks. Critical race theorists have long held that prevailing measures of merit are just reflections of white supremacy. Alex M. Johnson argues that the idea of merit serves white people’s “need to believe that their social positions are the result of something more than the brute fact of social power and racial domination.”15 And this is also Goldberg’s response to Kanazawa and like-minded liberals. Liberal merit is merely an instrument of liberal domination, an ideal that has been fine-tuned to exclude conservative individuals and suppress conservative achievement. If one reason for the shortage of black academics is, as Henry Louis Gates argues, that white people have not been trained to recognize black intelligence,16 then is it not also possible that liberals have not been trained to recognize conservative intelligence or, worse, have been trained to not recognize it?
Explaining the tenets of black nationalism, critical race theorist Gary Peller argues that liberal integrationism is premised on the mistaken assumption that the “category of merit itself is neutral, impersonal, and somehow developed outside the economy of social power, with its significant currency of race, class, and gender, that marks American social life.”17 But Goldberg is suggesting that liberalism has its own “economy of social power” and that it is only by ignoring this background that liberals can bask in their imagined intellectual superiority. Liberals will argue that conservatives are underrepresented in academia because they are temperamentally drawn to other professions. But might this be because conservative students lack proper role models, because they were from the beginning dismissed by their liberal professors as hopeless cretins, and so were never placed in a position to develop the talents that would deprive Kanawaza of the evidence for his liberal master race? If racism can generate its own social truth by creating conditions under which oppressed races are forced to conform to racial prejudices, then perhaps liberalism too produces its own self-fulfilling prophesies, creating what it subsequently casts as the natural inequality of liberals and conservatives. Liberals may not see their intellectual standards as politically motivated. But Barbara J. Flagg observes that “[b]ecause whites do not conceive of themselves as a distinctive racial group, their ‘consciousness’ of whiteness is predominantly unconsciousness of whiteness.”18 Perhaps liberals suffer from an analogous blindness when they fail to recognize themselves as a distinct class with distinct values, tastes, and interests, the silent background of their anti-conservative biases.
* Scarborough and Goldberg are both engaged in what Charles Taylor calls the politics of recognition. Both are demanding that conservatives be understood on their own terms rather than assimilated to the values, interests, and prejudices of the dominant liberal culture. A demand that was traditionally the purview of the Left, leveled on behalf of women, racial minorities, gays, and the disabled against the injustices of patriarchy, white supremacy, heterosexism, and able-ism, is now being turned against the Left itself by conservatives, who understand themselves to be issuing a parallel set of claims which liberals’ own first principles require them to acknowledge.
* Geoffrey Nunberg notes that the term “people of faith,” which originally referred a New-Agey aversion to organized religion, has “caught on among conservative Christians who saw the advantages of comparing themselves with other oppressed groups.”25 The appropriation is undisguised in the speeches of anti-abortion activist Lila Rose, who told supporters:
“Who says we can’t have an America completely free, with the complete end of abortion? We can have that America. We overcame many things in our history. We’ve overcome many things, from slavery to civil rights abuses in the 20th century to child labor. We’ve overcome many things, even the Revolutionary War to have our independence won. We’ve overcome many things in this country. The women’s rights movement for suffrage. And we can overcome. We can defeat the hopelessness and the lies and the despair that says that we need abortion somehow. And we can overcome it and it’s happening.”
William F. Buckley famously defined a conservative as “a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’” But it seems that conservative positions are as easily heralded by “onward,” as easily framed as a call to forward-looking progress, the next courageous step in an ongoing struggle for the freedom and dignity of an ever-expanding circle of moral concern. It was the liberals of the civil rights era who first chanted “we shall overcome.” But it is now conservatives who ask us to overcome liberalism itself in the name of its own first principles. Corey Robin thus observes that Phyllis Schlaffly “railed against the meaninglessness and lack of fulfillment among American women” in the spirit of Betty Friedan, but then “blamed these ills on feminism rather than sexism.”27 The ERA, observe Chip Berlet and Mathew Lyons, was opposed by Schlaffly as a threat to women’s most fundamental rights, such as the right to be supported by a husband and to keep one’s baby.28 These inversions are not restricted to the feminism context. In a similar spirit, the American Center for Law and Justice or “ACLJ” is, as indicated by the acronym, the ACLU of the Right, and views itself as defending the religious freedoms of Christians against secularist oppression. In all these cases as in many others, conservatism seems informed, not by any categorical rejection of liberalism, but by the conviction that the meaning of liberal ideals is essentially indeterminate and can always be reinterpreted in accordance with conservative priorities.
* The inherited prerogative which the Left threatens is not landed titles, corporate monopolies, union-busting, or any kind of white, male, or heterosexual privilege, but merely the social dignity of being conservative. If this can become an issue, this is, as conservatives see it, because liberal tolerance has not yet been extended to them, the last remaining social group that may be scorned and persecuted with a good conscience, the forgotten minority that somehow got overlooked amidst all the celebrations of tolerance, sensitivity, and diversity.
The trope of the persecuted conservative is familiar in the context of higher education. Putting the point crudely but poignantly, Michael Savage laments that conservative college students are “buried under an avalanche of scorn, both from their professors and peers,” treated “as if they’re Cro-Magnons with bones in their noses.” With only “one or two rounds in the barrel…conservative-thinking students learn the local custom.” And this is “to keep their mouths shut if their viewpoints run contrary to the prevailing winds of liberalism in the classroom.”35 In a similar vein, the Claire Booth Luce Policy Institute, an organization of conservative women, offers college students “conservative safe space” stickers. Appropriating a concept often used to highlight gays’ special vulnerability to harassment and abuse, the Institute explains that, with gays being “no longer the group shunned or berated on modern college campuses,” campus intolerance “has now turned on conservatives and it is the conservative students and faculty who most need a ‘safe space.’”
* Liberals would erect vast regimes of sensitivity training to uproot every last trace of real or imagined homophobia. But they will not take the slightest steps to remedy another, equally pressing problem, which is their own conservaphobia…
* Coulter observes that liberals featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek are “always bathed in a beatific light, while conservatives are photographed in lighting that casts a menacing glow and always seem to show five o’clock shadows.”43 Brian Anderson notes that television and Hollywood treat “lawyers, teachers, social workers, and others who work in liberal professions” to “mostly sunny portrayals” while disproportionately casting businessmen in villain roles.44 If the entertainment industry formerly relegated African-Americans to the roles of pimps, criminals, vagrants, and other undesirables, so now it is conservatives who must play social pariahs…
* This environment is alleged to have seriously eroded conservatives’ quality of life. Just as blacks in the Jim Crow south faced the constant risk of harassment from racist whites, for whom blackness was provocation enough, so Ben Shapiro explains that today’s young conservatives “have to face liberal bullying on a daily basis, from the elementary school level though grad school and on into their careers (particularly law, education, and Hollywood).”47 Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham was bullied at her first media job at CBS when she was prohibited from entering the make-up room until liberal Paula Zahn had exited.48 Conservative book buyers are bullied by the unionized employees of Barnes & Noble, who David Horowitz alleges “go out of their way to make conservative book purchasers, whom they regard as barely literate philistines, feel unwelcome.”49 Jebediah Billa’s Outnumbered, the “Chronicles of a Manhattan Conservative” is an autobiographical account of the author’s life in New York City during the heady days of the 2008 elections. This is hostile, unforgiving world in which a conservative with a “Palin Power” lapel pin cannot so much as enter a subway car or turn a street corner without being denounced as “racist,” “dumb,” or an “ignorant bitch” by an anonymous passerby.50 Billa was flabbergasted when an acquaintance acknowledged that “I just know that I was brought up to know that conservatives aren’t good people. And people I’ve met…conservative people…always just rub me the wrong way.”51 What Jews were a century ago, conservatives are today, for unthinking, inherited prejudice is given a free pass in this mecca of enlightened progressivism where conservatives are concerned.
