Conservatives, classical liberals, libertarians: all dishonest frauds


Are you interested in a good, balanced article on free speech? Here’s one: How Free Speech Warriors Mainstreamed White Supremacists. Our current problem isn’t a lack of free speech, it’s that the most vocal advocates for free speech, the ones who claim that it is curtailed and that they are victims, aren’t actually interested in free speech. They want an excuse to silence criticism of the most odious opinions. It’s the opposite of free speech — they want selective support for expression of bad ideas, while shutting down opposition in the name of protecting their views.

Capitalizing on the fuzziness of their coded speech, the new right has spun this plausible deniability off on hosts who either aren’t attuned to the underlying message or simply don’t care. Take, for example, the Rubin Report, a YouTube show purportedly devoted to “free speech” and “big ideas” with more than 700,000 subscribers. Host Dave Rubin positions himself as a “free agent” in the “marketplace of ideas,” seeking to establish a “new center rooted in free speech, logic, and reason.” To that end, he has invited on an eclectic, albeit right leaning, mix of guests, including mainstream public intellectuals like David Frum and Steven Pinker. But Rubin has made his antipathy for what he calls the “regressive left” and PC culture a common theme and so on the more extreme ends of the spectrum, he rarely, if ever, brings on a radical leftist. While Rubin frequently rails on identity politics, which he has called “evil,” he often invites on some of the most toxic practitioners of pro-Trump, white-identity politics, like InfoWars’ Paul Joseph Watson, who recycle black and immigrant crime stories, decry globalism and multiculturalism, and portray white identity as under attack. There they are offered the same deference and audience as some of the country’s leading public intellectuals.

Rubin is what used to be called a useful idiot — an undiscriminating tool who would uncritically promote terrible, destructive opinions while presenting himself as the noble supporter of open unbiased commentary. He’s not very bright, despite claiming to be a fan of logic and reason. The worst skinheads are smarter than he is.

“Thirty years ago, we used the same tactic and would refer to our movement as ‘White Pride’ or ‘White Separatist,’ said Picciolini, who was once a leader in the skinhead group Hammerskin Nation, recounting that less palatable labels caused problems and turned off potential recruits. “We [would say] we didn’t hate anyone, we were just interested in white civil rights. That was our public face. Behind closed doors, we were virulently racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic. The whole notion of ‘white nationalist’ or ‘race realist’ or ‘identitarian’ or ‘alt-right’ are based in the same racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic ideas we held. It is a marketing tactic and people should not be fooled.”

Yeah, they shouldn’t be, but it seems that being a fool is a path to wealth and popularity, as the Intellectual Dork Web has discovered. People with bad ideas are desperate for some kind of affirmation, and there’s always someone willing to provide it, for a fee. That’s been the lesson of religion for thousands of years, and now some atheists have rediscovered the principle, and have found that there are misogynists and racists happy to cough up cash if only you will tell them that their beliefs are virtuous and good. Telling people what they want to hear is always profitable.

Another darling of the Right, Bari Weiss, has also mastered this style. Like others of her duplicitous alt-right kind, she doesn’t even seem to be aware of how bad her arguments are. I’ll bet you’ve heard this one from the media a few times before.

I’m talking here about an emotional response. What happens to you when you are called deplorable? Is the response to say to the accuser: Actually, hey, you’re right! I hadn’t realized that about myself. Or is it to maybe consider voting for Trump?

When conservatives, classical liberals or libertarians are told by the progressive chattering class that they–or those they read–are alt-right, the very common response is to say: Screw it. They think everyone is alt-right. And then those people move further right.

Trump voters aren’t racist! But you are making them racist by calling them racist!

You know, that’s not how it works. I don’t want to be racist, either, but if you called me a racist, if you were even precise and specific and quoted something at me that I said that was racist, my reaction wouldn’t be to embrace that idea and go whole hog for Trump and join the KKK. It would be to say to myself that I don’t want to be a racist, I don’t want to be that person I was, what can I do to be better?

The Bari Weiss response is apparently to say, “What can I do to be a better racist?”, and that’s only the kind of thing somebody who is already pretty damned racist would say.

