The Herd Mind of the Left
Why Leftists are impervious to rational argument: They cannot afford to listen. They would lose the security of their herd
Just about any gregarious conservative can register the same complaint: his friends of a liberal persuasion firmly believe in evolution, the hydrocarbon menace, technogenic global warming, and the virtues of green energy; they are convinced that racism is still rampant in America, that all the ills of inner-city schools can be cured by throwing more money at them, that criminals are actually victims of society, that voter fraud is a myth concocted by evil conservatives, that cheating at the polls is a sacred right of minorities, that illegal immigrants have committed no crime even though the word "illegal" is self-explanatory, that George Bush attacked Iraq at the behest of Halliburton to grab Iraqi oil...
In short, it is always the same mantra, demonstrably stupid and illogical, yet fervently espoused by all ardent liberals, irrespective of their social status or educational attainments.
How to account for it? And why are liberals totally impervious to any counter-arguments -- on those rare occasions, that is, when they actually deign to listen to the contrary views? The easiest explanation, of course, would be that those who persevere in beliefs glaringly devoid of any meaning or logic are just plain dumb. But no, there are a lot of highly intelligent people -- in fact, almost the entirety of academia -- among the most vocal proponents of that idiocy. So there must be some other explanation. And as a matter of fact, there is.
The estimable Lee Harris, in his wonderful book The Suicide of Reason (Basic Books, 2007), explores the concept of the shaming code developed by Thomas Huxley. Huxley, widely known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his ferocious defense of evolutionary theory, thought long and hard about the inherent contradiction between man's "innate tendency to self-assertion ... as the condition of victory in the struggle for existence and the obvious fact that in the struggle for survival loners are losers and individuals who banded together increased their chances of survival." Upon reflection, Huxley came to the conclusion that the glue that holds together individuals in a group is the collective shaming code.
"It is this code that makes the members of the group feel as one," writes Lee Harris. "They are disgusted, angered, delighted and shamed by the same things. The unanimity of their visceral response is what provides the powerful sense of collective identity. It makes them feel and think as a tribal Us, in contrast to those tribes who are not disgusted by what disgusts us, or made angry by what makes us angry, and who feel no shame at what we think of as shameful[.] ... A tribe that shares a powerful visceral code that inhibits the natural tendency of the individual to self-assertion will present a united front against its enemies."
Therein lies the explanation of the total information blockade built around the highly dubious figure of Barack Obama by the left-leaning salons and the mainstream media, even including the respectable conservative media. It doesn't take unusual intelligence to see that the 44th president is a patent mediocrity with a totally contrived past. And yet, crickets.
In 1600, Sir John Harrington penned these immortal words: "Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason." In other words, treason attains respectability once it becomes a prevalent trait of the social mores, part and parcel of society's shaming code. Today, it is the very same shaming code that causes polite society to rally around the "right-thinking" Obama and rebuff all attempts to expose him as the fraud that he is. Even the late, utterly fearless Andrew Breitbart refused to wade into the controversy around Obama's birth certificate, advising his followers not to "go there," because he believed that it was unproductive and harmful to the conservative cause. He understood the power of the shaming code.
But why is today's social and political scene dominated by the left, allowing it to impose its shaming code on society? In the struggle for survival and supremacy, the advantage invariably goes to those who are more committed to maintaining and expanding their cultural traditions and who, because of the strength of that commitment, are united by the more powerful sense of group feeling. Hence the liberals' domination of the public discourse.
Conservatives are usually reluctant ideological warriors. For the most part, they want only to be left alone, to live and let live. Having won a battle, they sigh with relief and waste no time beating their swords into ploughshares. Not so the liberals. They never tire or despair in their attempts to impose their views on all others; if they lose a fight, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and, undaunted, continue to slog toward their goals. And in the struggle of opposites, the more fanatical will always win.
The vicious hatred of the left for its conservative opponents, belied by the liberals' constant protestations of their high-mindedness and tolerance, is also easily explainable in tribal terms. It is the hatred of the righteous for the sinner, of the acolyte of the one true faith for the heretic. Distilled to its essence, it is the hatred for "the other," of "us" for "them." It is also the reason why liberals so liberally lie and cheat in their dealings with the conservative "enemy." Everything is fair in love and war, and politics is war by other means. Why are liberals infinitely understanding and patient toward the Islamic terrorists who threaten to destroy Western civilization? Not only because the Islamofascists are of the third world and thus automatically endowed with virtue, but also because they offer no competition to the left for supremacy in American society, while conservatives do.