Liberals will deny their conservaphobia and chalk up the intensity of their anger toward conservatives to conservatives’ the own beliefs and conduct. But do opponents of homosexuality not justify their homophobia in the same way, as principled moral opposition to a socially deleterious practice?
* Liberals hold that “moral opposition” to homosexuality reveals more about the moral opponent than it does about homosexuals. And in the same vein, conservatives believe that conservaphobia is a symptom of liberals’ unacknowledged internal conflicts. David Kahane charges that progressives are people “consumed with [a] primal but irrational desire to inflict [their] emotions on you, so that you might share [their] misery and feel [their] pain.”52 Conservatives are the new socially sanctioned scapegoats, foils upon which liberals project every social ill and externalize every psychic conflict, rationalizing their projections with an aura of moral high-mindedness that disguises their real motivations.
* If liberals insist on diversity, tolerance, and equal respect, then conservatives insist that they be afforded the genuine articles rather than the Orwellian inversions that liberalism in fact offers.
* Conservatism has always prescribed some form of cultural nationalism on the premise that uprooted moral universalism cannot provide the social cohesion facilitated by narrower circles of identification, in which true ethical feeling must always be rooted. Burke urged that loving “the little platoon we belong to,” is “the first link in the series by which we proceed toward a love to our country and to mankind.”53 But conservatism has now become a form of cultural nationalism, for the “little platoon” is now defined by conservatism itself. Conservatives understand themselves as a despised, stigmatized group that, in punishment for its rejection of liberalism, has been unofficially banished from full and equal participation in public life. In claiming cultural oppression, they celebrate a new kind of quasi-ethnic identity and narrative. Laura Ingraham observes:
They think we’re stupid. They think our patriotism is stupid. They think our churchgoing is stupid. They think our flag-waving is stupid. They think having big families is stupid. They think where we live—anywhere but near or in a few major cities—is stupid. They think our SUVs are stupid. They think owning a gun is stupid. They think our abiding belief in the goodness of America and its founding principles is stupid. They think the choices we make at the ballot box are stupid. They think George W. Bush is stupid. And without a doubt, they will think this book is stupid.54
Where liberals see stupidity, conservative claimants of cultural oppression see the silent heroism of a beleaguered and colonized people, who resist the encroachments of a coterie of cloistered elites, uprooted rationalists and cosmopolitans with nothing but contempt for the indigenous culture of the less eloquent but more wholesome ordinary American, who is now seen to exist on a lower moral, intellectual, and spiritual plane.
* Roger Kimball is correct that liberalism now “prescribes not only the terms of debate, but also the rhetorical atmosphere in which any debate must take place.” With liberalism having become taken-for-granted common sense, even conservative initiatives must be advanced “in a context saturated by liberal assumptions.” Thus, we “are all liberals now, by dint of contagion if not conviction.”55 Given liberalism’s present rhetorical supremacy, it is natural that conservatives would prefer to reinterpret liberal ideals in their own favor rather than categorically reject them, which they do by arguing that the protection of liberalism’s own first principles has yet to be extended to them and that liberals are therefore guilty of the very moral and intellectual vices they associate with conservatives.
* The social conservative acknowledges his willingness to sacrifice social freedom to social order, just as the economic conservative acknowledges his willingness to sacrifice equality to property rights. By contrast, conservatives’ attacks on liberals go to the core, and not just the periphery, of liberalism’s self-understanding. Conservative claims of cultural oppression seek to expose liberalism’s core values—cultural diversity, tolerance, freedom of conscience, and social equality—as empty shams disguising what is an entirely opposite set of commitments. And this is why liberals are criticized, not only by conservative standards, but by their own ones as well.
* Taking Wal-Mart’s critics to task, George Will writes: “Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart is a way of introducing the subject of class into America’s political argument, and they are more correct than they understand. Their campaign is liberalism as condescension. It is a philosophic repugnance toward markets, because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes. Liberals, aghast, see the choices Americans make with their dollars and their ballots and announce—yes, announce—that Americans are surely in need of more supervision by….liberals.”
* The conservative magazine Chronicles laments that “Once upon a time in America, you could say you loved your country, believed in God, and held your marriage sacred…and not be snickered at as a simple-minded simpleton.
You could believe in honesty, hard work, and self-reliance; you could speak of human responsibilities in the same breath as human rights…and not be derided an as an insensitive fool.
You could speak out against profane books, depraved movies, and decadent art; you could express your disapproval of drug-sodden entertainers, America-hating educators, and appeasement-obsessed legislators…and not be branded as an ignorant reactionary.
And yes, once upon a time in America, you could actually believe in morality, both public and private, and not be proclaimed a hopeless naïf—more to be pitied than taken seriously.
But that was before the “censorship of fashion” took control of contemporary American culture.
This insidious form of censorship is not written into our laws or statutes—but it is woven into the very fabric of our culture. It reigns supreme in literature and the arts, on television, and in film, in music and on radio, in our churches, our public schools, and our universities. And above all else, it is dedicated to the propagation of one agenda—the liberal activist agenda for America.
The “censorship of fashion” is not only sinister and subtle, it’s also ruthlessly effective. It employs the powerful weapons of ridicule and condescension to stifle the voices of millions of Americans, like you, who still cherish our traditional values.”
* George Nash: “[W]hereas the traditionalists in the 1940s and 1950s had largely been academics in revolt against secularized, mass society, the New Right was a revolt by the “masses” against the secular virus and its aggressive carriers in the nation’s elites. And whereas the conservative intellectual movement since 1945 had heretofore concentrated mostly on national issues and politics, the New Right was essentially the product of traumas experienced by “ordinary” people in their everyday lives. Its anguish was that of parents who discovered that their children were being offered condoms at school, were being taught that homosexual behavior was just another lifestyle, and were being instructed that biblical standards of right and wrong were “relative,” “sexist,” and “homophobic.””
* Conservatives continue to uphold the traditional morality threatened by emancipationist values. But the emphasis is less on the enforcement of morality against the assorted depredations of isolated deviants, and more on the defense of morality against a coterie of elites bent on eradicating the last vestiges of its prestige. The danger is not that relaxing moralistic legislation will precipitate social disintegration, as a traditional moralist like Lord Devlin feared, but that this disintegration is merely the expedient through which liberalism is erecting a new moralistic order atop the ruins of the old. Whereas the traditional moralist is concerned to protect the “moral fiber of society,” the conservative claimant of cultural oppression is concerned to protect those individuals and groups who most depend on this fiber.
* Goldberg writes that the liberal vision of an advanced society “is one where it is finally rich enough to liberate the middle class from their comfortable bourgeois life-styles and to subsidize their conversion to bohemian ones.” Liberals intend “to win the centuries’-old war on the middle class by subsidizing the bohemian lifestyle to the point where it no longer pays to be bourgeois.”79 Liberals’ redistributive schemes are not animated by abstract philosophical principles, but by a concrete preference for some cultural groups over others.
