Are we playing into the hands of the Right by criticizing the excesses of the Left?

June 29, 2021 • 11:15 am

83 thoughts on “Are we playing into the hands of the Right by criticizing the excesses of the Left?

  1. Back in the early 1920s, the Bolsheviks looked pretty good to quite a few people. But the authoritarian and antidemocratic tendencies were there from the beginning, as anyone who’d been closely following Lenin’s writings would have realized. Was it a mistake for people who opposed those tendencies to nonetheless keep their mouths shut out of fear of empowering the revanchist Right and playing into the hands of the White military? Look at how that played out. You could ask the same thing about any number of revolutionary movements. The problem is that keeping your mouth shut gives aid and comfort to the worst elements of the movement’s leadership.

    Part of the success of the American experiment was the ferocious intellectual combat and pamphleteering amongst the Founders. My guess is that that ideological streetfighting was one of the crucial elements that kept the infant democracy on track, and my instinct is to want to see more, not less, pushback from the democracy-minded Left against the proto-Bolshevism that supposedly progressive social movement always seem to be flirting with.

    1. “Back in the early 1920s, the Bolsheviks looked pretty good to quite a few people.” In fact, the paradox is even more difficult than we often dare think. Russia might very well have turned out better if the Whites had won the civil war (gasp!). In Finland—which, remember, was before 1917 a Grand Duchy of Russia—the Whites did win the Finnish civil war, with German help. “Look at how that played out.” Compare ordinary life in Finland (standard of living, education, health care, we needn’t even include freedom and such things) in 1989 to that in the USSR—or to that in Putin’s Russia today, which descends in direct fashion, as its dictator’s identity makes clear, from the KGB, aka NKVD, aka Lenin’s CHEKA.

      1. JC, that thought has occurred to me as well. Get rid of the Czar to make way for Stalin, the purges and the mass murders of the 30s? Get rid of the Emperor to make way for Mao, the Red Guard and the Cultural Revolution? And it’s even clearer in the case of e.g., Cambodia, I think. This one of the things I find little short of miraculous about the American democratic experiment—it didn’t happen to us. The danger is ever present, but so far—fingers tightly crossed—we’ve avoided going down that path.

        It’s a very narrow road between the muderous pathologies of the far right and the authoritarian left, which is why our host should never think twice about putting the foibles of both under the microscope.

  2. Please keep saying what you think, Jerry. I understand your fears, but in the end, sticking to the truth is surely the only way forward.

  3. Not only are you correct, but worse than that is the fact that by curbing free speech and demanding doctrinal loyalty to CRT and social justice, the left is giving the right the opportunity to appear as
    champions of free speech. Surely there are leftists who keep silent because they are afraid to be associated with the right if they are found publicly to support some of their policies. My personal choice to criticize the left is based on my belief that the right is hopeless and will never change, but the left professes to be progressive and pro democracy while it simultaneously acts to suppress dissent. The left promotes itself as the defender of all that is good but acts to the contrary. There is a word for this: hypocrisy. In the end they, not the right, appear as the authoritarians. This should disturb liberals and leftists more than it appears to.

  4. I should think we’d be playing into the hands of the Right by NOT checking the excesses on our own side. As James Carville says, wokeness is God’s gift to the Right.

    1. YES, as the one who sent that to PCC, that is what I meant. The problem I see is that the Right has grounds to criticize the Left over such hypocritical excesses, ad hominem attacks, false equivalences, guilt by association, etc. And, it’s likely that many middle-of-the-roaders see more reason in the Right’s position on this particular issue, so it’s important that the reasonable Left speak up, which makes them more likely to see fault in other progressive positions, and right in the Right. Totally agree with Carville.

      1. I don’t disagree at all with what was said above, but I have to request that the term Voldemort be reserved for former Florida governor and current senator rick (with a silent “P”) Scott…not only does he fit the personality profile, but just LOOK at him! It’s too good to cheapen.

        1. I cannot comply. I have sworn to never repeat 45’s name. I have turned my back on him forever (assuming he isn’t voted in again!). I find the appellation, Voldemort, ideally sarcastic.

          1. Personality-wise, there’s no denying its appropriateness, so I won’t be dogmatic. But it’s almost a compliment to the Donald, since Tom Riddle was, after all, a truly gifted wizard, albeit a psychopath from a long line of inbred bigots. Trump is more at a Wormtail level (or Wormtongue perhaps) to me. Still I concede your point.

            But the first time I saw then-Gov. Scott referred to as Governor Voldemort by a columnist, I spit out my coffee, because it was so perfect on so many levels.

