Sunday, July 17, 2011

No Red Lines for the Left - by Sultan Knish

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Every society has its red lines. Areas that are off limits. Behaviors that are unacceptable. Lines that should not be crossed. And the left has progressively dismantled the red lines that constrain it, while seizing control of the infrastructure that marks out a society's red lines. By controlling that cultural infrastructure, the left can insure that all of a society's remaining standards are double standards.

The inability to hold the left accountable for its actions is traceable back to this lack of standards. How does one call for accountability when there is no objective standard to measure the wrongness of an action against? Without it, every argument turns into a war of values. And even the mildest issues usher in another culture war.

The left constantly sets red lines for the right, but any attempt to set red lines for it leads to cries of McCarthyism. The party that fifteen years earlier had rounded up people into detention camps for the crime of being Japanese, got on its high horse because a few Hollywood Communists were being held accountable for participating in a conspiracy to overthrow the United States. The same people who had approved of the crackdown on the Bund and Trotskyists during WW2 turned into die hard defenders of freedom, when it was the Hollywood Comrades turn during the Cold War.

So it still goes today. Dissent is patriotic, except when they're the ones being dissented against. Then it's shut up and do what you're told. Corporate welfare is wrong, except when they're signing and cashing the checks. Running up a deficit to improve the economy is voodoo economics, except when they're the witch doctors. Illegal wars become legal when they wage them. And an imperial presidency is just fine when theirs is the head that wears the golden crown.

Obama is not just post-American, he is post-Standards. Like Bill Clinton, few if any rules actually apply to him. There is no point in listing all the standards he hasn't met. It's enough to look for one that he has actually met, and come up empty. He can't be judged by his performance, by his patriotism or even by his attendance. About the only standard we're allowed to judge him on is historicity. A position that admits the lack of any other standards to measure him by, but race.

This isn't racism. If it were the same standard would also cover Justice Clarence Thomas. But it doesn't. Because it isn't a standard, it's a bias. Standards may be irrational and wrong, but they are consistent. The only standard that the left accepts is its own rightness. In all circumstances and contexts, it is always right. And the right is always wrong.

Red lines require consensus. And the left's war on values and tradition has fractured the old consensus. Instead they present a manufactured consensus using their cultural leverage to create the illusion that their values are now the national values. But their consensus is only a mirage, because their values are standards-free. If their consensus came with actual standards, then the public could use it to determine right and wrong. But instead the media is needed to constantly update the public on what they are supposed to be thinking now. How they're supposed to feel about the war, political dissent or a mandate compelling them to purchase health insurance.

Like Orwell's Newspeak, the "consensus" is always changing. And a Doublethink process is needed to believe that contradictory views become reconciled on the instructions of the party. That war is bad, unless we are the ones fighting it. That giving billions of dollars to corporations is bad unless we're the ones doing it. That nuclear power is bad until we're the ones supporting it.

The modern liberal like the Ingsoc party member must always keep in mind that the relative merits of an issue don't matter. Only the party's position on it does. This requires either great cynicism or servility , and since Americans are poorly fitted for either, much of the New York Times editorial page is dedicated to reconciling these contradictions through entirely new ways of thinking. This constant need for perspective shifts, for finding new ways to see old ideas in order to take away their context and with that act reconcile the contradictions, betrays the lack of standards. Look down and there isn't a boat, but a sea of shifting waves. To continue being a liberal, you must believe that you can walk on water.

The lack of standards means that no behavior is properly off limits. Fantasizing about assassinating a president from a rival party is acceptable. Sexually degrading a female presidential or vice presidential candidate is part of the fun. Conducting a war in defiance of congressional authority is fine. Using executive orders to bypass congress, is the new democracy. There are no red lines. Nothing that is natively wrong. Only things that the manufactured consensus says is wrong. And that consensus is always changing.

How does such a society go on functioning? In many of the important ways, it doesn't. The consensus is what binds a society together, beyond tribalism, below law and above anarchy. When the consensus breaks down, arguments become more violent and politics becomes more ruthless. Mob rule begins to emerge, picking on the weak. Decency becomes outmoded. Rudeness becomes the norm. Everyone is afraid to say the wrong thing and relishes the chance to freely hurl abuse. No one knows what right and wrong are anymore, and so they either do nothing or do everything.