* It is also difficult to imagine two young liberals setting out to write a book whose primary aim was to refute the false stereotypes which conservatives perpetuate against them. Yet young conservatives Brent Joshpe and S.E. Cupp judged it fitting and timely to author Why You’re Wrong About The Right, a “book about the trials and tribulations of being young, conservative, and misunderstood.”
* liberals enjoy a significant measure of theoretical detachment vis-à-vis their deprecation by conservatives that conservatives do not enjoy vis-à-vis their deprecation by liberals. Where conservatives may respond to their deprecation with personal resentment, liberals respond only with bemusement or at most exasperation. That conservatives are more disposed to personalize political conflict is confirmed in Nunberg’s finding that conservatives are statistically more likely to say “you liberals” than liberals are to say “you conservatives.”
* Conservative claims of cultural oppression have been noticed many times before. Hardly a passing political fad, they have been with us for many years and will surely endure in one form or another into the foreseeable future. The response from the Left has always been to dismiss them as politically expedient rabble rousing or, to the extent they are sincere, as immature identity politics betokening the contemporary decadence of conservative thought. And indeed, liberals can scarcely be faulted for relishing the irony that those who have attacked so many others for “playing the victim” should then find themselves powerfully attracted to that role.
* Conservative commentator Mike Gallagher complains that even if ideologically slanted left-wing curriculums occasionally deign to include conservative thinkers, those thinkers will invariably be taught by liberals who detest their ideas. This does conservatives no good because “[l]etting Paul Krugman teach Milton Friedman is like having David Duke teach African-American studies.”
* Lamenting the discrimination conservatives face in Hollywood, conservative novelist and screenwriter Andrew Klaven complains “it’s as if you were a woman trying to sell a screenplay and you walked into a room and the guy started making sexist, filthy remarks.”
* If conservatives may be accused of racism for suggesting that African-Americans are drawn to black nationalism as sour-grapes emotional compensation for socio-economic underachievement, then liberals can be scrutinized in analogous terms when they level an analogous charge at working-class Kansans.
* The political revolution envisioned by the radicals could never truly succeed in a democratic society with free elections. So the revolutionary spirit had to become channeled into our cultural life, where it now achieves its ends in institutions rather than on the streets, by eroding values rather than toppling regimes, by incremental infiltration rather than direct confrontation.
* Today’s cultural liberalism, writes Dinesh D’Souza, is “the final product of a progressive, century-long effort by a small minority of discontented bohemians to impose their values upon the wider society.”9 Gertrude Himmelfarb notes that the original bohemians saw their way of life as “appropriate for only a select few, those superior souls capable of throwing off the shackles of bourgeois convention.”10 Far from seeking to proselytize the world to their free-spiritedness, they viewed themselves as exceptional people whose singular spiritual independence was beyond the reach of the masses.11 But with the democratization of bohemia, what was once a subculture and curiosity has become the dominant culture and orthodoxy. The immoralism that was previously a hobby of academicians and bohemians has mutated into a corrosive social nihilism that attacks the very foundations of the American spirit.
* Liberals understand the evolution of their creed as a progressive overcoming of the prejudices and blind spots that formerly impeded the fullest realization of liberalism’s highest ideals. But conservative claimants of cultural oppression see only the replacement of some prejudices by others, not the purification of liberalism but its colonization by a parochial sensibility and interest group. “Modern” liberalism—sometimes called “ultra-liberalism”—is not the final fulfillment of some original promise laying at the core of the American project, but an ideologized perversion of the authentic, classical liberalism bequeathed to us by the founding generation. It is the cancerous overreaching of certain liberal tendencies, which, though laudable when shaped and constrained by traditional values, become pernicious and corrosive once unhinged from these. Thus, Michael McConnell argues that contemporary liberalism undermines the classical liberal virtues of individualism, independence, and rationality by perverting them into selfishness, pride, skepticism, and nihilism. For these are what individualism, independence, and rationality must devolve into once uprooted from their moorings in religious piety and moral discipline, the historical context in which they originally developed.
* Lee Harris writes that the “cultural clash between the populist conservatives and the cognitive elite that is hell-bent on enlightening them” is a “division that is rapidly replacing the old distinctions of liberal and conservative, left and right, Republican and Democrat.” Whereas these older political categories presupposed that intelligent people could disagree politically, the new “cognitive elites” of liberalism display “a disdainful contempt for those who disagree with them,” the “crude intellectual snobbery of the schoolboy with the high IQ, who loves to torment his inferiors by scoffing at their dullness.”14 David Gelernter explains that “[o]ld-time left-wingers and right-wingers despised each other but recognized that they were comparable species, two points on a spectrum, with ‘the center’ in between.” They were “old troopers who used to compete for the same Vaudeville booking.” By contrast, the “Airhead leftists” of today “know nothing of any political spectrum.” Not content to defend their beliefs as true and critique conservative beliefs as false, they rather “classify themselves as rational and their opponents as irrational—buffoons like George Bush, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, or thugs like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld,” defining themselves as “the center, the responsible mainstream, the only sane place to be.” This asymmetry—the liberal elites’ reflexive dismissiveness toward opposing views that finds no counterpart on the right—is now “the fundamental fact of political life.”
* Gelernter views this asymmetry as one more legacy of the despised 1960s. The now overthrown WASP establishment “saw itself as the nation’s high end, the top of a vertical spectrum.” But the new ruling class of “PORGIs”—post-religious, globalist intellectuals—see themselves “as separated by a cultural Grand Canyon from the nation at large, with Harvard and the New York Times and the Boston Symphony and science and technology and iPhones and organic truffled latte on their side—and guns, churches and NASCAR on the other.”
* An aristocratic regime of smugness and patronization was replaced by a Jacobin one of intolerance and demonization—and with conservatives as the target.
If the classic WASP social hierarchy revolved around perceived differences in things like moral cleanliness, social refinement, ethnic bona fides, and religious affiliation, the new hierarchy of ultra-liberalism separates those who possess “awareness” and those who lack it. It is the ultimate fulfillment of what Thomas Sowell calls “the vision of the anointed”:
“…those who disagree with the prevailing vision are seen as being not merely in error, but in sin. For those who have this vision of the world, the anointed and the benighted do not argue on the same moral plane or play by the same cold rules of logic and evidence. The benighted are to be made ‘aware,’ to have their ‘consciousness raised,’ and the wistful hope is held out that they will ‘grow.’ Should the benighted prove recalcitrant, however, then their ‘mean-spiritedness’ must be fought and the ‘real reasons’ behind their arguments and actions exposed. While verbal fashions change, this basic picture of the differential rectitude of the anointed and the benighted has not changed fundamentally in at least two hundred years.”
* Whereas liberals operate in the space of reasons, conservatives operate in the space of causes, driven on by forces that only liberals properly understand.
* Given that every controversy is defined by the same basic divisions, victory in any one of them provides the victor with momentum and confidence that can be carried forth into the next battle. And so conservatives cannot restrict their attention to the clearly-identifiable, concrete outcomes of particular policy decisions, because each such decision must also be assessed in terms of its incremental effect on the broader struggle, on the general balance of power between the anointed and the benighted. To concede anything to liberals is also to concede a portion of their power to resist further concessions, which is what the anointed are always trying to extract.
