Memo For File CXXIII

I was reading through that Shelby Steele article that was making its way around the innerwebs in the last couple of days, the one that talks about the democrat party’s “bad faith” in America and how it came to be. Perhaps inspired by this, the Review & Outlook editors of Wall Street Journal gave their readers a rather priceless run-down of the relevant events since those tumultuous sixties. As I understand what they are offering, it is a history that begins with a bang followed by a multitude of pulses; we put the liberals in charge of everything, then we figure out it doesn’t work. We take a few years to forget the lesson and then we do it again. I’ve offered my own observation that we are experiencing a sixteen-year “Heartbeat of Stupid” and the systolics I’ve measured correlate very closely to what the editors have picked up: Kennedy/Johnson, Carter, Clinton and now His Holy Eminence.

I agree, too, with the most enduring message Steele gleans from it all…

Bad faith in America became virtuous in the ’60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the “imperialism” of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores and so on. The compounding of all these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the ’60s: that America was characterologically evil. Thus the only way back to decency and moral authority was through bad faith in America and its institutions, through the presumption that evil was America’s natural default position.

Peeing on AmericaAmong today’s liberal elite, bad faith in America is a sophistication, a kind of hipness. More importantly, it is the perfect formula for political and governmental power. It rationalizes power in the name of intervening against evil–I will use the government to intervene against the evil tendencies of American life (economic inequality, structural racism and sexism, corporate greed, neglect of the environment and so on), so I need your vote.

I have noticed that the common prop used by the liberals, as they leverage this tricky dichotomy of bad faith in the United States and good faith in all else, is — knowledge. People on the left wing who exercise real power, as well as their cheerleaders and other minions out in the field who try to gin up some enthusiasm about their hopey changey…stuff. Knowledge is the key to the recurring trope, which is: We are in a process of change, and the change has to do with learning. You trust this thing and you don’t trust that other thing. Then new information comes your way, and you show your intellect by being open to the information and it changes your view of things. Now, what was untrusted before, is trusted; what was trusted before, might not be now. That process seems to be central to everything they are trying to communicate to us, in one form or another.

But it has not escaped my notice that this is a complete sham. The learning never comes, because if it did, the liberal would have to demonstrate the humility he demands others show. This is quite out of the question. The liberals we know are immovable granite savants, possessing such an enviable command of truth, wisdom and knowledge, that not even a miniscule alteration is needed, wanted or for that matter desirable. They’re just like teenagers; they already know everything.

Generally, the false moment of paradigm shift is still ahead of us with regard to things we are required to accept, and it is somewhere in our past with regard to things we are expected to abhor. President Obama still needs more time to clean up the mess made by His predecessor George W. Bush, who cocked things up so terribly that this continues to be a convenient catch-all excuse up to & beyond the point it has been worn down into self-parody. As far as President Bush himself, the moment of pretend-learning is, obviously, in the past; according to the liberal, we know everything about Bush we’ll ever need to know. To borrow from his successor’s favorite metaphor, he has been behind the wheel already and shown he doesn’t know how to drive. No need and no point for further inspection here.

That whackjob Imam down in New York who wants to build that mosque on Ground Zero — according to the left wing, he hasn’t shown himself to be up to any mischief yet. Supposedly, we’ll all be keeping an eye out for that provocative or incriminating action, or quote. But really, we all know it will never come; the jury only appears to be out deliberating the matter. Does that mean being a liberal is about never harboring any suspicions? No, it does not. The Boy Scouts have already incriminated themselves beyond redemption; not only do they discriminate against homosexuals, but they won a Supreme Court case about it. Speaking of the Supreme Court: Justice Clarence Thomas is supposed to be excoriated — mind you, it doesn’t have anything to do with being a conservative who is also black, it’s about Anita Hill. There never has been any evidence to support her claims, but again, why let facts get in the way? Thomas is to be hated, therefore his “learning moment” is in the past. We know about Justice Thomas everything we need to know.

This is the very foundation of the pretend-universe in which our modern liberals live: We pretend we already know some things, and we pretend we’re in a process of waiting to learn other things. The “science is settled” on global warming, a hackneyed phrase tossed around to imply there is no point to learning anything further. As I’ve pointed out before, this is a redefinition of what the word science is supposed to mean; it is, more or less, a polar-opposite definition. A flip-flopping.

Speaking of flip-flopping: The junior Senator from Massachusetts, half a dozen years ago, endured no condemnation or repudiation from his party for his testimony some three decades previous about the barbaric conduct of his comrades-in-arms:

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

These statements have been shown to be problematic, and were problematic during the campaign of 2004. But it didn’t matter. Clinton lied about sex, which liberals told us was entirely unimportant because it was about sex…but even then, they admitted Clinton’s behavior was abominable. With Kerry’s slander against thousands of kids serving their country, we didn’t even get that much. Quite to the contrary, Kerry was a hero for having spoken truth to power. Kerry told a tall tale to Congress, and — well, so what? Instead, they argued quite forcefully that there was something wrong with calling him out on his fairy tale.