The political culture turns into a naked power grab as the realization seeps in that there are no more rules. That the winners can make their own rules and justify their actions with a barrage of propaganda. But politics always carries doses of that. What changes is that the people operate the same way. Faith in good government dies. Everyone looks for a patron, for political connections to get them what they want. Law and order ceases to exist except as the punch line to a joke. Theft is ubiquitous and the authorities take their cut. Every problem can be solved with a bribe. And the wrong word is more dangerous than a bullet.

It's easy enough to visit places that look like this today. They fill some 85 percent of the globe. But the civilized world is quickly getting there. The only barrier we had against it was a culture with standards, not merely set in law, as the world is full of laws, but in tradition and a public morality based on decency. Law is no defense against barbarism. Not simply because in a barbaric culture, the barbarians make the law, but because barbarians don't uphold law as a consistent standard. Only as an interest.

Consistency requires reason and skeptical self-examination. These are the compass of the mind and the society that prevent it from getting lost. Without that compass, it is easy to wander around in circles based on subjective impressions of the scenery. If a direction looks like it might be the right way, you go that way. If an action feels right, then you do it.

In a recent Michael J. Totten article he tries to understand how the Muslims he encounters in Israel can have "have two contradictory yet sincere thoughts". The answer is that consistency of ideas through examination and awareness is an attribute of advanced civilizations. Backward societies don't lack sophistication. They can develop extremely complex languages, scripts, rituals and techniques. What they lack are standards. Whether it is the scientific standard that tests for errors in one's own reasoning or just being able to measure the inconsistency in your own words.

Liberals present themselves as the self-examiners of Western society, the reformers who look deeply into its laws and moral contradictions, and offer a new way to bring our actions into line with our ideals. But then how do they explain their consistent and pervasive blindness to their own faults? Their adherence to rigid ideologies and their willingness to destroy one another over minor differences in doctrine. Their leader worship and shunning of dissent. Their constant historical revisionism which glosses over their own mistakes. The refusal to admit they are wrong even when disaster is all around them.

These are not the attributes of rational people. This is not the behavior of self-examiners. It is plainly cultic. A search for power symbols and an absolutist state. The left's refusal to accept red lines with clear standards is a symptom of the reactionary nature of their power setup. Like the Muslims that Totten encounters, they are consumed by contradiction. But unlike them, they are still part of a society where the awareness of such contradictions must be actively suppressed. That however is changing.

As the left destroys the remaining standards, they are destroying the only thing that keeps us from being savages with cell phones. A moral code which we answer to, rather than a code that answers to us. Laws are only as good as the culture that makes them. And law is no substitute for social practices that prevent the conflicts which invite the intervention of law.

A society where everyone steals will have a great many prisons and police, but it will still be a society where everyone steals, because there is no reason not to except fear of consequences. Societies such as this will always be inherently totalitarian. They will only function at gunpoint, and replace one tyrant with another. Because the tyrant and his secret police are the only thing standing between them and anarchy.

Think of Russia after the fall of Communism or Egypt after the overthrow of Mubarak. And then think of America if another generation of this goes on. We may still have elections and flags and fireworks on the fourth, but we will be savages. And we will be unable to see that and unable to change. A society without social standards that derive from from people, rather than being imposed on them, is savage. It has laws, but no justice. Books and newspapers but no truth. Religion, but no right and wrong. Craftsmanship and ingenuity but no science. Power, but no purpose. Life, but no hope.

The left is leading us toward barbarism by way of a cultural war that they have been waging against us in the name of reform. What they promised is equality through order. But now all that remains is the order. Order in the name of a moral code that derives from themselves. Order in the name of world peace. Order in the name of the planet. But all order is in the name of power.

When they turned away from all standards but their own shifting interests, they broke with the larger society and with any rational code. They have declared war against every code and standard, while replacing them with themselves as the arbitrators. The absolute judges of right and wrong. This is tyranny. Cultural tyranny swiftly leads to political tyranny and we have both of those today in the form of a political priesthood of organizers, activists and leaders who are determined to control every aspect of our lives. Without any accountability of their own.

What is at stake is not only our freedom, but our civilization and our reason. What is at stake is not only whether we will be free, but whether our children will even understand what freedom is. When there are no red lines for the powerful anymore, then there is no freedom for anyone else.
From NY to Jerusalem,

Daniel Greenfield

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