* Given what Kirk called conservatives’ “congenital lethargy,”33 the bare fact that they are finally being roused to action is itself strong evidence of the severity of the provocations and hence the justice of their cause. Thus understood, conservative claims of cultural oppression are long overdue exercises in assertiveness training. If liberals interpret this as aggression rather than self-defense, this is only because they have come to take conservative passivity for granted, as something conservatives owe them.
* Robert Bork thus suggests that conservative talk radio and evangelical organizations may be the modern equivalents of the isolated Irish monasteries that safeguarded classical learning during the Dark Ages.
* When a progressive tells a conservative “You can’t possibly mean that,” the point, says Kahane, “is to stop the argument in its tracks,” to assert the progressive’s “higher reality.” “Everyone knows that” is likewise “[a]nother all-purpose put-down,” intended to broadcast that the conservative is a “complete idiot,” just as “You’re not really…” is meant to suggest that the conservative interlocutor “is little better than a cave-dweller, a superstitious moron whose walnut-size brain is probably stuffed with religious ‘dogma.’”67 Here is the censorship of fashion in all its insidiousness. A liberal asking a conservative “You can’t possibly mean…” is like a man admonishing a woman to “calm down”—something which may not be terribly offensive in the abstract but assumes a more nefarious meaning in the context of a long history of objectionable stereotypes.
* Social justice purports to be a secular concept amenable to rational adjudication. But in practice, it functions as a kind as a kind of iridescent, quasi-divine glow akin to the halos that surrounded saints and angels in medieval painting. It is a special dispensation too deep and exalted to be explained to those lacking first-hand experience of it, a form of knowledge that, arising directly out of liberal virtue, cannot be grasped by those in whom that virtue has yet to be inculcated.
* The archetypal right-wing populist simply condemns the elites for their subversive attacks on morality, religious faith, or the prerogatives of privileged ethnic insiders. But conservative claims of cultural oppression are systematically inflected by a respect for many quintessentially liberal virtues—equal dignity, intellectual pluralism, transparency, free debate—to which the classic right-wing populist does not appeal. Genuine or not, these values are integral to the claimants’ self-understanding.
* Like traditional right-wing populism, conservative claims of cultural oppression are concerned to defend traditional morality, religion, patriotism and other inherited folkways against the subversive influence of alienated elites. But the elites’ principal sin is less their personal rejection of those values than their refusal to criticize them on a “level playing field” that would give conservatives a fair opportunity to advance their side of the argument. The liberal elites do indeed represent an alien sensibility insinuating itself into the indigenous culture of the ordinary American, and in a manner akin to how the Eastern European Jewish communist intellectual was once unwelcome [as] an unwholesome and corrupting foreign presence amidst the native culture of homegrown white Protestants… Conservative claims of cultural oppression are right-wing populism turned post-modern. They protest liberalism, not as a public philosophy but as a meta-narrative—as a set of ideas that, no longer being recognizable as ideas, have as Kimball says seeped into “the realm of habit, taste, and feeling.”
* The conservative grievance is that liberals wield the jargon of neutrality, tolerance, and diversity selectively in order to discredit conservative morality and make way for their own morality, which is where the inquisitorial censoriousness is to be found. What strikes liberals as a glaring contradiction is just the difference between appearance and reality, as well as between expedient and ultimate aim. The relativism first disarms conservatives of their convictions, at which point liberals’ own convictions can be imposed. “Tolerance,” observes John O’Sullivan, has become a device to silence debate and thereby “elevate certain liberal ideas and constituencies above public criticism.”
Conservative claimants of cultural oppression accuse liberals of disingenuously denying what they insist is the fundamental symmetry between conservatism and liberalism. And this is that both are just alternative visions of the good, alternative faiths. Liberals are no less than conservatives “imposing” a local morality upon others who do not share it. As McConnell puts it, modern liberalism “proclaims its neutrality toward competing ideas of virtue and the good life, but is committed in practice to the promotion of particular ideals and–even more–to the eradication of others.”
* D’Souza explains: “Behind the innumerable examples of excess, immodesty, and immorality there is an ideology. Here are some of the ingredients of that ideology, which constitutes Hollywood’s understanding of how the world is, or should be. Children are usually wiser than their parents and teachers, who are often portrayed as fools and bunglers. Homosexuals are typically presented as good-looking and charming, and unappealing features of the gay lifestyle are either ignored or presented in an amusing light. As countless movie plots confirm, the white businessman in the suit is usually the villain. Prostitutes are always portrayed more favorably and decently than anyone who criticizes them. Small towns are the preferred venue for evil and scary occurrences, and country pastors are usually portrayed as vicious, hypocritical, sexually repressed, and corrupt. Notwithstanding the occasional appearance of the stereotypical Elmer Gantry, nobody goes to church. Religion is simply not a feature in the lives of movie and television characters. Lots of film and TV characters have pre-marital sex, but very rarely does anyone contract a sexually transmitted disease. “Prudes” are always the subject of jokes and ridicule. One of the central themes of American movies and television is the glamorization of adultery. Adultery is almost always portrayed sympathetically, so that if a woman cheats on her husband, the husband is generally shown to be vicious, unscrupulous, abusive, impotent, or in some way deserving of the fate that befalls him.”
* The conceit is that Hollywood is just knocking the country pastor off his pedestal, acting as a check against the unthinking reverence he normally enjoys, and so performing a critical intellectual function that only the truly benighted could oppose. But the truth is that the country pastor was long ago stripped of the social prestige that is being disingenuously imputed to him. Hollywood’s pretense to the contrary is merely an expedient through which to disguise its ideological narrowness as some kind of courageous critical enterprise. For what purports to be a critical enterprise is in fact the crude otherization of traditionalists, morally no different that the otherization of gays and prostitutes. Nevertheless, the new moralism dictates what we are able to recognize as moralism and so allows liberals to operate with an impunity that is foreclosed to conservatives.
* …Tucker Carlson, whose conservatism was sparked early in life in reaction to his first-grade teacher, Mrs. Raymond. Mrs. Raymond was a preening progressive who occupied class time railing against the evils of the class system and white bread, making nasty remarks about conservative politicians and teaching little. The straw that broke the camel’s back arrived when she was invited to his home to provide extra tutoring to him and his brother. Rather than just doing her job, she instead took his father to task for allowing the children to eat Cap’n Crunch cereal, confronting the spectacle with “a look of shock and horror on her face, the look of a priest who has stumbled into a black Mass.” She was promptly ejected from the home… And it was this encounter that first instructed him in the meaning of conservatism. A conservative, writes Carlson, is someone who “instinctively sides with the individual over the group,” who “understands that not every choice is a moral issue, that sometimes people just prefer plastic to paper, a Suburban to a Prius, and that’s okay.”