  5. Left wing excesses will always get publicity from the right wing media. Wokeness causes moderates to vote Republicans. (I know this because I am a registered Democrat who voted for a combination of sane Republicans and third party candidates in 2020).

    Old fashioned liberals should criticize the woke both because it is the proper liberal response and because reining the woke keeps the Democrats from alienating moderates. Principles and pragmatism line up.

    1. I completely agree, Curtis. Wokesness and the excesses of the Left do push moderates more toward the Right. However, I would appreciate Republicans’ criticizing the Right’s excesses too. Both sides would do so much better if they could move farther away from those who dwell at the fringes.

  6. Critics like those our host refers to willfully overlook the damage that woke performance Leftism is already doing to the electoral chances of sensible, incremental reform politics. The general public probably pays little attention to woke posturing in the ivory tower, in elite private schools, or in bird-watching societies. However, when these performances turn up in agencies concerned with civic order, and those in charge of public K-12 education, then large numbers of citizens are likely to notice and to react, with important, presumably unintended consequences.

    Particularly worrisome in this regard are these trends: the decriminalization of crime in some west coast cities (see ); and the enfeebling of public education by the abolition advanced courses (discussed earlier on this website), the contrivance of woke pseudosubjects like “ethno-mathematics” (as in a proposal before the Seattle schoolboard), and the injection of woke agit-prop as early as elementary grades (see ).

    Reaction to these trends is likely to affect the choices of a significant number of voters, not only in local but also in state and national elections. I submit that reactions of this sort are the reason why, although the Republicans lost the presidency in 2020, there was nothing approaching the blue wave that Trump should have provoked, leaving the Democrats with only a thin majority in the House, a draw in the Senate, and majorities in only 37 out of 99 state legislative chambers.

    The electoral situation of meliorist, social-democratic reform would be even worse if there were a more-or-less respectable conservative side. Fortunately, for the time being the Republican Party has stupidly aligned itself with a transparent charlatan and his clown-car followers. If that ever changes, and the wokesters continue their performance in areas as sensitive as civic order and public education, then the public’s reaction could sink the political chances of the center-Left for years, or possibly generations.
    From that perspective, exposing the inanities of the woke in the hope of diminishing their influence is simply essential hygiene.

  7. Consistency is the best defense, I think. You look at the early ACLU and their defense of everyone from Nazis to Hustler and after they got involved in such a wide range of speech issues everyone got the message that, for them, it really was about free speech and they weren’t just some leftist outfit in sheep’s clothing. (That may have changed…but that’s a discussion for another time.)

    ‘Course they had to earn that reputation over years, and the trans rights issue is very new, so I wouldn’t expect the nastygrams to taper off tomorrow. However I think being consistent in your message is still probably the best strategic way to show that you’re neither transphobe nor right-wing shill.

    There’s IMO a solid left-of-center position where trans rights are supported in pretty much every legal, social, and economic policy where biological sex isn’t critical to the issue…and where we are more cautious when actual bodies and biology are critical. But, that position has to weather the storm from both ends for now. I’d also say that we have to be a bit humble, in that we should admit this moderate left position has no good answers the issue of trans athletes. We have crappy answers that we think are fairer than either the left or right’s crappy answers, but the crappiness of our best attempts at balancing rights should leave us open to new proposals in the future.

    1. I agree. And the crappiness of our answers isn’t OUR fault per se…nature set these poor people up with a truly frustrating situation, in which their gender identity doesn’t coincide with their biological sex, for whatever the reasons may be. We should certainly try to ease their way and minimize their suffering as much as possible, but not by creating injustices for other people in other situations, such as athletics. We separated male and female athletics for good, sound, biological reasons based on the physical attributes of human biological sex.

      Possibly, in the long run, there will be enough transgender athletes that there can be a full division of transgender female athletes who can compete against each other without it being markedly unfair in either direction. But competing in athletic events isn’t a basic human right (as witness: I have never been on a varsity basketball team, let alone a professional one, because I’m too short and uncoordinated), and we need to secure the basics first.

  8. Criticizing the left doesn’t play into the hands of the right nearly as much as the obscene extremes being played out on the left does. And the extremes of the left, which include attacking the center and center left, certainly plays into the hands of the right. And keeping quite and not criticizing the left plays into the left’s hands and will only embolden them to go ever more the extreme left. And perhaps what’s more important, one must not concern one’s self with what’s right or left, but what’s right or wrong.

