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May 31, 2006

Why Does The Unhinged Left So Hate Jeff Goldstein?

Goldstein is, strangely enough, one of the most reviled figures on the right of the blogosphere. LGF may get death threats from jihadists, but actual American lefties seem to despise Goldstein the most.

Forgive me for repeating myself, as I so often do, in this post. I've expressed these ideas before, but, as I so often do, in a sloppy and slapdash form. I've tried to be a little more organized here. And, in case you're worried, this post isn't really about Jeff Goldstein; I, for one, cannot imagine a more excruciatingly tedius subject for an essay.

It's about the left.

Goldstein bitches about his role as the go-to villain for the moonbats on occasion, to which I always say, half-seriously, that I'm envious. I wish I had the increased traffic and apparent subversive powers he does. Then again, I don't get this crap day in day out. I think I'd probably get annoyed if I did.

I think I do know why Goldstein in particular is so reviled. He himself provides the answer here, writing about why the Left hates Israel and conservative blacks so much:

I’d simply add that I think one of the prime reasons the Western left, for all its purported “progressivism,” is so concerned with punishing Israel is that Israel, like, say, Michael Steele or Thomas Sowell, has wandered off the progressive plantation and rejected the narrative assigned it by those who presume to speak for a larger identity agenda. Which is to say, kibbutz culture has given way, over the years, to a strong capitalist system—and so Israel is considered by many on the left to be a traitor to the cause of worldwide socialism, just as surely as Steele and Sowell (among others) are considered race traitors for rejecting the political narrative assigned them by those who have assumed the mantle of “authentic” blacks.

The left, to a man, considers itself to be educated and enlightened. It matters not how little actual schooling a particlular leftist may have had, nor how unintelligent the person might be. They all consider themselves intellectuals of sorts. If they dropped out of college after one semester, they just think of themselves as autodidacts whose genius could not be stimulated by the ossified and bourgeois teaching of the academy. If they're just plain stupid or crazy -- like, say, Charlie Sheen -- they indulge in farcial conspiracy-theorizing, reassuring themselves that they are intellectual because they know things others do not. They are one of the chosen few brave enough to see past the web of lies and glimpse the arcane truth behind, say, the implosion of the World Trade Center (a SEAL team planted those charges, you know?).

This conceit, usually wholly undeserved, of practically every leftist in the world is what makes leftism so intoxicating for the intellectually insecure, and what makes leftists so easily led and manipulated. It's an attractive doctrine for those who wish to conceive of themselves as intellectual and brilliant, for it provides an instant short-cut to the equivalent of an MIT education. If you simply believe these things we tell you to believe, you are one of Us, one of the Intellectually Elite, one of the Cultural Vanguard. Just as giving oneself to Christ, and believing in His power, and accepting the need for and gift of His redemption, instantly makes one "saved" and enters one's name in the Book of the Heaven, so too does accepting leftist tropes and core beliefs make one one of the Secular Elect.

Now, the things the left wants you to believe are not easy to believe. It's hard to believe that, for example, taxing work and investment will not reduce work and investment (especially when one simultaneously believes that taxing the use of gasoline or other energy will reduce the use of gasoline or other energy). Nevertheless, while it may be difficult to believe these things, it's certainly easier to simply give in and believe these things than to, say, earn a Ph. D. in literary theory or semiotics or even something stupid like science or engineering.

So, if one wants to conceive of oneself as an intellectual, one can either actually become an intellectual -- which frankly takes a lot of work and reading, much of it terribly boring -- or one can simply believe what Noam Chomsky tells one.

As for myself: I actually would kind of like to be an intellectual, but I haven't the patience or discipline for becoming one the hard way, and I also can't believe what Chomsky tells me, so, alas, I have to honestly assess and accept myself as a non-intellectual.

That notion is abhorrent to your typical leftist, so he chooses Option B.

From a cost-benefit standpoint, it's really a no-brainer. Like I said: an easy way to "earn" the "equivalent" of an advanced degree from CalTech or the University of Chicago. Believe these things, accept this dogma, take these gods as your own and keep them sacred, and you are reborn holy and clean as one of the smart set.