* Charles Kors writes that “[d]espite the talk of ‘celebrating’ diversity, colleges and universities do not, in fact, mean the celebration, deep study, and appreciation of evangelical, fundamentalist, Protestant culture; nor of traditionalist Catholic culture; nor of the gender roles of Orthodox Jewish or of Shiite Islamic culture; nor of black American Pentacostal culture; nor of assimilation; nor of the white, rural South. These are not ‘multicultural.’”85 Just like diversity, “sensitivity” is a facially universalistic ideal that is unobjectionable in the abstract. But universities’ solicitude for diverse group identities does not extend to those who reject the dominant dispensation. Campus speech codes protect the sensibilities of left-wing students, but they allow these same students to label conservative blacks “Uncle Toms” and label anti-feminist women “mall chicks.”86 Students who believe homosexuality is sinful can be charged with harassing their gay and lesbian cohorts. But pro-choice students who surround a silent pro-life vigil and chant “Racist, sexist, antigay born-again bigots go away” are seen as engaged in protected speech.87
Liberals believe they know how to put themselves in others’ shoes, so Kors proposes the following thought-experiment: “Imagine secular, skeptical, or leftist faculty and students confronted by a religious harassment code that prohibited “denigration” of evangelical or Catholic beliefs, or that made the classroom or campus a space where evangelical or Catholic students must be protected against feeling “intimidated,” offended,” or, by their own subjective experience, victims of a “hostile environment. Imagine a university of patriotic “loyalty oaths” where leftists were deemed responsible for the tens of millions of victims of communism, and where free minds were prohibited from creating a hostile environment for patriots, or from offending that “minority” of individuals who are descended from Korean or Vietnam War veterans. Imagine, as well, that for every “case” that became public, there were scores or hundreds of cases in which the “offender” or “victimizer,” desperate to preserve a job or gain a degree, accepted a confidential plea bargain that included a semester’s or a year’s reeducation in “religious sensitivity” or “patriotic sensitivity” seminars run by the university’s “Evangelical Center, “Patriotic Center,” or “Office of Religious and Patriotic Compliance.”
* If blacks were once maligned as the natural inferiors of whites, it is now, says Codevilla, the “Ruling Class” of liberal elites who “can no more believe that a Christian might be their intellectual and moral equal than white Southerners of the Jim Crow era could think the same of Negroes.”95 In the same vein, Cal Thomas charges that in their refusal to recognize Christian writing as “serious literature or scholarship,” many publishers are “treating the Christian market as a kind of ‘Negro league’ of publishing.”96 Liberalism “hides its bigotry behind the mask of reason” because it merely redirects without actually reducing the sum total of bigotry in the world, denigrating its targets to that its bigotry cannot be recognized as such.
* Liberals will avouch that whatever animus they bear toward some religious believers is a direct reflection of the latter’s attempts to impose their creed on others, and not some generic need for a “designated denigrated.” But conservatives refuse to accept this high-mindedness at face value. Liberals claim to promote church-state separation as a prophylactic against the destructive social conflict that politicized religious passions are known to spawn. But conservatives insist this is a hollow pretext that seizes upon a now irrelevant and bygone history in order to make the denigration of religion socially acceptable. “No sooner does someone mention school prayer, for example, than religious wars and even the Spanish Inquisition get trotted out as warnings,” notes Elshtain.97 The real goal is not to hold fanaticism in check but to stigmatize religious faith as such. The specter of fanaticism is merely an ideological tool with which to legitimize this stigma.
* What liberals push as religious neutrality or strict church-state separation is actually a push to relegate religious believers to the margins of social respectability. For separationist rhetoric is just another way for the liberal elite to insinuate what it will not state. And this is that strong religious conviction is primitive and benighted, the product of intellectual deficiencies that may be hidden from believers themselves but are glaring to liberals. This has always been a mainstay of Left ideology. But liberals have now succeeded in transforming elite prejudices into mainstream common sense, into a censorship of fashion for which church-state separation is the ideological vehicle. The “Ruling Class,” says Codevilla, “cannot prevent Americans from worshipping God.” But “they can make it as socially disabling as smoking—to be done furtively and with a bad conscience.”
* Gay rights are not free-standing demands for equal dignity but rather one particular manifestation of the broader cultural transformation that oppresses conservatives.
* The gay rights movement seeks not to uproot prejudices but to mold sensibilities. It promotes not freedom of conscience for all but mind control by some. Limbaugh charges that gay activists want “to systematically normalize the homosexual culture and demonize any who obstruct such efforts.”105 Such is illustrated by the popularity of plays like The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and Corpus Christi, which retell Biblical stories from a gay perspective. This appropriation, argues Limbaugh, brings “into focus the virulent bigotry, hostility, and hypocrisy of the anti-Christian forces in modern life.”
* Disney World decided to discontinue its “twenty-eight-year tradition of making on-site religious services available to Christian guests” at the same time as it “went out of its way to solicit the homosexual community, even having an annual ‘Gay Day’ event every year.” Where liberals see the arbitrary juxtaposition of two unrelated developments each of which can be assessed independently of the other, the claimants see varied manifestations of the same basic phenomenon, the supplanting of their moral traditionalism by ultra-liberalism, whose support for gays is inextricably bound up with its hostility toward Christians.
* Given that their anti-gay stances cannot be disentangled from their religion and that their religion cannot be disentangled from their identities, the claimants believe that both homosexuality and opposition to homosexuality are entitled to equal respect. For opposition to Christianity is just as intrinsic to homosexuality as opposition to homosexuality is intrinsic to Christianity. Both can devolve into bare antipathy and should be condemned in those instances. But neither is as such intrinsically more hateful than the other. Since the heartfelt defense of any worldview always risks devolving into personal animus toward the opponents of that worldview, the charge of widespread homophobia is itself a form of animus, a kind of conservaphobia, because the objective is to specifically associate religious conservatives with what is a regrettable human universal.
* Justice Scalia observes: “When the Court takes sides in the culture wars, it tends to be with the knights rather than the villeins – and more specifically with the Templars, reflecting the views and values of the lawyer class from which the Court’s Members are drawn. How that class feels about homosexuality will be evident to anyone who wishes to interview job applicants at virtually any of the Nation’s law schools. The interviewer may refuse to offer a job because the applicant is a Republican; because he is an adulterer; because he went to the wrong prep school or belongs to the wrong country club; because he eats snails; because he is a womanizer; because she wears real-animal fur; or even because he hates the Chicago Cubs. But if the interviewer should wish not to be an associate or partner of an applicant because he disapproves of the applicant’s homosexuality, then he will have violated the pledge which the Association of American Law Schools requires all its member-schools to exact from job interviewers: “assurance of the employer’s willingness” to hire homosexuals…..This law-school view of what “prejudices” must be stamped out may be contrasted with the more plebeian attitudes that apparently still prevail in the United States Congress, which has been unresponsive to repeated attempts to extend to homosexuals the protections of federal civil rights laws………”
* The Templars routinely avail themselves of the right to base their employment decisions on “irrational” factors like appearance, demeanor, or personality. These are not directly germane to job performance narrowly construed but are highly relevant to maintaining a workplace environment that reflects the Templars’ sensibilities and self-image. Yet this is a privilege they reserve for themselves alone. They believe themselves more tolerant than the villeins, but Justice Scalia was arguing that the Templars’ support for gay causes is an easy outlet for moral preening, not an expression of principled cosmopolitanism. For the cosmopolitanism is nowhere to be found where it would conflict with the Templars’ own prejudices.
* Liberalism is always pushed through indeterminate abstractions like equality, but the equality’s concrete implementation must always engender new forms of inequality.