  9. I think a great deal of the problem can sometime be associated with priority and simply where your interest lies. In the end, it is your site and you can cover what you want. Not being from academia or living in the college world my interests are different. Most social issues are not at the front of my priority list but that is to be expected. Political issues of a more general order are more in my interest area and that includes knowing about many of the things being done by the other party (republicans). That may not be your interest, you are more concerned with what the far left of your party are doing. It is different but as stated, your choice. You do not cover much of what the republicans are doing because you have other interests.

  10. Yes, please keep speaking out. Especially so, since I’ve always admired your use of the English language. For instance, I believe that you would never have come up with the asinine “defund the police” motto because words have meanings and using defund when you mean demilitarize, re-train and re-think 911 is sloppy thinking and leads to obvious misunderstanding. Humpty Dumpty said “you don’t know what I mean until I tell you what I mean” (not exact quote), but Alice was having none of it. Just so, it doesn’t matter how many people try to explain what they mean by “defund”, the word is taken to mean exactly what it says.

    1. Unfortunately. there are many on the Left that mean “defund the police” literally. This is how we got the slogan in the first place. Even though most jurisdictions are interested in reasonable police reform, there are still Far Leftists saying, “No, we really mean to defund the police.”

      1. Yes, I have had many interlocutors on the left on FB deny that people were demanding the defunding or dismantling of PDs. There were and there are. I had to post links and quotes.

        1. But, for the most part, those that are calling for the defunding of the police aren’t in any position to make it happen. It’s yet another case where the Right take the worst opinion and try to turn it into the Democrat’s entire platform. This slogan helps them do that immensely.

          1. Kansas City’ mayor and city council have voted to cut funding for the KCPD. Good thing KC isn’t experiencing a significant rise in crime, like the kind where 4 yr old kids get shot and killed while asleep in their parent’s homes or like when they set new records for numbers of murders in a year, because that wouldn’t make a damn bit of sense to cut funding for the police, would it?

  11. This has concerned me quite a lot too and I have talked about this a number of times recently. I do think there’s a real danger that the voices of the liberal centre-left have helped to legitimise the more obvious bigotry on the right. This article about Glenn Greenwald becoming unexpectedly the darling of Fox News articulates my concerns much better than I can:

    Some years ago I came up with a maxim that has rarely let me down: “If you’re on the same side as the racists on an issue, you’re on the wrong side”. In the culture war we appear to be stuck in at the moment, it’s noticeable how often issues that wouldn’t seem to be about race at all are nevertheless very obviously polarised along racial lines. For example, in the case of Brexit it was definitely the case that, while not all Brexiters were racists, the racists overwhelmingly supported Brexit. The same could be said about the ‘transgender debate’ (although I dislike framing it in those terms): even though on the face of it this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with race, it’s fair to say that strident racists also tend to be stridently homophobic and transphobic too.

    Now obviously, that doesn’t mean that simply because racists supported Brexit, that makes it wrong. But I do think that when you find bigots agreeing with you, it’s worth taking a step back and re-evaluating your position.

    Intellectuals tend to pride themselves on their brilliant nuanced takes on complex subjects. But sometimes nuance needs to take a back foot and we should set our stall out clearly. I have all kinds of interesting philosophical and ethical questions about what the existence of transgender people implies about the role of gender in modern society. But I’ve decided that for the moment, I need to keep them to myself because the thing that really matters is for me to support trans people, and my nuanced opinion might easily be taken the wrong way. Similarly, of course there are cases when anti-racism campaigners make slightly over-the-top claims. But it’s much more important for me to be firmly on the side against racism than for me to nit-pick about particular examples of cultural appropriation.

  12. Jerry, thanks for selecting another fun discussion topic. Your email writer seems to be living in an Us and Them world in which uncomfortable truths and nuance must be suppressed lest they be weaponized by the Them team. I don’t live in that world. Too binary for this left handed skeptic. Why pick a team at all? But back to the subject at hand. James Carville was spot on. Wokeness is damaging the Democratic brand as the vast majority of Americans who just want to live a conflict free life are repelled by the intolerant rhetoric and tactics of the social justice elect. And it appears to be giving the Them team a non Trump construct around which to rally and a cudgel with which to beat your team. Your willingness to call out the excesses that concern you are admirable, apparently brave and refreshing. You seem to personify the honest scientist. I like the world you’ve created here. Thank you.