But here’s the bottom line, my emphasis:

In their blinkered fight for the alt-right’s “free speech”—a battle rarely, if ever, waged by the same actors on behalf of liberals—Rubin, Shepherd, and a number of college groups around the country seem to be both unable to make the vital distinction between protecting and promoting hateful ideology and unwilling to learn about it. They seem to view white-supremacist ideas pushed by social-media trolls to be on the same plane of harmless offensiveness as a Coed Naked T-shirt, inured to their real-world implications. Of course, they all have the right, at least in America, to give a platform without a heckler’s veto or credible counterpoint to ethno-state propagandists and noxious conspiracy theorists, who can smile and speak politely while peddling black crime stories and racist pseudoscience. But why, in the name of civil discourse and individual rights, would they want to?

That’s the real problem. I like free speech; I benefit from free speech. But I believe in the responsible exchange of ideas, I think in part because I’ve been conditioned by years of engagement in creationist arguments. That’s a situation where the other side is clearly intellectually bankrupt, where even someone like Dave Rubin or Sam Harris would agree that those people are so terribly wrong that it’s appalling to even consider giving them a free pass to indoctrinate our children. Yet I can disagree with creationists in the strongest possible terms and so detest them that I’ve been refusing to dignify their representatives with debate, while not suggesting that churches ought to be burned or fundamentalists jailed. That’s free speech.

They don’t seem to recognize that the pseudoscientific racism that they platform, or the institutionalized misogyny they promote, is just as disreputable and scientifically nonsensical as creationism, and even more damaging to society. So they talk about the “marketplace of ideas” and the “free exchange of views”, and offer a bullhorn to the biggest assholes they can find, while quietly whispering mild demurrals.

We on the Left are not fooled. We can see what you’re doing.

What’s wrong with you conservatives, classical liberals or libertarians that you don’t realize we can see right through you? The Communists had a term for enablers like you, “korisne budale”, or “useful innocents”, but I don’t think these right-wingers are innocent at all — they can’t be that stupid. They are well aware of what they are doing, and their disingenuousness is duplicitous.

Comments

  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I hesitantly agree that only reacting emotionally and declaring groups deplorable, is unacceptable as a valid response. only when that is not accompanied by reasonable arguments opposing the deplorable’s arguments.
    He also seems to be casually ignoring the usual reasons for the emotional use of deplorable, which is usually after being labelled either libturd or libtard , and dismissed unheard.
    I see the problem as focusing exclusively on single words chosen without comprehending the message.
    harrumph
    grrrrr
    ?

  2. rpjohnston says

    Bari Weiss: How self-centered.

    I don’t give a shit about you. Any of you. When I call you deplorable, or MAGAt, or traitor, or festering scum, I’m not trying to convince you not to be any any of those things. Because I don’t give a shit about you, because you’re deplorable.

    I’m saying that to remind MY PEOPLE not to give a shit about you, because you’re deplorable. That when we take power, we won’t give a shit about you. That when we pass laws, and enforce them, to protect ourselves from you and to increase our prosperity; and when you bawl and scream your little snowflake eyes out, that our response will be: The finger and “Kiss our hairy ass, deplorable”.

  3. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Bari Weiss:

    I’m talking here about an emotional response. What happens to you when you are called deplorable? Is the response to say to the accuser: Actually, hey, you’re right! I hadn’t realized that about myself. Or is it to maybe consider voting for Trump?

    I don’t know what my response would be because that would depend on the “accuser”. If it was someone I had little to no respect for, I’d probably shrug my shoulders and carry on as normal. If it was from someone I didn’t know, I might give it some thought but I doubt it would lead anywhere unless it was an accusation repeatedly made against me. However, if it were from someone I knew and respected, no matter how emotionally difficult, my response would be some serious self-reflection though even then it wouldn’t necessarily leading me to agree with them.

    However, in no way would my response be to throw a temper tantrum, stamp my feet, and do my best Jack Nicholson impression and declare, “Wait until they get a load of me!”* Nor would I don a white Polo shirt and khakis and grab a tiki torch and start chanting Nazi slogans.