* This weltanschuung is vividly illustrated in Mike Gallagher’s 50 Things Liberals Love to Hate, a chronicle of the author’s 30 years of experience observing liberals. Gallagher explains that he has studied liberals “like Jane Goodall studies her chimps”—“In their natural habitats, and without judgment. In silence mostly, because we barely speak the same language.”120 From this vast experience, Gallagher concludes that “[l]iberals love to hate things most Americans love, and spend the rest of their lives endlessly trying to take those things away from us,” convinced that “they do it all because they love us.”121 Thus, liberals hate McDonald’s because it stands as a symbol of some of America’s best qualities, “our entrepreneurial zeal, our ability to deliver high quality in a uniform way, our love of convenience and speed.”122 Liberals will justify their regulatory zeal as the pursuit of public health. But this is stealth and subterfuge once again. That they would exempt fancy, high-calorie coffee drinks from state control betrays that they are simply imposing their own lifestyle preferences on ordinary Americans.123 Likewise, NASCAR upsets liberals because “everyone there is having a good time,” eating fatty food and listening to country music in utter indifference to liberal disapproval. Liberals despise NASCAR fans because they are symbols of the American renegade, the cultural descendants of those who conquered the West, didn’t wait for permission, and didn’t follow the rules.124 Liberals’ contempt for the autonomy of the ordinary American also explains their contempt the great American steakhouse, where the food is always made to the customer’s specifications. By contrast, “liberal restaurants” will “assault” guests “with all sorts of rules and information,” forbidding substitutions, dictating how dishes may be served.125 Where conservatives celebrate the individual, liberals worship the expert, who has colonized the culinary sphere no less than the legal, administrative, and educational ones. In every case, liberalism’s ultimate aim is the devitalization of the ordinary American. Hence liberals’ preference for environmentally friendly electric cars, their preference for a “sad little mound of plastic” with “zero-pick up” lacking the “power and thrust” of all-American gas guzzler. Liberals “want us to stop hitting the accelerator—on our cars, on our ambitions, on our appetites, on everything.”
* Amy Wax explains: “Because the powers of human reason are severely limited, all but the most intellectually gifted are incapable of engaging in sustained, rigorous analysis or of thinking through problems without falling into error. The dilemmas of human existence are particularly resistant to rational analysis because social practices and traditions are not derived from first principles, but evolve over time by trial and error. Human action in society and politics operates not primarily through reasoning, but through adherence to prescriptive roles, customs, and habits continuously adjusted to the messy demands of day-to-day living. The test of behavioral rules is thus whether they work well in the real world as guides for human interaction rather than whether they conform precisely to syllogistic demands.”
* Ideology “is a projection of your personality.” It is “you cast like a spotlight onto the cultural landscape in which you live.” Liberalism and conservatism cannot be reduced to ideas because they are also ways of being—the “spotlight”—that first imbue ideas with their resonance for us. Political ideology is not just a cluster of principles through which events in the world are self-consciously conceptualized, but, like personality generally, the lens through which the world first appears to us prior to explicit belief-formation.
* National Review’s Jay Nordlinger explains that conservatives are “bilingual.” Unlike liberals, conservatives can speak “both conservative and liberal.” For liberals “can go a long time without brushing up against someone who’s conservative.” By contrast, conservatives “are more used to being around liberals, because liberals have dominated everything in our lives, especially our schools.”132 The conservative is thus akin to the proverbial Latino immigrant or first-generation American, who is immersed in white/Anglo ways at work or school but is also anchored in a foreign language and culture affording him a special perspective unavailable to monocultural natives.
* Writing in Proud to be Right—an anthology of introspective essays by a new generation of emerging young conservatives—Hellen Rittelmeyer explains that her cohort at Yale “smoked on principle” and were bothered by smoking bans, which undeservedly “gave the modern cult of health the force of law.” Reacting to this, she and her friends chose to embody conservative values rather than articulate them, which is what smoking allowed them to do. For reasons they never quite understood, “smoking felt like rebellion against Yale’s moral consensus that the two most important things in life are for everyone to be happy and for everyone to get along.”
* Christopher Lasch articulates the basic intuition: “Upper-middle-class liberals, with their inability to grasp the importance of class differences in shaping attitudes toward life, fail to reckon with the class dimension of their obsession with health and moral uplift. They find it hard to understand why their hygienic conception of life fails to command universal enthusiasm. They have mounted a crusade to sanitize American society: to create a “smoke-free environment,” to censor everything from pornography to “hate speech,” and at the same time, incongruously, to extend the range of personal choice in matters where most people feel the need of solid moral guidelines. When confronted with resistance to these initiatives, they betray the venomous hatred that lies not far beneath the smiling face of upper-middle-class benevolence.”
* To smoke at Yale is to reject the devil’s bargain of liberalism, whose unrelenting pursuit of health, safety, civility, and cooperation stifles the natural freedom of the human spirit—whether through political correctness, business regulation, or another way. This is why smoking can qualify as political resistance.
* But smoking at Yale is to the conservative claimant of cultural oppression what burning a bra was to the 1970s feminist, nothing that was ever intended to constitute an eloquent statement of philosophical principle, but rather a go-for-the-gut challenge to taken-for-granted social understandings. It is not a substitute for ideas, but an attempt to raise the kind of consciousness without which certain ideas cannot even be entertained.
* [For nineteenth century liberals] “the call for a common national identity was often tied to an ethnocentric denigration of small national groups.” It was common to distinguish “great nations” like France, Italy, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Spain, England, and Russia, from smaller, mere “nationalities” like the Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Basques, Welsh, Scots, Serbians, Bulgarians, Romanians, and Slovenes. Whereas the former were upheld as the civilized carriers of historical progress, the latter were denigrated as “primitive and stagnant, and incapable of social or cultural development.” And so some nineteenth-century liberals endorsed national independence for great nations but coercive assimilation for smaller nationalities. No less than John Stuart Mill opined that “it was undeniably better for a Scottish Highlander to be part of Great Britain, or for a Basque to be part of France, than to sulk on his own rocks, the half-savage relic of past times, revolving in his own little mental orbit, without participation or interest in the general movement of the world.”
* By contrasted with places like New York, Boston, or San Francisco, conservative regions of American are denigrated as revolving in their “own little mental orbit,” as “primitive and stagnant.” Laura Ingraham writes that Middle America reminds the elites “of those maps of Africa used by nineteenth-century explorers that were blank in the middle—to signify “Terra Incognita,” the Unknown Land. The explorers thought cannibals lived there; the elites, on the other hand, believe a mysterious tribe known as Redneckus Americanus occupies these strange lands.”140 The liberal elites will denounce real or imagined racism and xenophobia at every turn. But Ingraham these are the same people “who don’t hesitate to slip into (bad) southern drawls to ridicule Southerners.”
* The liberal elites will chalk up complaints of conservaphobia to conservative self-pity. But the alternative hypothesis is that conservaphobia is a contemporary variant of an ethnocentrism that was once considered fully compatible with liberalism.
* Victor Davis Hanson observes: “Obama represents their utopian dreams where an anointed technocracy, exempt from the messy ramifications of its own ideology, directs from on high a socially just society — diverse, green, non-judgmental, neutral abroad, tribal at home — in which an equality of result is ensured, albeit with proper exemptions for the better educated and more sophisticated, whose perks are necessary to give them proper downtime for their exhausting work on our behalf.