    1. Geez, didn’t think I’d have to come to my own defense repeatedly. See my reply to #4 above. As the email writer, I share the general sentiment here, that NOT calling out the excesses of the Left is playing into the hands of the far Right. That’s why I sent the PFAW link in the first place–it galled me enough to try to speak out to the only large audience I might have (my family doesn’t need to hear this from a grumpy, old curmudgeon)!

    2. Yes, by all means continue. Having a moderate voice point out the failures on the Left is far better than having the Right go hysterical over, well, everything.

  13. I share your and Andrew Sullivan’s worries about the authoritarian (Marxist utopian) left. I am doing my small part to call it out.

  14. There might also be a case for going beyond the political divisions of Left and Right and asking a larger question: am I being a good skeptic? Think clearly; consider evidence; look at arguments; adjust to criticism; follow the truth where it may go; hold conclusions with only enough conviction to be able to change your mind.

    My personal rule is to not care very much whether conservatives hold the same position as I do — usually for different (and often bad) reasons. I’m not going to support astrology because fundamentalists think it Satanic, or look to see what Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks so I can think the opposite. No, we don’t want her type in power. There are other things at stake. We all make compromises for a larger goal, I get that.

    But if, in the long run, My Side cannot win if I’m a good skeptic — or if I speak out— then I’m prepared to question whether it was ever My Side in the first place. Damn the torpedoes and let the chips fall where they may.

  15. A quote from a recent article on Unherd (Why is bestiality so disgusting?):

    But most of us – especially those of us in the West, and on the left-liberal side of politics – think of morality in terms of whether someone is harmed, oppressed or cheated.

    You can argue that this narrowed moral focus is a consequence of the reduction in general religious ‘universal’ morality now that ‘God is Dead’. And perhaps deliberately limiting your moral scope further to certain pre-packaged victim groups (through racism, systemic racism, or gender issues) is an efficient way of reducing the need to exercise complex moral judgement. Wokeism is lazy but deters challenge from ‘less moral’ fellow progressives.

    But broadly speaking people with a more traditional emphasis on their morals (non-WEIRD people and non-liberals are more likely to care about other concerns — authority, sanctity and loyalty) are unlikely to care or be motivated by the disgust of people with more progressive morals. So all liberal/further left morals are suspect anyway. You need not worry that challenging the authoritarian left will leave the door open for a right-wing resurgence, they will do it for themselves.

    And of course if you are not disgusted by the same things I am then you are not part of my moral tribe 🙂

  16. For me, this issue goes back to my favorite bugbear, looking for simple answers to complex problems.

    The right wants to see conformity, and their strategy for getting there is authoritarianism, couched in violence against anyone who gets out of line..

    The left wants to see equality of outcomes, and their strategy for getting there is authoritarianism, couched in dishonesty, shaming, and social pressure.

    I don’t see anything wrong with striking a balance, and I see balance as being fluid, not set in stone.

    As an example, look at the competing needs during the height of the pandemic. For the most part, the left concentrated on containing the virus, at the expense of the economy. The right, as usual, put the economy first, and damn the loss of life, at whatever level it might happen. A big part of the problem is that the right’s solution was not, in fact, going to help the economy if too many people got sick and couldn’t work, and they weaseled their way around that by lying about the severity of the problem and attacking those, like Fauci, who were honest about what was really happening.

    A larger and more ongoing issue is that extremes of philosophy almost never produce viable solutions. Again, they are attractive because of their simplicity – no thinking necessary. But they don’t reflect reality very well. Conservatism, by its very nature, is not creative. But clinging to “the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t help when the way you’ve always done it becomes problematic. Conservatism stifles creativity, and in its extreme, is actually terrified of creativity.

    On the other hand, liberalism stifles initiative. The idea that people will become energetic and contributing when they are supported is fine up to a point. But, there will always be deadbeats and parasites. They are not most people, but they exist. In any group, there will be those who put in more energy toward the group’s goals, and those who put in less. If the left-wing desire of equality of outcome is the focus, there is no acknowledgement that those who put in more are not getting more reward, nor that they might even deserve more. At some point, those who put in more might ask why they should keep contributing more, if they are forced to compensate for the deadbeats.

    I think that in most cases, there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. But even that sweet spot needs to be constantly reevaluated and adjusted according to circumstances and results. Will a major shift toward renewable energy, for example, lead to job loss, or will it lead to more jobs and a cleaner environment? Should the fossil fuel sector have the right to limit the growth of renewables because of their loss of profit? In areas that are economically dependent on extraction, can we find a way to transition that does not do horrible damage? If we attempt that transition, how should we evaluate the results we’re getting?

    See how complicated that can get?