I suppose that’s to be expected. He was the nominee in 2004, after all. And why let the facts get in the way of a good hate? In that year we were consumed with chatter about Abu Ghraib and our liberals were showing off the “bad faith” that Steele was just talking about. Americans, everybody understood, were certainly capable of wartime atrocities, so who cares if Kerry’s testimony had any basis in fact, or not?

To grown-ups, though, it still matters. There is a difference between leading a man around on a leash in his nakedness as if he’s a canine, and attaching an electrical circuit to his gonads and turning on the juice. If everyone paying attention understood American soldiers were guilty of gross misdemeanors, then why recite made-up stories of the felonies? Or refuse to recant the stories? Or condemn others for pointing out the lack of evidence to support the made-up stories? Why not just stick to what we know really happened, wouldn’t that be responsible, proper and fair?

Confirmation BiasAll of the above defines the central and primary problem with our liberals. It is the dirty little secret they’ll do anything to stop from getting out, although deep down everybody knows about it already — the “Emperors Clothes.” The thing we all know and don’t say out loud is this: Their view of the world is as polarized, as black and white, as boolean, all-of-this-none-of-that, as anybody else’s. There is no process of edification, no process of condemnation, no process of redemption. There are no states to these objects; there are only classes and roles. Good and bad. Women, blacks, homosexuals, poor, illegal immigrants, socialists, Muslims good…as long as they all vote, and vote the way they’re supposed to. Caucasians, men, straights, evangelicals, corporate executives bad. They’re supposed to be teaching the rest of us what it means to be “open-minded,” but when are they ever going to lead by example?

The moment of learning that would re-shape the world view, or even a tiny piece of it, never comes. Never, never, not ever. This month, Bill O’Reilly placed the fact that would bring this about squarely in front of Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, and they showed everybody how the leftist mind handles this. They walked offstage, unashamedly, proudly, even brazenly ignorant. That is exactly what I’m talking about; it’s all about the designated roles. It’s like running a criminal trial in reverse, with the verdict reached as the jury is seated and then the evidence reviewed according to the verdict. If you’re innocent, no damning evidence is admissible. If you’re guilty, no exculpatory evidence can be seen.

There is a term for this: Confirmation Bias. It refers to the process of systematically selecting evidence for acceptance, based not on its durability, but rather on what it proves. It is the mistake we all make sometimes when we adapt reality to belief rather than the other way around. With our liberals it has become a way of life, and this makes them deserving not of our scorn, but our pity.

I am now closer, I think, to my coffin than my crib; I’m old enough that it has become incrementally absurd to doubt this is the case. With that majority of years behind me, I have yet to hear a single self-identified liberal announce those words of humility and true learning: “I used to think [fill in the blank] but then I learned such-and-such, and it changed my mind.” I’ve never heard a self-identified liberal say anything like this, although I have heard many a conservative express exactly that. Here and there I’ve heard some liberals brag about visiting third-world countries, where they “learned” something. And I do recall some liberals say “I started being liberal when I became a parent.” But these are not what I’m talking about; they don’t count, because in both cases if you talk to the liberal a little while longer, you find he believed what he “learned” well before he learned it, so there was no changing-of-mind taking place. I’m talking about exiting the comfort zone, abjuring that which was previously cherished or held in high regard — I have yet to see or hear of a liberal ever doing this.

Liberal Open-MindednessIsn’t that something? It is a strange, odd thing. Anybody who’s discussed anything at length with a strident liberal, even just once or twice, knows how much energy and enthusiasm they put into finding that next point of emphasis, that next magical technique for highlighting the thought they think worthy. The emphasis is often more important than the thought itself. Nothing actually achieves this quite as effectively as saying “I was convinced of and invested in the opposite for a very long time, and here is the story of why I was compelled to admit I was wrong, and how my mind was changed.” That would accomplish what they want, better and quicker than anything.

But they aren’t capable of it. They lack the necessary humility. They want to get the props and high-fives for having it, but it is beyond their capacity to show it. Some of them still back Barack Obama, two full years after the mistake was made, and that proves this particular point of my criticism as well as anything can. Yes, they can abandon an old belief and uphold a contradictory a new one, but only if everyone else they know is doing the same thing at the same time, and they can be assured any record of their old allegiance will be sent down an Orwellian memory hole. In simpler terms, they don’t want to lose the social capital. They always want to be on the right side of history, even if that means the history of their own inclinations must be re-written.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Washington Rebel.

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