Whom does the liberal elite detest? Not the very poor. Not the middle class. Not the conservative wealthy of like class. Mostly it is the Sarah-Palin-type grasping want-to-be’s (thus the vicious David Letterman jokes or Katie Couric animus or Bill Maher venom).
Those of the entrepreneurial class who own small businesses (‘you didn’t build that’), who send their kids to San Diego State rather than Stanford, who waste their ill-gotten gains on jet skis rather than skis and on Winnebagos rather than mountain climbing equipment, who employ 10 rather than 10,000, and who vacation at Pismo Beach rather than Carmel. The cool of Obama says to the very wealthy, “I’m one of you. See you again next summer on the Vineyard.”
Obama signals to the elite that he too is bothered by those non-arugula-eating greedy losers who are xenophobic and angry that the world left them behind, who are without tastes and culture, who are materialistic to the core, and who are greedy in their emphases on the individual — the tea-baggers, the clingers, the Cliven Bundy Neanderthals, the Palins in their Alaska haunts, and the Duck Dynasty freaks. These are not the sort of successful people that we want the world to associate with America, not when we have suitably green, suitably diverse zillionaires who know where to eat in Paris.”
* The elites, says Ingraham, believe they have “outgrown America.”144 Embarrassed by America’s backwardness and parochialism, they continually “apologize for our brutish attitudes and policies to their elitist comrades around the world.”145 With their unabashed patriotism, religiosity, and individualism, ordinary Americans are seen as badly brought-up children whose poor manners shame their parents in public. They are not part of the conversation but the objects of the conversation.
* liberals’ admiration for former French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, whom they looked to as the kind of intelligent, responsible statesman that America lacked during the George W. Bush years. But this was the same de Villepin who avowed that “[t]here is not a day that goes by without me feeling the imperious need to…advance further in the name of French ambition.” De Villepin also wrote a biography of Napoleon, endorsing his philosophy of “Victory or death, but glory whatever happens.” President Bush never uttered anything as jingoistic or bellicose. And yet the elites dismissed him as “arrogant, stupid, greedy, corrupt, and a unilateralist.”147 Why? The double-standard proves that the elites are more concerned with cultural credentials than with moral substance. De Villepin was a debonair Parisian sophisticate who wrote books while Bush was a rude and crude want-to-be cowboy from Texas. Those who bear the appropriate markers of cultural distinction and validate the elites Europhilic pretensions are given a free moral pass while those who patriotically embrace American interests are condemned as the half-savage relics of past times—not because the interests are illegitimate, but because the crass earnestness of their patriotism is viscerally repugnant to liberal sensibilities.
The liberal elites simply refuse to acknowledge the hidden parochialism of what they imagine is their superior cultural sophistication. Ingraham writes: “If you’re an elitist who’s spent his entire career working for the Ford Foundation, the New York Times, or a Hollywood studio, concepts like valor, bravery, and sacrifice are probably alien to you. You don’t take them seriously, you don’t know anyone who does, and you naturally think that anyone who does profess to live by them must be mentally defective, even evil.”
Valor, bravery, and sacrifice are suspect because they are fundamentally incompatible with the elites’ “hygienic conception of life.”
* Dissenting in United States v. Virginia, which held unconstitutional the Virginia Military Institute’s policy of excluding women, Justice Scalia writes “In an odd sort of way, it is precisely VMI’s attachment to such old-fashioned concepts as manly ‘honor’ that has made it, and the system it represents, the target of those who today succeed in abolishing public single-sex education.”149 Writing for the Court, Justice Ginsburg had assumed the posture of the hard-nosed technocrat painstakingly scrutinizing the facts before her, asking how much evidence is required to prove that women cannot adapt to a VMI education. But Justice Scalia’s suggestion is that the narrow terms of Equal Protection review conceal the true stakes. Those who pushed to overturn VMI’s historical traditions were concerned, not to uproot irrational preconceptions about women’s capabilities, but to advance an agenda of social engineering, to discredit an ideal that they despise as archaic and benighted. Liberals will chalk up their reservations about “manly honor” to concerns about sexism and gender inequality. But conservative claimants of cultural oppression trace this high-mindedness to a specific cultural ethos. “It is male individuality, exuberance, and aggressiveness,” writes F. Carolyn Graglia, “that must be most stringently curbed and disciplined to meet the requirements of bureaucratic success.” Bureaucracies are “more hospitable to the effete, androgynous male who fits the feminist mold of manhood.”150 Liberals oppose manly honor, not to promote gender equality, but by virtue of their primordial attraction to the disciplined conformism of a bureaucratic, institutional ethos. A hygienic conception of life cannot tolerate male individuality, exuberance, and aggressiveness, which are now condemned as dangerous atavisms. Here as elsewhere, conservative claimants of cultural oppression see the political as emerging out of the ostensibly apolitical. Where the elites contrapose equality to inequality, conservatives see a contest between what the elites insist is their higher civilization and the half-savage relics of past times, conservatives.
* Ingraham notes that while a global rap superstar can “get away with carrying out a simulated rape of a young woman on the stage,” such shenanigans would have provoked a deafening outcry from elites had they been performed by American soldiers stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The performance would be cited as incontrovertible evidence of the military’s misogynistic culture.151 Why the double-standard? Liberals’ assessments of social ills are never formulated in a Platonic heaven, but always against the backdrop of the elites’ tastes and sensibilities. Where these tastes and sensibilities are rejected, as in the military, the violence and sexism will be moralistically condemned as uniquely nefarious and brutishly animal. Where they are embraced, as by multicultural black rappers, the criticism will be much more “nuanced” and “sophisticated,” with concessions granted to the requirements of artistic license and multilayered ironic social commentary. Liberals’ core commitments are presented in the language of abstract principles, but these principles’ true function as actually applied is always to discredit the ethos of the ordinary American, which is an affront to the liberal identity.
Conservative claims of cultural oppression offer a vulgarized and politicized recapitulation of what Norbert Elias famously characterized as the antithesis between Kultur and Civilization. Reacting to the prestige of French ideas and styles and the general perception of German backwardness and parochialism, German thinkers from the mid-eighteenth century onward asserted that France offered mere Civilization, an uprooted, artificial cosmopolitanism without inner spiritual substance, just “the external and superficial manners to be found in the courts.”152 Germany, on the other hand, offered Kultur, a fount of authentic spirituality and true feeling. In opposing their own “natural” way of life to the “unnatural” life of court society, German youths embracing Romanticism celebrated “an overwhelming delight in their own exuberance of feeling,” the “surrender to the excitement of one’s own heart, unhindered by ‘cold reason.’”153
Where today’s liberal elites have Civilization, so conservatives have Kultur. For conservative claims of cultural oppression promote the same basic contraposition of human characteristics that has always defined the Kultur/Civilization dichotomy, the contrast between “depth” and “superficiality,” “honesty” and “falsity,” “true virtue” and “outward politeness.”154 Hence O’Reilly’s juxtaposition of the secular-progressives of Los Angeles who say “Let’s do lunch, babe” with no intention making good on the promise with the instinctive sincerity of the conservative “Tradition-Warrior.” Not every “T-Warrior” can be a full-time activist, but he already contributes to the cause by just being a “standup guy” who rejects the “phony jargon.”155 The Ford Foundation, the New York Times, and Hollywood are just the latest iterations of the “unnatural” life of court society, of the unhealthy self-consciousness and other-directedness that now stands in sharp contrast to those who pour their hearts out singing the Star-Spangled Banner, surrendering to the excitement of their hearts “unhindered by ‘cold reason.’”