    But I think we owe it to ourselves and our society to give it a shot, and quit crawling back into our mental laziness.

    All of this by way of addressing Jerry’s question: the answer, unfortunately, varies with the circumstances. It is right to question our own philosophical colleagues. It is also right to question our philosophical opponents, even at the same time.


  17. I see no reason to worry about the Right listening to our criticisms of the Left. Instead, we have to fight the ridiculous ideas on the Left. Some of them seem so very fundamental that they threaten the whole liberal enterprise, free speech, meritocracy, their broken approach to anti-racism, police reform. You’re doing important work here.

  18. The trouble with US media is its extreme partisan nature. The model was developed by Fox News, and adapted for the “liberal” side with Trump at the latest. You frequently mention one sympton, namely that “liberal” news often won’t mention woke news stories.

    The trouble is: other left-liberals have to deal the most with excessive wokeness, despite the Big Lie that woke people are most concerned with systemic oppression and suchlike. They are not. Their most successful project was the prevention of Bernie Sanders, and their takeover of the affluent, managerial part of the Democrat party. Now they are onto mostly symbolic stuff, renaming words and suchlike. Again, it’s other left-liberals who have to deal with it.

    This leads to a problem. If left-liberals want to read critically about wokeness, they have to consult right wing sources, and there they find the constant radicalising and fear mongering. Another alternative would be independent leftist media, Taibbi, Greenwald, a bunch of podcasts or the world socialist web site and the like, but they aren’t as easily found as the right wing mainstream.

    Amazingly, the woke have convinced everyone that naming their faction in any way (“woke” or any other name) is exclusively what right wingers do. There is a grain of truth to it — partisan media. They are still not namable, and it’s not designated to discuss or criticise any of their orthodoxy’s tenets. Rather, US left-liberal media (so-called) is eager to deny there is anything going on. Wokeness? Problematic term, only right wingers use. Cancel culture isn’t real etcetera. Or ridiculing the right for not understanding what CRT is, or the latest schtick to deny anyone has anything to do with CRT, because a very narrow technical definition is used, and playing obtuse. Anything is done by US liberal media to evade the issue.

    It‘s interesting that you also feel this: but the problem doesn’t go away by ignoring it. People will just read elsewhere, as it continues to concern them. Once they join the right media ecosystem, the Republican lunacy of Qanon, stolen elections, or jewish Death Rays vanish like Xenu or space parasites for Scientolgy newcomers vanishes, and all there is is woke craziness (until someone gets deeper into it). Critisizing wokeness from a left or liberal view is much better.

    1. I disagree entirely with these “both sides” arguments. There is no way that the supposed liberal bias of CNN, etc. are anything like Fox News and its friends. The former is still interested in the truth. They may not get everything right but, if they get something wrong, they’ll correct it. That only happens on Fox News if someone sues them.

      1. Aneris has a point, however. So many of the stories of illiberal-left thought that PCC points to are found only in the typical “right wing” media sphere. It really does feel like the more liberal media has some interest in keeping these stories quiet.

        1. What’s are some examples of a “woke” story that the supposedly liberal media kept quiet? Certainly the liberal media inject wokeness into hiring practices and, as our host often points out, do publish woke opinion pieces. But do they actually suppress stories or tell lies?

          Those on the Right have accused the liberal media of not covering rioting in various US cities enough but they do cover it. Trumpists simply want the media to cover it as much as they cover the 1/6/21 riot. Of course, they are completely different things. One was a coup attempt urged by a president, while the others are demonstrations that sometimes involve crime.

      2. I didn’t make a “both sides” argument regards “truth”. The only feature that I mention that concerns both sides is the business model to cater to a particular audience, and ignoring certain stories. American news consumers mostly want validation.

          1. You can go back through various episodes here at WEIT. Jerry often quoted right wing sources in lieu of liberal ones, and justified it that way. I saw this, too. I observe this for roughly ten years and didn’t bookmark stories with that specific criteria. I know for a fact that even the most high profile stories, like Evergreen or the Yale Halloween meltdown led to stories only after a dam broke and the US “liberal” press was in damage control mode. I think this is still the case. Wokism is generally seen as benign or necessary social justice activism, and the more comical, absurd, excessive elements are just oopsies or a stereotype.

            I looked over the NYT, the most representive and strongest case, and I see negative woke stories only from the house conservatives. E.g. “wokeness becomes weakness” and a few similar ones. The liberals say stuff like “The Campaign to Cancel Wokeness — How the right is trying to censor critical race theory.” and that’s typical. Criticism of wokeness is exclusively referred to as a right wing concern.

