Jonah Goldberg offers an interesting take on the Left’s escalating hunt for heretics

People_burned_as_hereticsPart of the Left’s ongoing hunt for heretics arises for a simple, pragmatic reason: it ensures that people with opposing views keep their mouths shut. That pragmatic fact, though, doesn’t mean that there isn’t an additional emotional layer giving real satisfaction to the troops who carry out the elite’s marching orders. Jonah Goldberg, who has spent a lot of time thinking about liberal pieties, offers this interesting take on the Left’s recent escalation of its witchhunts:

But while I was prepping for the speech, I read some reviews of Jody [Joseph] Bottum’s new book (which I’ve now ordered). In, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, Bottum argues that today’s liberal elites are the same liberal elites that we’ve always had. They come from the ranks of mainline Protestants that have run this country for generations (with some fellow-travelling Jews and Catholics, to be sure). But there’s a hitch. They champion a

social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to experience, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.

This strikes me as pretty close to exactly right. They’re still elitist moralizers but without the religious doctrine. In place of religious experience, they take their spiritual sustenance from self-satisfaction, often smug self-satisfaction.

One problem with most (but not all) political religions is that they tend to convince themselves that their one true faith is simply the Truth. Marxists believed in “scientific socialism” and all that jazz. Liberalism is still convinced that it is the sole legitimate worldview of the “reality-based community.”

There’s a second problem with political religions, though. When reality stops cooperating with the faith, someone must get the blame, and it can never be the faith itself. And this is where the hunt for heretics within and without begins.

Think about what connects so many of the controversies today: Mozilla’s defenestration of Brendan Eich, Brandeis’ disinviting of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the IRS scandal, Hobby Lobby, Sisters of Mercy, the notion climate skeptics should be put in cages, the obsession with the Koch brothers, not to mention the metronomic succession of assclownery on college campuses. They’re all about either the hunting of heretics and dissidents or the desire to force adherence to the One True Faith.

It’s worth noting that the increase in these sorts of incidents is not necessarily a sign of liberalism’s strength. They’re arguably the result of a crisis of confidence.

To use a household analogy, I point out to my children that those of their peers who are happy and self-confident never bully people. Instead, they bring people in. Indeed, oone of my daughter’s friends is the perfect example of this, a sunny soul whose very real popularity rests on the fact that it’s a pleasure to be in his company. It’s only unhappy, self-doubting people who take it upon themselves to make other people’s lives miserable.

In the world of school, I tell my children (a) these kids are more to be pity than censured; but (b) to stay away from them. In the real world, I hope I’m still big enough to pity the anger, fear, and self-loathing that drives the Left but, to the extent they make it impossible to stay away from their reach, they need to be confronted and their policies destroyed.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Interesting tactic, using your kid’s peers as a way to circumnavigate the authority of the corrupt and evil, given that popularity and peer pressure are always in the face of teenagers.
    On an objective level, it doesn’t matter what a person feels, only that they pull the trigger. There is a bigger difference between a person that feels pity and pulls the trigger, but feels differently and refuses to pull the trigger. Emotions are powerful, but only vis a vis the effect they have on reality.
    The Left still has 90% of their power in reserve. There are still things that I know, which I haven’t written about. Ain’t that a treat now…

  • Ymarsakar

    A lot of them being eaten up by the Left are also Democrats.
    I find a perverse pleasure in that. We, or at least I, always knew that the Left would eat their own sooner or later. After they called us a bunch of names during the Iraq War, it’s nice to see some justice done.