    Also, Bari Weiss:

    When conservatives, classical liberals or libertarians are told by the progressive chattering class that they–or those they read–are alt-right, the very common response is to say: Screw it. They think everyone is alt-right. And then those people move further right.

    The solution then, according to Bari Weiss, is to start calling the “conservatives, classical liberals or libertarians” a bunch of socialists and communists and we no longer need worry about fascism? Somehow, I doubt that’s what she’s saying. No, what she’s saying here is, “Play along and pretend, or we put our brownshirts on.” Unfortunately for Weiss, the brownshirts didn’t magically appear in their closets, conjured forth by the incantations of leftists; they were in there to begin with, and the “progressive chattering class” is only guilty of pointing that out.

    * Let’s face it, given the people we’re talking about here, they don’t even rise to the level of Christopher Mintz-Plasse quoting that line at the end of Kick Ass.

  4. screechymonkey says

    People like Bari Weiss don’t even believe this bullshit themselves. They claim to believe the following:

    1. Calling people an insulting political label causes them to gravitate towards that political position.
    2. Marxism is a dangerous political philosophy and a threat to freedom.
    and yet, also believe that
    3. It’s totally cool to call everyone who disagrees with conservatives a Marxist.

    I suppose it could be the case that they only think that conservatives are immature and unprincpled enough for (1) to apply, but I haven’t heard them voice that.

  5. says

    They’re all wordier variants on “See what YOU made ME do?” Plain old bully talk. There’s a reason we don’t hear it from victims.

    “Stop calling me a window breaker, or I’ll break more windows, and then they’ll all be YOUR fault, including the ones I’ve already broken!”

  6. Steve Bruce says

    Let us not forget about other enablers of this bullshit, those who are or at least identify themselves as leftists like Dawkins, Maher, Coyne etc.

  7. Simple Desultory Philip says

    Steve Bruce @6:

    yes, this “you’re just pushing people to become more racist when you call them racists” hot take quite a bit, and not just from conservatives. it reminds me of the way that some ostensibly-liberal white folks, who vocally insist they care about racism, will then turn around get all pissy when people of color talk about their experiences with white supremacy in less-than-polite terms. the complaint about being “alienated” by “angry” black lives matter activists or whatever rings just as hollow to me as this idea that some random person on twitter or in the media labeling you “alt-right” will cause you to break out the tiki torches. your allyship shouldn’t be predicated on how comfortable you are made to feel at all times and if somebody pointing out that your views sound racist leads you to double-down and use it as an excuse to not support the activism of people of color, you were, um, probably pretty racist to begin with.

  8. says

    “What happens to you when you are called deplorable? Is the response to say to the accuser: Actually, hey, you’re right! I hadn’t realized that about myself. Or is it to maybe consider voting for Trump?” Is not an unreasonable question.
    Bernie Sanders never felt it desirable to call potential (or actual) Trump supporters “deplorables.” Instead he engaged them in conversation – what a concept! – and in many cases won them over.
    Hillary was, and is, too arrogant to ever consider such a strategy. Her loss, and the nation’s, was chiefly of her own making.

  9. says

    If only she’d qualified the comment! If only she’d explicitly limited who she was talking about, and carefully specified that she only meant some of Trump’s primary voters!

    Oh, wait. She did exactly that. Then Trump and his martyrbating enablers promptly filed off the qualifications, chose the words they could get traction with, and acted like they were what she really said. You know, like you did just then.

  10. screechymonkey says

    Oh, good — what we really needed was another argument about the 2016 primary.