            1. It sounds like you are just complaining that the liberal media aren’t covering Wokism as a general phenomenon as much as you would like. Fair enough but is this something we should really expect them to cover? They are more oriented towards specific events that pass some threshold of significance. They aren’t going to cover some professor losing their job because of some off-color tweet they made or using the n-word in the classroom. We might expect some opinion pieces on it but it doesn’t surprise me that we haven’t seen too many.

              If that’s what you’re calling out, then I agree but perhaps we differ in our expectations. There are a lot of woke people on the Left. Perhaps not many of them are willing to bully people and force them to lose their jobs but they are ok with it when it happens. It may well be that the opinion of our host and most commenters is not the mainstream opinion among those on the Left. I think the wokeness in the NYT and WaPo, called out often by our host, is evidence of that. On the other hand, it is also noted that most Democrats are really Center-Left and may not be happy with Woke ideology. I certainly feel that way. How woke is the Left? That’s going to be a hard question to nail down. I really don’t expect the MSM to be all that helpful at this point. Your expectations seem to be higher than mine in this respect.

    2. I wish more US pundits understood US politics as well as you do. The performative politics of left, or sometimes just culturally left factions, detracts from bread and butter issues that can actually attract voters, not incidentally including Black and Latino voters.

  19. While Biden does seem to be ignoring the Far Left components of his party, I wonder if he isn’t missing an opportunity to make a stronger case for the Center-Left position. With the GOP no longer a serious party interested in governing, there is more to be gained by actively going after a Centrist coalition than trying to hold on to the Far Left. If he went this way, most in the Far Left would still vote for the Democrat, though I suppose a few would stay home.

    1. Not sure I understand your suggestion on where in the party Biden should go. Right now the most important item period is infrastructure and getting a big program passed and working. Nothing else is on the radar but the voter rights issue. So for some damn reason Biden wants an infrastructure package with the republicans or at least a few and then another totally separate bigger bill that only the democrats will vote for. Reconciliation is the process for this one. Why they need to go both ways I do not really understand but they must get this thing done. Obviously the republicans want no spending on climate change items, even though this is the most important part. They also want no spending on child care. So why are we screwing with the republicans – only reason I can see is the nut from West Virginia. But however you slice this, nothing is more important in this country right now than this subject. So other can talk about the woke or the gays or whatever social issue they want…it is peanuts compared to this.

      1. Biden has been slow to defuse the “defund the police” nonsense, for example. The President has a bully pulpit but Biden hasn’t been that effective. It’s very well to say that he’s just busy working on the business of governing, and it’s true, but I wish he would pushback on the GOP narratives harder. I know he doesn’t want to spend time Trump-bashing but surely he can say more without that.

        I get the feeling he doesn’t like public speaking that much. He wants to avoid making gaffes but those come when he speaks without preparing. He should get some really good speech writers and coaches and go after some of the garbage being lobbed his way by the GOP. The prepared speeches he has given are few and, IMHO, not that well written.

        1. Again, I don’t really know that what you are talking about means anything. As I said above there are two things of importance going on this summer. The infrastructure and voter rights. I do not see anyone at this web site addressing these two issues. Instead it is all about the far left and just rubbish. I don’t get it but it seems meaningless. The police are not going to be defunded, the sky is not going to fall. Democracy may fall and global warming may kill us all while we worry about something woke or someones free speech.

          1. I don’t think anyone here is putting police reform and wokeness before global warming or the overthrow of democracy. These apocalyptic threats are well-covered elsewhere. Do you really think our host should focus more on those? We can’t all focus on the highest priority threat. We can’t very well battle global warming if we no longer have a democracy so I guess we have to deal with that first. Really?

  20. A little off-topic – I wonder, why the authors of the quoted article think that the fear of having one’s minor daughter involuntarily exposed to male genitals is a Christian Right thing, and somehow illegitimate?

    1. Right! They should just do a show-and-tell in kindergarten or first grade and defuse the whole thing. Some of the kids are surely doing that on their own anyway. 😉

      1. I totally think you are being tongue in cheek. At any rate, there is a difference between kids being curious about each other and expecting them to not be startled or scared of adults. Some would say that kind of fear is a survival response with long roots. And that is an idea that is based in science and not right wing ideology.

    2. +1.

      Fearing for young women and girls is legitimate. They shouldn’t have to be exposed to male parts. Males are potential (or actual) threats to females. Essentially all sexual assault is male on female. There is a need to protect women and girls from male predators.