  • Libby

    I see it as the mask slipping and the embrace of thug tactics in the age of Obama. Obama is the first president to so openly target and wage war on his own citizens – Wall Street, greedy bankers, jet owners, the 1%, gun nuts, car dealerships, Rush Limbaugh, The Kochs, cops acting stupidly, Chamber of Commerce, churches, the Tea Party, etc.. The Democrats and Lefty organizations are just following his lead, no longer pretending to want tolerance, consensus or compromise. Who’s going to stop them? The MSM & DoJ are in on the game.
    Maybe they’re scared, but maybe it’s also that their thirst for purging dissent  grows with each head they put on a pike. Only a few targets have successfully fought back and won, such as Rush, Chik-Fil-A and Duck Dynasty. Meanwhile Tea Party groups, Christian wedding photographers & bakers, and big donors such as those who supported Gov. Scott Walker have been successfully harassed by a combination of private and federal activists. This is Alinsky on steroids.

    • Ymarsakar

      It’s merely the breath of Evil. There will be more to come, you can count on that. And for those that don’t believe me, the Left will stomp a boot on people’s head, to do the convincing.

  • Mike Devx

    For me, it is completely irrelevant where their thuggery and violence arises from.  Would you say that the Nazis were frightened, timid, unsure rabbits?   Stalin?  Mao-Tse Tung?  I am listing the extremes from the 20th Century, but totalitarian thuggish violence is totalitarian thuggish violence.  Timidity and uncertainty might be the cause of the baseball bat swinging at my head from behind, but I really don’t give a  damn.
    Their violence is escalating by the year.  It must be confronted and halted.  I am afraid we are getting to that point in self-defense where the predator’s violence must be met with self-defense violence. 
    The man lurking on your sidewalk and shouting slurs need not be confronted with violence.  When he is kicking down your door, it is time, and yes you MUST use violence in self-defense of yourself and those you love.
    Are we at that point yet?  It is getting ever closer.

    • SADIE

      Mike, look no further than the Bundy Ranch and BLM.  The Feds backed off this afternoon, whether or not it was due to midterm elections, Harry Reid or shades of Waco in 1993 and not wanting to taint Hillary’s plans is open to speculation – but not much!

      • Libby

        I think it was too many witnesses amassed at the Bundy ranch. A lot of them armed. 

  • Ymarsakar
    Here’s some entertainment from the Fers at ABC, those who think they are above us.
    By entertainment of course I mean WACO style.

  • jj

    Exactly right, Mike.  I do not give a s**t about first causes: if you come in this direction, then who pays you, who inspires you, what drives you, what you’re thinking, who you’re working for, what your goal may be, and whether or not your hemorrhoids are killing you today is all information that is entirely irrelevant to me.

  • Gringo

    Early on I concluded that there was a religious aspect to some who populated the extreme left. A family friend, not a churchgoer but the daughter of a Congregational minister, had the most extreme politics of anyone of my parents’ peers- and my father voted for Norman Thomas in 1948. She was a fervid Ban the Bomb activist before I entered high school. This was not the only example in her life of such activism.
    By the time I was an adolescent, I saw  that even though she wasn’t a churchgoer, there was probably a  relationship between the religious fervor her minister father must have had and her Ban the Bomb fervor.
    The difference between her and the heretic-seeking lefties of today was that while she sought righteousness, she was neither smug nor  self-righteous. You didn’t have to agree with her politics to be her friend. She was more concerned with  “doing the right thing” herself than in condemning those who didn’t “do the right thing.”
    Another personal attribute which separated her from the heretic seekers is that she could readily laugh at herself- as could my Bible-thumping grandmother. Self-righteous heretic seekers are too serious to waste time with humor.

  • Legatus

    Excellent article, as usual.  Religious zeal of the dour Protestant, yes; perhaps held together with strain of the ecstatic revivalism of Elmer Gantry’s small town American.

    Surely the Left embodies this, not the common man of the ignorant Right as they would have it.   We must pound this home. I would agree this purging spirit has of late grown emboldened, and believe it important to realize that as we push back more strongly and with greater effect, this will lead to more frequent witch burnings (lets just wait to see what comes of the Bundy Affair).