  11. unclefrogy says

    I was once in a conversation with someone who identified with the status quo and acted like they believed in the standard racist arguments and racial and sexual rolls as have been traditionally applied a conservative with all the tropes internalized. I asked him why any minority person would want to defend this country if they could not get the same benefits as everyone else, a good education a good income and fair and honest legal system equal rights in other words. He did not at first even understand what I was asking when he finally did he had no answer he just stood there. When I personally have to talk with these kinds of people I try to get them to get down to what they really mean and drop all the “marketing wank” all the euphemisms and say it out loud in plain language so everyone can hear. They get to use their free speech and expose their unthinking ideas for what they are and let the chips fall where they may.
    I do that with people I know, the torch carrying ones I avoid, their lackeys I do not respond to unless I am forced to by circumstance.
    uncle frogy

  12. says

    Indeed, Hillary only put half of Trump supporters into her “basket of deplorables.” Then she said the other basket (dumping people into baskets isn’t very respectful of them as far as I’m concerned, but you perhaps disagree) “of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change.”
    But she never actually campaigned for people tired of the status quo approach to those issues, because she was and is a New Democrat (only very slightly pushed to the left in 2016 by Bernie). And those people still control the Democratic Party, and still insist on running candidates who are pseudo-Democrats.
    Until Hillary and pals admit their responsibility for the loss of Congress and for the 2016 presidential result, yes, they should still be criticized. This isn’t asking for perfection, it is only asking for sanity.

  13. unclefrogy says

    @12
    I do not give a shit what she admits or what she does not admit.
    she is now part of the past recent past but the past none the less she can be and should be asked about any insights she may have gained from her time a sec. of state and her long experience of working in politics.
    It is the issues we face today that are not resolved that are of importance not the past election.
    uncle frogy

  14. says

    Bob Michaelson @ 8, 12: You are aware the 2016 US election is over, right? Happened almost two years ago. It does not matter how much damn post-mortem work you do now, you’re not going to change the results.

    I mean, seriously, unless you have access to a time machine which is somehow powered by revisionist postings on the internet (hey, it might happen – I’m sure there’s some science fiction writer who can come up with the appropriate sort of phlebotinum or handwavium to make it work), all you’re doing here is making other people annoyed. Given I’m not even from the USA, and I’m having to read your attempts at electronic voodoo (“if I can just change enough people’s opinions in this particular patch of the internet right now, things in the past will change”) you can count me among the annoyed.

  15. KG says

    dumping people into baskets isn’t very respectful of them as far as I’m concerned, but you perhaps disagree – Bob Michaelson

    I’m not at all respectful of people who would even consider voting for scum like Trump. It’s not like the guy made the slightest effort to hide what he is.

  16. gijoel says

    @12 I’m tired of being asked to understand people who scorn my values and sneer at my concerns.

  17. microraptor says

    @12 I’m sick of being told that I need to reach out and talk to people who post threats to people like me online and think that it’s just fine if the government straps me to a chair and tortures me into pretending to be cisgender.

  18. Saad says

    Clinton was wrong with the deplorable comment. All of Trump voters are deplorable.

  19. says

    @ 12:

    “of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change.”

    Oh, people who have problems! What a fucking shock. We all have problems. One of my major problems is that the people you’re defending would happily shove me into a concentration camp. One of my major problems is that the people you’re defending would delight in oppressing me into the ground, and make sure my life was legislated all the way down, so I would have no autonomy as a person whatsoever.

    Fuck you and fuck them.

  20. Saad says

    I don’t believe for a second that people voted for Trump because they have problems. Because then why aren’t there roughly equal percentage of POC people, LGBT people, Muslims, immigrants who voted for Trump? That group has those same problems too but even worse. And what exactly in his record and in his life made them think he’d solve those problems? And how were they oblivious of the heinous things that he said over and over. He certainly made much bigger news with those agendas than with whatever economic anxiety shit excuse they come up with.

    There are two types of people who voted for Trump: the openly bigoted and the spineless bigoted. The “economic issues” excuse was made up after the fact. It’s the “I feared for my life” excuse that cops make. It’s the “ethics in video game journalism” excuse that dudebros make.

  21. says

    Saad:

    I don’t believe for a second that people voted for Trump because they have problems.

    Nor do I. It’s bullshit all the way down. People with genuine problems don’t vote for filthy rich assholes who only care about themselves.

    There are two types of people who voted for Trump: the openly bigoted and the spineless bigoted. The “economic issues” excuse was made up after the fact. It’s the “I feared for my life” excuse that cops make. It’s the “ethics in video game journalism” excuse that dudebros make.

    QFMFT.

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