      I think it’s wrong for a biological male to just say they feel like a woman and be admitted to women’s locker rooms. This has happened.

      1. +1 And I thought it was wrong for the (clothed) male who challenged her to keep saying he’s
        “transgender” as if that addressed any part of her concern.

      2. The issue is that unlike your flasher that whips it out in the park and can be charged with a crime, you’re decriminalizing indecent exposure in female locker rooms by making it a space that’s welcome to transwomen. The fact that there’s no lack of males who are all too happy to expose themselves and who will take advantage of this is both a potential and actual threat to females.

      1. A knee jerk reaction to male genitalia in a female locker room is understandable – and probably a good means of defence!

        1. Oops – I thought better of making that stupid remark almost the second that I posted it. I would have cancelled it, but it’s too late – I really miss that 15 minute edit function!

  21. The problem is you are damned if you do criticise aspects of the left, and you are damned if you don’t

    If you do criticise them you are giving the right ideological cover, or have ‘fallen for their propaganda’.

    If you don’t then it looks like there is no reasonable criticism coming from the left/centre at all, and right-wingnuts have an entire sphere of argument to themselves, which they will normally use making specious, bad-faith arguments that will convince no one, and will often actively undermine their case.

    For example, If only Fox News and Breitbart are publicly opposing something then that makes me feel like maybe I should be in favour of that thing. If I can see others who I don’t reflexively distrust taking a similar, but more reasonable, stance then I am more likely to look into it more closely.

    People acting in bad faith will try to weaponise words or silence equally, there isn’t much that can be done about it.

    But if sensible people of the centre left/centre right make reasonable criticisms that is better than ceding the public square to people who are ideologically predisposed to simply shout at each other.

    This certainly happens a lot, but as we have seen it doesn’t really lead anywhere. It just causes more shouting.

    1. I agree with Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. More specifically, when you do criticize loonies on the left you make them look more important and more prevalent than they really are. And when you don’t, you make yourself and your actual allies look more similar to the loonies than you are.

      There is an intelligent strategy for navigating between these two dangers, and if Jerry were the go to political analyst for millions of general readers, I’d try to outline some ideas on that. I mean, as the pandemic showed in gruesome detail, lives are at stake in who wins in politics. But Jerry is an academic writing for basically a bunch of intellectuals, so just sharing his thoughts as they come is the best move overall.

  22. No. We’re playing into the hands of the Right by remaining silent in the face of woke insanity. The result of that silence is to reinforce the acceptance of the right’s lie which asserts that the entire left is on board with that insanity.

    1. Agreed absolutely! The UK Labour Party would still be ruled by Jeremy Corbyn or his acolytes and facing (credible) accusations of anti-Semitism if critics on the left hadn’t spoken out and voted with their feet. (Although the travails of Labour also go well beyond that single issue, as its current leader Keir Starmer is finding.)

  23. PCC(E), please continue on as you have. Your writing here show you to be dedicated to the truth as far as you can glean it, within the margin of error, with good humor, too.

    Oh, and ducks and cats.

  24. Right wing nutjobs will always be right wing nutjobs. The criticism of the excesses of the far left as far as I can tell are aimed at those who are moderate or somewhat apathetic who might otherwise be turned off by the excessive rhetoric of the far left.

  25. The advent of Trump has intensified the ideological warfare, mostly on cultural issues, that has roiled the nation for decades. In its current incarnation, this warfare is NOT between the far right (which is now pretty synonymous with the Republican Party) and the Woke. Rather, it is between the far right and the Democratic Party. The Woke is merely a convenient foil for the far right to associate it with the Democratic Party as a whole. The goal of the far right for at least the last four decades (maybe longer depending on how you count) is to delegitimize the Democratic Party, to portray it as un-American. The emergence of the Woke is now another element in Republican attack to gain and retain power and to foist its minority views on the nation. Other elements in the strategy include voter suppression, gerrymandering, and state laws to ban CRT (which in the Republican mind is something very, very bad).

