The greatest humiliations are to be outwitted by an idiot and shamed by a scumbag, but that is exactly what keeps on happening to Conservatives whenever they run into the Left, as with the latest debacle over Confederate symbolism in the USA.
Based on what they espouse, the Left are clearly idiots and scumbags – they freely believe in any number of ostensibly absurd and immoral ideas – but they nevertheless manage to run rings round Conservatives using a very simple formula that should be relatively easy to understand and counter, but which Conservatives fail to do.
Right now my Facebook feed is full of dumb news items from the mainstream media reflecting the ongoing “Cultural Revolution” that is sweeping America, directed explicitly at Confederate cultural symbols, but also implicitly at anything else from before the dawn of political-correctness. The latest one that sticks in my mind is a link asking whether the 1946 Disney live-action/animated musical film Song of the South is racist or not. The implication, of course, is that if it is “racist” it should be dropped down the cultural memory hole, regardless of the degree to which it is “racist.” I have seen other items about various Civil War computer games and even the movie Gone With the Wind.
But rather than a grassroots groundswell from the masses, this frenzy seems to be cooked up by a combination of Twitter mobs, establishment elites, the media, spineless commercial concerns keen to brand themselves as “inclusive” (in case they have to fire too many Black people next month), and, of course, weak-kneed, jittery Republican presidential candidates nervous about losing access to the mushy political centre.
Yes, it seems that a “perfect storm” of factors has coalesced to drive this insanity. But this is merely the latest chapter in an all-too-familiar story. Conservatives have been on the back foot for decades now, retreating from the position of a common sense society, conceding mile after foot of territory to their unworthy opponents.
Retreats of this length only occur when two opposing forces are completely mismatched in their weaponry. Despite their superior value systems, their greater integrity, and firmer grasp on reality, Conservatives remain powerless against the simple tricks employed by their foes, and find themselves constantly outflanked and pushed back. This has a lot to do with their ideological naivety.
The way that the Left gulls Conservatives is actually very simple. They take two complex categories that can be applied to most debates in the West, namely race and sex, and moralize them as absolute moral negatives by adding the “-ist” suffix. In this way Racism and Sexism become states that either are or aren’t in the same way that murder or pregnancy either are or aren’t.
But the reality is that things denoted by the “racism” category are complex and multifaceted and exist on a gradational continuum. Racism, given its polymorphous application, can never be simple. It is something with many degrees that range from extremely harmful ethnomasochism all the way through to psychopathic and self-harming hatred of the other, via a number of beneficial and even mutually beneficial states in between.
The same can be said for sexism.
Imagine it as a bowl of porridge. From the story of Goldilocks, we know that too cold is not good, but neither is too hot, but then there is that other bowl of porridge which is “just right.” However, if you can persuade Goldilocks that all bowls of porridge are always too hot, then you might be able to stop her from ever eating porridge again. I use this reference to a children’s story to emphasize just how simple the trick played on Conservatives really is.
We can see how the Left is acting in the present situation. Stories often start with headlines or intros that ask the question is such-and-such a film/ flag/ statue/ movie/ computer game/ etc. “symbolic of our racist past” or not. This is essentially like asking if something is porridge after convincing Goldilocks that porridge could only ever be too hot.
With racism or sexism the debate is never about whether something is generally harmful or beneficial, or what group it harms or benefits. The debate simply becomes focused on whether it is racist or not.
This gives the Left an enormous inbuilt advantage, because, most things actually are racist or sexist in the sense that all aspects of life actually reveal quite natural inequalities. Once the Left is able to point to something that indicates any kind of inequality of outcome on a racial or gender basis, Conservatives have basically no option but to pack up their knapsacks and resume their endless retreat, even if the item identified as “racist” is merely an old-fashioned, genial characterization of a Black man from a Disney film.
The only way that Conservatives can fight back is to reject the Left’s relentless imposition of moral absolutism on categories that are complex, contextual, and gradated, and which embrace beneficial as well as detrimental aspects. The only way to defeat the Left is to recognize that there are in fact good forms of racism and sexism, as well as bad ones, and that debates have to work to elucidate this and specify which groups win and lose by them.
I’m Not a Racist, But. . .
Are We Ready For “White Boy Summer”?
Can the Libertarian Party Become a Popular Vanguard?
Politicians Didn’t Invent Racial Divisions
London: No City for White Men
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World & Me
Making Lions out of Lambs: A Response to Max Morton of American Greatness