The Intolerant, Illiberal, Regressive Left and Its Consequences
Photo from campus reform.org
The tribalism, cultural Marxism, and anti-liberalism that permeates the identity politics promoted by the regressive left is self-evident to anyone who has been paying attention to the metastatic growth of the contemporary “social justice” movement over the last few years.
While liberalism as a philosophy has always supported things like freedom of speech and expression, civil discussion and the free exchange of ideas, and judging individuals based on their character, not superficial things like skin color or gender. On the hand, the illiberal left opposes all of these things, and in order to understand why, it is first necessary to understand the ideology behind the “social justice” movement.
At its core, the philosophy of the social justice movement is one firmly rooted in cultural Marxism. Just as Karl Marx saw the capitalist as the exploitative oppressor of the working class, illiberal leftism adopts a worldview in which white people are the oppressor class and minorities, primarily blacks, are the oppressed.
Consequently, illiberal leftism has rejected liberalism’s tendency to judge individuals as individuals and instead adopted the Marxist approach of judging people on the basis of what group they belong to while substituting “race and gender identities for economic ones.”
Consider a student union diversity officer at Goldsmith University, who banned white people and men from an event promoting equality. After accusations of what was obvious racism and sexism, the woman denied the allegations, stating that,
“I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender.”
You may be thinking, “that’s not the definition of racism,” and you’d be correct. Racism, by definition, is the belief that some races are naturally superior to others and that race is the primary determinant of human traits. Racial discrimination is treating people differently solely on the basis of their race, and has nothing to do with “structures or privilege.”
Social justice extremists like this woman have literally redefined what racism is in order to justify their own racism. In their view, their actions are justified as they are a natural response to oppression.
In another clear case of the tribalism promoted by social justice advocates, a young girl in a viral video, to the applause of her classmates, tells her teacher that white people have never been oppressed. I suppose totalitarian African dictators evicting white people from their lands and telling them never to come back doesn’t count as oppression.
It seems very likely that the rise of the regressive left has resulted in more racial animosity between whites and non-whites. When a person is told, or it is implied, that they are a bad person because of their skin color, sexual orientation, or what not, it is natural for them to start to associate even more with that group- identity based on those characteristics rather than seeing themselves as an individual.
And if you put people into groups based on superficial characteristics and then designate one group (white people) as an oppressor class, members of whom are only successful because of some unearned privilege, and another as the oppressed class (minorities, especially blacks), members of whom are only unsuccessful because their oppressed status, naturally division and hatred between the members of these groups is going emerge. The rise of right-wing populism is thus almost certainly a reaction to left-wing identity politics which paints whites in a negative light.
Instead of fostering a unified society where people see themselves as individuals rather than a part of a particular group, the social justice movement is likely responsible for further dividing people along tribalistic lines. There are vastly better means to which eradicate racism and sexism from society than the identity politics upon which the social justice movement is based.
As is by now apparent, the dichotomy between the oppressor vs. the oppressed is also central to understanding Marxist doctrines like that of illiberal leftism. It is also crucial in explaining why these doctrines are so hostile to the individual liberties promoted by liberalism.
Economic Marxism sees free markets and private property rights (i.e economic freedom) as a means to protect the capitalist class from the proletariat that they exploit in order to maintain their socioeconomic hegemony. Consequently, economic Marxists have always been hostile to economic freedom and attempted to curtail it or abolish it outright whenever they have had the power to do so.
Cultural Marxism similarly understands fundamental political freedoms, like freedom of speech and expression, to be mechanisms by which those in power, mainly white heterosexual men, use in order to maintain their socioeconomic hegemony to benefit themselves at the expense of minorities and women. As noted by Jonathon Chaidt in the Atlantic,
“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.”
Thus, instead of seeing freedom of speech as an individual right that is sacrosanct, the illiberal left sees it as an obstacle in the way of “social justice.” Sadly, this fact has become increasingly obvious. Consider the student protests that occurred in late 2015 at the University of Missouri in response to supposed systemic racism at the campus.
During an interview with MSNBC, the vice President of the Missouri Students Association was asked how she felt about critics who argued that universities were increasingly becoming places of prohibition of freedom of speech/expression. Her response?
“I personally am tired of hearing that first amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here, I think that it’s important for us to create that distinction and create a space where we can all learn from one another and start to create a place of healing rather than a place where we are experiencing a lot of hate like we have in the past.”
In other words, “safe spaces” are more important than the fundamental right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the United States constitution. This young woman isn’t alone in these sentiments. A recent YouGov poll found that 51% of Democrats (and ~35% of Republicans and Independents) believe that hate speech should be a criminal offense.
Similarly, Pew Research poll recently showed that an astounding 40% of millennials believe that the government should censor statements that are offensive to minorities (35% of Democrats agree, compare to 15% of Republicans.) The finding that young people and Democrats are much more likely to endorse censorship is almost certainly in large part due to the relatively higher prevalence of illiberal leftism amongst these demographics.
This finding is saddening, as it seems young people are increasingly more prone to shame and silence people they disagree with rather than engaging with them in civil debate. In a recent example, Milo Yiannopolis, a gay British conservative, went to Rutgers to give a speech regarding the importance of freedom of speech and speak out against political correctness. Black Lives Matter protestors took it upon themselves to interrupt his speech, smear fake blood on their faces, raise their fists and yell things like, “this man represents hate.”
When the College Republicans and Libertarians at Oberlin College invited Christina Hoff Sommers, a feminist who doesn’t believe women are systematically oppressed, to speak, left-wing student activists put up posters of the names of the students who invited her which stated that they supported “rape culture.” On a similar note, William’s College disinvited an anti-feminist speaker when students said that her presence made them “uncomfortable.”
Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator, was to give a lecture at CalState on matters like political correctness. But now the President has rescheduled his event, issuing the statement:
“After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity.
Yet, according to Reason magazine: “…one day before the planned Shapiro event—CalState will have an event featuring Angela Davis and Tim Wise. Davis is a far-left feminist and member of the Communist Party. Wise is best described as anti-racism activist who thinks all white people are, to varying degrees, racist. The subject of their lecture is “the U.S.’s uncritical embrace of individualism, myth of meritocracy, unchallenged white supremacy, and entrenched institutional inequity in our society.”
When the far-left speaks on campus, seemingly there is no need to have a contrary opinion expressed in the same lecture. On a similar note, some left-wing academics aren’t much more tolerant than their students.
A study published in Perspectives of Psychological Science found that conservative academics in social psychology fear the negative consequences of being openly conservative, and they are right to do so. The authors of the study report that, “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.”
Illiberal leftism is clearly intent on stifling freedom of speech, academic freedom, and the free exchange of ideas, all in the name of social justice. Additionally, though it purports to seek to reduce racial, ethnic, and sexual fragmentation and segregation, it likely has actually done nothing but foster it. For the sake of liberty, equality, and civil society, Western liberals must do their best to convince people that regressive and illiberal leftism is not an ideology worth supporting.
Dedicated to promoting personal and economic freedom.