I’m reading about the alt-right yahoos at Portland State University, and it’s horrifying. It’s a long story, focusing on a small group of admitted racist trolls who have absorbed 4chan/Reddit culture and have decided that openly parading their ignorance and bigotry is fun. What’s particularly appalling to me is that they claim that their views are scientific and rational…but when I read them, they’re just wrong about everything.
Well-read in the authoritarian right, Kolychev says he supports the liberal values of the Enlightenment.
This is a common refrain among certain kinds of conservatives. They claim they are the True Liberals, or neo-liberals, and they are simply returning to the original values of the Enlightenment. There is a grain of truth to that, but they’re doing it wrong. A central value of the Enlightenment ought to be the embrace of change, accepting the idea that we can learn more and become better; it’s not a fixed set of rigid values. You especially cannot support the liberal values of the Enlightenment by thinking that you should turn back the clock three or four hundred years.
The Enlightenment arose in the 17th/18th centuries. It was also a time of colonialism, empire building, racism, slavery, oppression of the poor, and vicious punishments. You don’t support the Enlightenment if you think everything about the past was virtuous, so therefore we should bring back public hanging, workhouses, and colonial exploitation.
Modern liberalism is different than 18th century liberalism. Ideas change. Seeking justification in the past is a conservative value.