    Interestingly, this concept as set out in your post and the supporting article leads to an important challenge we on the right must resolve once and for all … and that is an accurate and broadly-accepted description and understanding of our foe — we have to come to agreement on the terms.  We’ve got to set it out clearly, understand its import, disseminate it to the confused and dispirited of us out here in the tall grass on the right, and we have to employ our understanding against the “Left” — its functions and faces.

    We on the Right must (I believe) seriously embrace the analysis put forth by Fred Siegel in his book The Revolt Against the Masses, as well as the overall architecture of the left as described by Cleta Mitchell.  We must if we are to have any hope of mounting the gargantuan, decades-long effort it’s going to take to dig out this cultural and political ill, and push its dark, malignant aspects back to the margins of our society where they can molder under the watchful eye of a renewed populace.

    And I just don’t see that we can really begin to turn the tide of this terribly destructive movement (the Left) until we clearly and finally set out just who they are.  Only then can we take that understanding and put it to effective use. (Now, I’m a novice at all this, so maybe someone has — maybe it’s in common use and I just don’t know it.  But it doesn’t seem that we’re doing well in the counter-fight (to say nothing of taking the cultural offensive), and I would submit it doesn’t seem we have a clear concept of who we face, and that’s a fatal flaw in any fight, but especially in the multi-dimensional one in which we’re now engaged – It seems to me we have no clearly-accepted analysis, no understood operating plan, and poorly-defined terms.  And we don’t seem to understand or effectively leverage what really motivates or engages people … And we’re fighting an enemy with a clear agenda, apparent broad-based agreement on ends, with defined goals, clear tactical and strategic plans, world-class communication and alarm systems, well-executed battle drills, unbeatable propaganda and “myth-maintenance” machinery, dedicated followers, effective employment of human drives, desires and weakness, etc etc.  They even have a written handbook, for Pete’s sake … they’re decades ahead … but I digress.)  

    So thanks to your post for highlighting a distinction we have to pursue.

    It seems to me that at the core, one key weakness of the Right is that we commonly confuse the terms “liberal — progressive — left” … with most of us out there falling into the habit of using them somewhat interchangeably.  And I think this sloppiness of mind and habit (of which I’m guilty too) is undercutting our ability to see clearly this existential enemy, to plan effectively against him (ok … and her) and to win engagements in the political, legal and cultural fights we daily face.  Because at bottom, the tools effective against one component of their coalition might not work against or be appropriate to another. 

    The post and article — supported by ideas put forward in Fred Siegel’s book — suggest that there are multiple, discordant, yet operationally-complementary facets to our foe.

    Both on the ground and in the world of ideas, we’re like Hercules facing the Hydra; or maybe better yet, Hercules facing his Labors.  I think Siegel’s analysis and the concept he sets forward should become a standard for understanding our enemy.  There are different constituent units of this force we face; we have to understand those distinctions as essential to their success and to who they are; we have to fight each separately as well as the whole together.

    Debate and disagreement is nice in the faculty lounge – they’re fine as  tools to refine tactics — but we’re past that point where that can predominate.  We are in survival mode, and should have long since adopted the War Room mindset — let the commentariate and fellows debate (and feed in updated intel, doctrine and procedures); those in the field require functional concepts to get real work done.  Out under the hot, smelly canvas at the field command posts, there must be effective tools for use by our leaders and organizations.  

    First among these are an understanding of the task, analysis of the situation and an accurate grasp of the enemy.  To those ends, we have to be clear in our terms. 
    So yes, there is the dour, serious (and perhaps positively-motivated) moralist.  The Progressive …. a Woodrow Wilson, for instance.  Their modern incarnation are pretty busy now as we’ve seen just the past few weeks marching heretics onto piles of dry sticks.  In addition, Siegel does an excellent job carving out the outline of the liberal as wholly distinct from this progressive, but certainly coming from that same wealthy, privileged class your post highlights.   They’re busy with their own agenda too, linked arm in arm with the progressives.  To understand the whole, though, we have to see them separately first.  Thus I believe his distinction is both valid and necessary (as well as accurate).  