Today's left is every bit a tribe with its unthinking, fanatical devotion to the tribal code and animal fear of being ostracized. The ancient Greeks believed banishment from the tribe to be the harshest of all punishments, worse than death. Human nature has not changed, and the dread of being cast into outer darkness is still as strong as ever. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they pay a heavy price for their bravery. That's why so many bright people, eager to toe the line, join the fawning fandom of Obama; it's the price of admission to the club. They may have some doubts in the beginning, but as time goes by, they undoubtedly lose their qualms. The mask fuses with the face; they convince themselves of the truth of the cult and internalize its code, for to acknowledge the truth and rebel against the tribe is too painful and too dangerous.
Emerging from the questioning by the grand jury investigating President Clinton, Vernon Jordan loudly declared that he had "kept the faith" -- i.e., lied to save Bill Clinton's bacon. Jordan's standing with the tribe was more important to him than the potential perjury charge. The handlers assigned by John McCain to guide his inexperienced VP candidate, Sarah Palin, through the dangerous shoals of the 2008 presidential campaign chose to throw her to the media wolves. They failed in their duty not due to incompetence, but because their primary concern was preserving their credentials with the Washington in-crowd, paying obeisance to the tribal values. And so they blithely sacrificed their ward to safeguard their social status.
The astute Robert Heinlein in his 1961 best-selling SF novel Stranger in a Strange Land invented a special word, grok, to describe the phenomenon of tribal consciousness carried to its extreme: "Grok means ... to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience[.]" The practical corollary of the dissolution of one's identity in groupthink is that all Republican outreach efforts are a total waste of time, money, and hope. It's just too much trouble to open one's mind; how much more comfortable just to go on grokking in the tribal Nest!
Liberal intellectuals like to pose as bearers of the culture of reason, as fiercely independent thinkers. But they are kidding themselves. They have traded their intellectual primogeniture for the mess of pottage of group identity. They are fully integrated into the socially and politically dominant tribe, sharing the same visceral likes and dislikes, the same shaming code. Rather than being autonomous rational actors, they are merely an assemblage of cipher units marching in lock step to the tribal drumbeat. Harold Rosenberg mordantly branded them the herd of independent minds.
More of the herd mind: Voters fret about economy, Dems focus on abortion, homosexuality
"This election, to me, is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment," says former President Bill Clinton in a new ad released by the Obama campaign. Most voters would agree, at least if one believes countless polls that show the economy and jobs are the nation's top concern.
So why are Democrats planning to make their convention a celebration of abortion and gay marriage? The Obama campaign has given a new and prominent surrogate role to Sandra Fluke, the former Georgetown law student and full-time lefty activist who achieved notoriety after Rush Limbaugh called her a bad name because of her energetic promotion of taxpayer-financed contraception.
There will be a lot of talk about abortion, all of it from one side. But not all Democrats agree with Fluke and her fellow speakers when it comes to abortion; in May of this year, Gallup found 34 percent of Democrats identify themselves as pro-life. And, perhaps more important to President Obama's re-election prospects, 47 percent of independents describe themselves as pro-life.
Why would a party that wants to attract the largest possible number of votes this November make such extravagant pronouncements on abortion, knowing that one-third of its own members and nearly one-half of independents disagree?
If you stand on the floor of a Democratic convention when a speaker is discussing abortion, you can feel the depth of the emotion that many Democrats feel on the issue. Conservatives like to say abortion is a liberal sacrament. Maybe that's going too far, but it is very, very important. And when something means so much to a group of people, they can easily convince themselves that it means that much to others, too.
Famous dumb ideas: Let’s have a maximum wage, shall we?
Sometimes the mask slips a little on the left and you get a peek at the real collectivist agenda at work there. Other times a leftist will just take the mask off completely and show you the collectivist behind it.
It is one of the reasons I find the left to be the most potentially totalitarian side of the spectrum … because their basic premise, the premise that spawns all others, is indeed collectivism.
For instance, this Gawker screed by some nimrod named Hamilton Nolan:
"Let’s have a maximum annual income of, oh, $5 million, pegged to inflation. All income above that would be taxed at 99 percent. Our precious national sports stars, celebrities, and corporate executives could still be fabulously wealthy. The daydreaming poor could still have a nice big number about which to hopelessly dream. Five million dollars a year. Five million! Anyone with $5 million can invest it conservatively enough to earn 5 percent a year and still be making $250K per year without lifting a finger. In other words, $5 million provides you with the means to live as a member of the one percent without ever touching the principal. It’s everything that any reasonable person could ask for, financially speaking.