* Anderson notes that the liberal press condemned Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn—which “regularly upbraided the Left for its anti-Americanism and its stifling PC piety”—as boorish, offensive, and racist. But their offense was a direct reflection of their own parochialism, expressing that this particular brand of comedy is “far removed from the traditional New York-style (i.e., liberal, guilt-ridden, psychoanalysis-saturated) comedy of Woody Allen.”
* D’Souza notes that liberals celebrate violence “when it appears in movies that promote liberal or avant-garde values, such as Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, or Kill Bill” but deplore it “when it appears in a movie that promotes traditional religious faith, such as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.”160 As with nationalism, the issue is never violence as such, but the cultural sensibilities it serves to validate.
* Michael Savage was summarily fired from a new job at MSNBC after he lost his temper and, as he explains, “react[ed] to a vicious personal attack made by a crank caller” by telling the caller to “get AIDS and die.” But NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Savage notes, could respond to Senator’s Jesse Helms efforts to reduce AIDS research funding with “I think he ought to be worried about what’s going on in the Good Lord’s mind, because if there is retributive justice, he’ll get AIDs from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.”161 Totenberg was not fired. Why the double-standard?
* 1960s anti-Vietnam dissident William Sloane Coffin propounded his “rule of conscience,” which according to Kimball meant that Klansmen but not Weathermen should be arrested for their crimes. For “law was dispensable when it conflicted with duly ratified liberal sentiments.”162 Laws “may be violated if, and only if, one is a member of the elite.”
* While liberals will hold themselves out as pragmatists and fact-finders, laying underneath this self-image is a certain sensibility, a psychological need for order, for progress, for consensus, for expertise.
* Today’s liberals may repudiate heavy-handed political repression of other progressive offshoots. But they have not repudiated what are the seeds of that repression, their sweeping vision of social reform and social unity implemented by the centralized authority of experts.
* Ingraham notes that the military enjoys a level of racial diversity that cannot be found in liberal elite organizations like People for the American Way or New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.48 Liberals may be the ones talking the loudest about the virtues of diversity, but it is conservatives who actually deliver on it.
* Whether or not the liberal in question has personally slandered any particular conservative, he benefits from the general practice of slandering conservatives, because the social hierarchy which these slanders have engendered has now been built into the liberal identity and the broader social space that it inhabits. …Even where liberals do not directly accuse conservatives of racism, the latter know that they are socially vulnerable to the charge, which gives liberals a power-advantage that they wield irrespective of their conscious designs. And this suffices to implicate them in the cultural oppression of conservatives. If the grievances of conservatives seem downright hallucinatory to liberals, this is for the same reason the grievances of feminists seem hallucinatory to many men (and some women), because a standard of atomistic causality is held up to obscure the essentially collective, totalistic, and contextual nature of the injury.
* Coulter highlights this kind of totalistic injury in her analysis of the battle over the judicial appointment of Charles Pickering, who was branded a reactionary and filibustered at the behest of “an oddball collection of pro-abortion left-wingers” while receiving no credit for having put his own physical safety at risk as a prosecutor going after the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s. Beyond risking life and limb for civil rights to the point of requiring FBI protection, Pickering also sent his children to Mississippi public schools in the 1970s, where they would be surrounded by black faces. He was also supported in his nomination by Charles Evars, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evars. And yet he found himself opposed on the basis of his presumed hostility to “civil rights.”
* The “people of fashion,” observes Himmelfarb, treat indulgently what Smith calls the “vices of levity”—“luxury, wanton and even disorderly mirth, pursuit of pleasure to some degree of intemperance, the breach of chastity.” But the “common people,” who are, and must be, committed to the strict or austere moral system, regard such vices with the “utmost abhorrence and detestation.” For they recognize that these vices are nearly always ruinous to them, even if they can be indulged in with impunity by the people of fashion, whose privilege shields them from the consequences.67 That is why “[i]f Europeans do not share our ‘obsession,’ as they say, with morality, dismissing it disparagingly as ‘moralistic,’ it is perhaps because their ethos still has lingering traces of their monarchic and aristocratic heritage—those vestiges of class, birth, and privilege that are congenial to a ‘loose’ system of morality.” By contrast, “Americans, having been spared that legacy and having relied from the beginning upon character as a test of merit and self-discipline as the precondition of self-government, still pay homage to ‘republican virtue.’”
* Robert Bork warns: “Persons capable of high achievement in one field or another may find meaning in work, may find community among colleagues, and may not particularly mind social and moral separation otherwise. Such people are unlikely to need the more sordid distractions that popular culture now offers. But very large segments of the population do not fall into that category. For them, the drives of liberalism are catastrophic.”
It is no coincidence that the liberal vision is advanced by those whose professional stature provides their lives with a meaning and coherence of which the erosion of traditional religion and morality deprives the silent majority—which is consequently left susceptible to a mass of debilitating social ills that the elites will never have occasion to face. It may be of no great consequence when a tenured radical rails against the repressiveness of bourgeois norms from within the safe confines of the ivory tower. But it is of far greater moment when the less privileged, and especially the underclass, absorbs these adversarial attitudes, in the process rejecting the only values that could save their members from crime, drug addiction, illegitimacy, etc. If conservatives are critical of the underclass’s habits, this then reflects, not racism or any other prejudice, but the simple fact that liberalism has inflicted the greatest damage among the most vulnerable. Himmelfarb observes that a level of delinquency which a white suburban teenager can indulge with relative impunity may be “literally fatal to a black inner city teenager.” And Goldberg charges that, not content to just personally indulge in Dionysian excess, “today’s secular royalty” of Hollywood liberals “feel compelled to export values only the very rich and very admired can afford.” Madonna could urge her followers to cast off their bourgeois sexual hang-ups. But whereas she could simply settle down with a husband and kids once she wearied of this, the “lower-middle-class girls from Jersey City who took her advice” were not so lucky.
* Bill O’Reilly laments that “the S-P [secular-progressive] crowd, especially the mainstream media, has glorified the gangsta world and, indeed, makes money from it. Those white, middle-aged, ponytailed music executives are no better than crack dealers. They know their product dehumanizes its constant customer and encourages awful behavior.”
* Like the callousness of nineteenth century capitalists toward the suffering of their workers, the callousness of today’s liberal elites toward the common people is facilitated by inhumanly abstract conceptions of freedom, a simplistic “my liberty ends at your nose” ethic that refuses to recognize the chains of social interconnectedness which give democratic majorities a legitimate interest in regulating their moral environments. If liberals believe that state regulation is a legitimate means of redressing gross inequalities of economic power, then conservatives insist that some forms of morals legislation may be required to protect those whose cultural influence is being unjustly marginalized by the media and Hollywood. The left, notes D’Souza, is “unfailingly vigilant in exposing business for polluting the natural environment,” but “when is the last time a liberal democrat denounced Hollywood or the music industry for polluting the moral environment?” Conservatives, then, are not as liberals would have it meddlesome moralists trying to foist their personal preferences on unwilling others, but socially-minded egalitarians who hold liberals accountable for the externalities that their liberalism inflicts on non-liberals—like Goldberg’s forgotten lower-middle-class girls of Jersey City.