    Then there is the term “left”.  And since I claim no original credit in any of this, I would point out that Cleta Mitchell has already described the foe we face as a Liberal-Left-Progressive alliance (please excuse any mistake in her original order).  I think she’s onto something here that we need to look at seriously as a conceptual as well as an operational description of our opponents. 

    Finally, we have to make clear that the Left might be something distinct from the left …. with the capital-L an OK shorthand for those on the other side who are for social justice and “transformation”, while the small-l would mark those who bring to Mitchell’s L-L-P Allliance the tactics, drives and dark appetites — the methods, function and implacable drive for power and control – that characterizes their movement. 

    And of course, we are having such a problem with them in part as each component of their alliance brings different methods, capabilities, goals and attitudes to their effort.  They come to meet us like a combined-arms team.  One part using its capabilities to cover the weaknesses of the other; yet another pushing forward to one task, while certain groups fall back to rebuild and reconstitute.  They are a fascinating foe – dangerous, destructive, and terrible. 

    It’s a long fight we face.  We must unify our effort, clarify our foe, and allow our own side the information and tools needed to mobilize in order to engage effectively across the breadth and depth of this fight.  To do this, we first have to “see” who it is we fight.  I think this idea of Progressives as the inheritors of the Protestant moralists provides one key piece of that clarity.  Thanks.

    Whoa … no more caffeine. 

    Sorry for the length.  I think I’ve probably violated blog etiquette here …..

    As always, I tremendously enjoy your thoughts.  Please keep it up.  Those of us out here in the weeds, trying to survive and still do our part, need to feel the body heat from like-minded souls.  

    • Ymarsakar

      It’s already clear to many here that the Left is an alliance and not just a political party.
      It’s not necessary to delineate their precise differences and modes of operation, merely destroy them. Breitbart didn’t spend 10 years or his websites on figuring out what the difference between a Union Leftist and a Teacher’s Union Leftist and a Southern Democrat was. He just punched them in the face, repeatedly, no matter who it was, ACORN child sex slaves included.
      For those that don’t understand what the war situation is, they should check up at Neo Neocon’s blog, here, Vox Day, O’Keefe’s Veritas, “Truth the Vote” IRS front, NSA/TSA oppression, and various Breitbart or Communist defector interviews.
      If people want to learn, they need to get working. Nobody’s going to feed them a bunch of pap while they sit on the couch Obeying Authority. This isn’t the Left, after all.
      Most people weren’t worried about the Left, so they underestimated them and refused to think about serious things. Even here, which I deem is ahead of 68% of the humans in America in terms of advancement of mental and spiritual knowledge, didn’t like thinking about the Left too much, since their everyday life was satisfactory. But some of us on the net and in the world already had decided what the nature of the Left was.
      From my experience,  reading the vibe of the internet, many small time groups are beginning to connect the dots. They often have their favorite dragons to slay, such as for Vox Day it is science fiction writers of America and John Scalzi. But they are connecting the dots, so that one Leftist agent’s consequences are connected to every other Leftist operation. In the same fashion that people in WWII didn’t truly understand Nazi Germany or militarized Japan, the same is true for the Leftist alliance. An alliance does not have one ideology, political party, or religious ideology. They just don’t. It’s pointless, thus, to say that one Leftist has different beliefs from another Leftist. An alliance, by its nature, is contradictory. Fascist Germany allied with Soviet Russia is another example. Hussein O allied with Islamic Jihad in suppressing Libya and Egypt, selling arms to AQ so AQ can retake Fallujah in FIII. To people outside the alliance, they can’t understand it. For those inside the alliance, it makes sense.
      Blog articles don’t generally produce solid work on this subject matter. If you are merely reading the blog posts, such as here, you are missing out on most of the material. 

  • Ymarsakar