A million and a quarter per year? Far more than anyone should be earning, in a world with so much poverty and want, but not so much that someone could consider themselves set for life. It’s a number at which the go-getting rich person is still aspirational. They hope to double or triple that salary before their earning days are done. So a hefty 75 percent tax, though completely just, will not only spook them enough to flee, but allow them to retain a modicum of dignity while doing so, at least among the more affluent segments of their peer group.
But $5 million? I defy the slickest PR firm in America to explain to a nation of struggling, underemployed working class people with a median household income of just over $50,000 why an already-wealthy person felt the need to leave the country—taking money out of the taxpayers’ pockets in a very literal sense—rather than donate, to the common good, earnings over one hundred times the nation’s median household income. This requires an already-wealthy person who is, by definition, being paid a wage that far outstrips any measure of fairness or good sense, to stand up in front of a nation (to which he has no doubt paid ample lip service during his rise to the top) of people far, far less fortunate than he and declare: "I have far more than I need. But I would rather abandon you all than help you."
If someone is willing to do that, let them take their shame and go. Good riddance.
You have to read the whole thing to ensure its not a spoof. It’s not. This knucklehead is serious.
Note how blithely he decides what is proper for you to have. “It’s everything that any reasonable person could ask for, financially speaking”.
Is it? What if you’re trying to build a business that requires, oh, I don’t know, 10 million?
Well, you can’t have that. Because Hamilton Nolan has arbitrarily decided that 5 mil is it. It’s a bit like the crowd that decides that at a minimum, labor is worth, oh I don’t know, how about $7.25 an hour?
Sound good? Let’s go with it and prosecute anyone that tries pay below that. What do you mean that causes unemployment because wage payers aren’t willing to pay more than what the labor on a job is worth? Why would some of them rather automate than pay that wage to a real person? How does a minimum wage kick up the price of a product?
See it’s these little niggling questions that are never entertained by economic rubes like Nolan that blow their little collectivist theories all to blazes.
Things like “well if I can only earn 5 mil in the US but I can earn 10 mil in Russia, I’ll just move to Russia”, also known as human nature, simply don’t register.
Dingbat’s reaction to such a move? “Good riddance”.
Really? Good riddance?
Someone ought to ask this economic idiot if he got his job at Gawker from a poor person? And when he got that job did he believe he got it because: "America has provided all of the opportunity necessary for these people to earn their fortunes. That opportunity is paid for with tax dollars."
Because that’s what he wrote. Seriously Mr. Nolan, did “America” provide all the opportunity necessary, paid for by the taxpayers, for you to land at Gawker? Or did your work and effort perhaps ‘earn’ you the job (although reading this hash one might be led to believe that Gawker has very low standards of employment)?
How does our collectivist plan on “rewarding” the high earners who remain and government coercively fleeces, taking most of what they’ve produced (note that the word “produced” never is used in Nolan’s rant)?
Newspaper articles. No. Seriously. "The wealthy could still earn as much as they want. It’s not that they don’t get anything for their earnings above $5 million; they get the distinct privilege of making a huge and helpful contribution to their fellow countrymen. Give them awards. Lavish them with praise. Publish the names of the highest taxpayers in laudatory newspaper columns. Allow them to bask in civic pride. But take their money. They have plenty."
Because Mr. Nolan and the mob, er collective, believe they have first claim on the money anyone earns. They just have to vote for it (“hey, that’s democracy!”). And that my friends is the basic difference between the left and right in this country. They believe it is“their” money or the government’s money. They have no idea of how wealth is produced. They have no idea of the concept of what it takes to earn something. Instead, it’s real simple: you get to keep what they deem appropriate, because wealth doesn’t belong to the producer, in their world it belongs to the collective.
Why? "This is not primarily about raising our total national tax revenue. That’s a far broader issue. This is about inequality. It’s about what type of nation we want to be—what level of inequality we are willing to tolerate in order to protect a vague and twisted notion of "freedom" that most people cannot even fully articulate, and that was created by the rich to serve themselves. This is a baby step. But it’s one that would make us, fundamentally, a better and more just country. And if the rich people don’t like it, fine."
It’s not at all about “raising our total national tax revenue”.
It’s about nascent totalitarianism masquerading as “fairness”. Fairness is one of those code words on the left that is used to rationalize removing choice, using coercion and claiming their actions are justified because otherwise the status quo is “unfair”.
There is no worse of a sin in the collective than being ‘unfair’. And screw you if you don’t like it.
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)