    The vast majority of Democrats do not believe in Wokeism as the Republicans portray it. But, being the largely inept politicians that they are, Democrats have had difficulty in rebutting the Republican propaganda. What can they do If they are serious enough to actually fight back? At the Liberal Patriot site, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira offer a strategy to fight back against the relentlessness and often lies of the right wing. This is what they suggest Democrats should emphasize:

    Equality of opportunity is a fundamental American principle; equality of outcome is not.
    * America is not perfect but it is good to be patriotic and proud of the country.
    * Discrimination and racism are bad but they are not the cause of all disparities in American society.
    * No one is completely without bias but calling all white people racists who benefit from white privilege and American society a white supremacist society is not right or fair.
    * America benefits from the presence of immigrants and no immigrant, even if illegal, should be mistreated. But border security is still important, as is an enforceable system that fairly decides who can enter the country.
    * Police misconduct and brutality against people of any race is wrong and we need to reform police conduct and recruitment. More and better policing is needed for public safety and that cannot be provided by “defunding the police”.
    * There are underlying differences between men and women but discrimination on the basis of gender is wrong.
    * There are basically two genders but people who want to live as a gender different from their biological sex should have that right and not be discriminated against. However, there are issues around child consent to transitioning and participation in women’s sports that are complicated and not settled.
    * Racial achievement gaps are bad and we should seek to close them. However, they are not due just to racism and standards of high achievement should be maintained for people of all races.
    * Language policing has gone too far; by and large, people should be able to express their views without fear of sanction by employer, school, institution or government. Good faith should be assumed, not bad faith.

    These recommendations seem eminently sensible to me. They would appeal to the vast majority of Americans, most of whom oscillate near the center of the political. Moderation rather than bowing to the desires of the relatively small far left seems like a winning strategy to me.

  26. There’s no doubt the hard Right is using wokeness and critical race theory as cudgels with which to beat up on the Left. (Hell, just look at the bogus ruckus it’s raised over Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s recent statement regarding “white rage.”) And it’s equally clear that some on the hard Right want to deny any recognition or rights to transgender people as a rearguard action in the culture war it lost over gay rights and same-sex marriage.

    I share your concerns that people on the old-style Left raising issues about these same matters unintentionally lends aid and comfort to the efforts of these disreputable rightwingers. But, hey, screw it, all you can do is keep calling ’em the way you see ’em. Let the chips fall where they may.

  27. When it comes to battling for hearts and minds, which media image will be more powerful do you think: The image of protestors breaking into the Capitol to do battle over what they deemed to be a stolen election? Or a kindergarten teacher dividing up her kiddos into “oppressors” and “oppressed”, or one of the white children coming home crying because she learned that she and her family and people “like her” (on the Intersectionality diagram) were guilty of hurting people like her best-friend-of-color Sally? I know a number of good folks who wouldn’t think twice about condemning the latter and giving a pass to the former.

    During the entire Trump tenure, the one ray of hope I held onto was that he would so tarnish the GOP brand that rational people would finally come to power and stay there. The more I learn about CRT and the hay right wing media are making of it, the less hopeful I feel.

  28. The problem in a highly politicised environment is that you cannot easily prioritise legitimate concerns. Of course, LGBT people should be respected, but then you run into all kinds of secondary issues, like what to do with transgenders in competitive sports or girls being exposed to male genitals. People’s feelings are going to be hurt when decisions are to be made on these issues.

  29. Well, you can put me down as another reader who’s sometimes a bit concerned about you! Although I do agree with you more often than not.

    I think one of the strategies of current extremists is to try to get people worked up over things that don’t really matter or are basically just random, or rare, events. So, yup, I sometimes get frustrated when you get sucked into the latest talking point. Your hat-tips are usually interesting.

    A good test I try to apply is to work out how it affects real life: Which hurt policing in your area more, the cries to ‘defund the police’ or years of budget cuts and corruption? How many primary schools have you personally seen teaching CRT? Are there dozens of transgender athletes in your local high-schools? How do the numbers of assaults by men compare to those by trans people in your town? How do those numbers compare to the number of racist or anti-gay incidents that you’ve witnessed?

    There are many issues that are quite complex and don’t have an easy answer. We all want cheap gas; perhaps a pipeline will facilitate that? But what if that’s just reducing the local supply by making it easier to export oil? Should we worry more about clean drinking water and the impact on global warming?

    Almost everyone has their issue, where they’ll support the folks on the ‘right’ side whatever else they do. Israel, or guns, or abortion are classic examples. There is a lot of hunting around to try to find that one issue for as many people as possible.

    So, it’s a strategy. Keep people wrapped up in controversial topics. Like a street magician – the real trick is distraction while an assistant picks their pocket. If you look at the 2016 election, a vast fraction of the discussion was about emails. Was that really the big issue?

  30. Don’t worry about “The Right” versus “The Left”. Worry about whether we persist with the Enlightenment (traditional liberalism) or descend into a New Dark Ages (Wokeness).

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