The intolerant, illiberal, modern left.
In her biography on famous liberal philosopher Voltaire, the English writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote the phrase, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” in order to epitomize Voltaire’s beliefs. Indeed, classical liberals have long been proponents of freedom of speech and expression. On the other hand, as noted by Jonathon Chait:
The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents … as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to. The modern far left has borrowed the Marxist critique of liberalism and substituted race and gender identities for economic ones…
Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate … Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach.
Indeed, under the banner of political correctness, the illiberal left has promoted censorship and actively attempted to shut up its political opponents. Despite professing a devotion to tolerance, the illiberal left are among the most intolerant groups of people in modern political discourse. For example, David Frum of The Atlantic has noted the following:
…consider this chart from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education of attempts by students to ban speakers from campus, by means up through and including violent disruption:
As FIRE notes, not only are disinvitation incidents on campus rising, but so too is the “success rate” for such incidents. FIRE statistics indicate that disinvitation incidents are almost three times as likely to target speakers perceived as conservative…as those perceived as liberal or left. The campus left is reviving, and liberal university administrators are surrendering to them.
Indeed, one recent example the left’s intolerance arose when conservative scholar Christina Hoff Sommers went to speak about feminism at Oberlin college. Sommers doesn’t agree with feminists on the existence of “rape culture” or the gender wage gap and was invited to the college by the College Republicans and Libertarians in order to give a lecture explaining her beliefs and why she holds them. The response? Outrage. As noted by someone who was there:
“…many in the audience were quite rude and frequently interrupted Sommers. Many students sat in the audience with duct tape over their mouths, inferring that Sommers’ mere presence was an attempt to silence them. Ironically, by labeling her a “rapist supporter” and interrupting her, they were actually striving to silence her…
When she suggested that women could earn more and close the wage gap by changing their majors to something like engineering, many in the audience jeered loudly and exclaimed “Don’t tell me what to do!!”
Don’t give me facts. Just shut up. That’s how Sommers was responded to.”
That’s not all. The Oberlin activists who opposed Sommers’ mere presence also went around posting messages accusing specific members of the College Republican and Libertarian group that invited her to speak of perpetuating “rape culture.” According to Reason Magazine, the person who sent the following photo asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Comically enough, the school administration decided that it was necessary for Sommers to receive police protection. Protection from the very same Oberlin activists who set up “safe spaces” where students who felt threatened by Sommers’ presence could share their feelings. I’m sure the irony is lost on them.
On a similar note, it seems like left-leaning academics aren’t very much more tolerant of diverse viewpoints than left-wing students. A study on political diversity in the academic field of social psychology published by Cambridge University found that while there was considerable political diversity 50 years ago, there is almost none now. Currently, the field of social psychology is dominated by “liberals” and this political homogeneity is undermining the validity of social psychological science “via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike.”
According to the authors of the study in question, “[e]xperimental field research has demonstrated bias against studies that contradict the liberal progress narrative.” For example, when reviewing a study which was identical in every way except for its conclusions (one conclusion supported “liberal” biases and the other opposed them), “the more liberal reviewers rated the manuscript as more publishable, and the statistical analyses as more adequate [if it supported liberal positions]” than the otherwise identical study which came to the opposite conclusion. Less liberal reviews had no such bias. Given the devout nature of the illiberal left’s advocacy of tolerance and diversity, it is ironic that the the authors also conclude that, “The under-representation of non-liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination.”
Again ironically, considering the left’s advocacy of tolerance, research from Pew Research Center shows that facebook users who have “consistently liberal” beliefs are the most likely to block others on facebook who have political opinions which differ from their own. Additionally, as noted earlier, the left is no friend of freedom of speech. Democrats are twice as likely than Independents or Republicans to support laws which make hate speech which advocates genocide of hatred against an identifiable group based on things such as race, religion, etc a crime.
Now, imagine if someone were to say, “I believe that all white (black/asian/etc) people should be killed” or, “I hate Jews (or Christians/Muslims/etc).” Now mostly everyone would find such statements to be distasteful, but in accordance with Voltaire’s beliefs, liberals of the classical variety and those who are like-minded believe that, while distasteful, an individual has the right to express these opinions. On the other hand, more than half (51%) of democrats believe that statements such as these should be a criminal offense punishable by law (compared to ~25% of Independents and Republicans).
Clearly, there is nothing tolerant or liberal about contemporary leftism. Today’s illiberal left is eager to discriminate against and shut up those who disagree with them and the majority of them are willing to use the government as an instrument to silence those who voice unpopular opinions. Any concept of freedom of speech and expression is clearly lost on these people.
Dedicated to promoting personal and economic freedom.