This is, I believe, why lefties get visibly angry or astonished to learn that someone within their social group -- whom they had previously considered a nice, normal, college-educated and upstanding citizen -- may hold conservative views or vote Republican on occasion.

Leftism, and liberalism, and progressivism, and etc-ism. are not merely simple politics for most of these people. Their politics to them are a core part of their identity, and, more importantly, a central support propping up their egos. They are enlightened because they believe these things; someone who does not believe these things, and yet who, superficially at least, appears to be about as smart as they might be, represents a threat to their egos. The foundation upon which a crucial structure of their sense of self-worth is undermined if they discover that there may be people who can pass as normal and intelligent and yet do not believe as they do.

If one is smart, then one believes in progressivism.

If one believes in progressivism, then one is smart.

Those are the two assumptions that prop up their sense of self worth, and they are refuted by examples of smart people who don't believe in progressivism.

And because there is a great deal of personal psychological investment in progressivism, they react intemperately to rejections of it. It's not merely a tax cut that's being debated; it's they're very sense of importance that's being attacked. It's not merely gay marriage which is being argued against; it's their value as human beings that is being uncouthly denigrated.

This tends to make the left more emotional and, well, angry when debating issues. It's all well and good to discuss a purely theoretical issue. But when you have a strong emotional investment in it -- when you have skin in the game, as it were -- it becomes not an academic debate but a heated argument. Whether the oil companies should pay windfall taxes is, for me, a theoretical discussion about which I have an opinion but find difficulty becoming emotionally animated about. On the other hand, whether or not someone should be allowed to punch me in the face is a debate about which I might just become a little more heated.

When you're discussing drilling in ANWR with a progressive, make no mistake -- you are, more or less, having a debate on whether or not you should be allowed to strike him in the face. You might not see it that way, and neither does he on a conscious level, but subconsciously, that's precisely the argument you're having.

Because there is so much ego involved in the self-definition as progressive, the need for intellectual conformity becomes stultifying. For, if one can believe something different than you -- even if they are, on balance, progressive -- this represents a direct challenge to your own self-valuation as an intellectual worthy. Conservatives have sometimes heated debates about what the right position is, but they're not debates about whether or not someone is worthy or intelligent. Whether or not someone is a "good conservative" is sometimes argued, but that argument is not simultaneously about whether someone is a good human being. Lefitsts, sometimes by their own surprisingly honest self-admission, acknowledge that they are sometimes too eager to define and, worse still, enforce a group-mediated orthodoxy on the wider church, and excommunicate those who are deemed heretical.

Leading lights of leftism have a powerful psychological tool for enforcing their own preferred orthodoxies. It's one thing to tell someone he's wrong on an issue; it's another thing to tell him, impliedly, that he's evil or stupid because of his stance on an issue. True, a leftist can reject any progressive leader's opinion. But when he does so he imperils his sense of self-worth. If progressivism can be challenged on this point, why not that one? And if it can be fairly challenged on many points, then how can it be those who believe in progressivism are enlightened for doing so? If major tenets of orthodox progressivism are open to debate and challenge, doesn't that mean that one's status of intellectual, based almost entirely on one's belief in progressivism, is similarly open to challenge?

That way madness lies, of course.

I don't bother the left at all, because they consider me a moron. Don't snigger; they think the same of you.

I'm not really a moron, of course. But neither am I an intellectual. My various childish barbs don't represent any real threat to the Jane Hamshers and Atrioses. I don't self-identify as an intellectual, I don't write like an intellectual, and I have no advanced degrees indicative of intellectualism. (An advanced degree, yes, but in a more practically-minded field.)

On the other hand, there's Jeff Goldstein. He's a college professor. He's even in a field they respect as being particularly intellectual-- literary criticism, semitiocs. You know-- bullshit. (Sorry, Jeff.) So he represents to them a threat that I'm not, wish though I do that I were. He's a member in good standing of the intellectual class and has an official credential to prove it. Something that, for example, Jane Hamsher does not. (Unless serving as a producer on such movies as Natural Born Killers and, um, Double Dragon is considered to be a credential of intellectualism.)

He believes almost nothing that they do and in most of the things they don't. And, unlike them, his status as intellectual is founded upon something more tangible and indisputable than a mere belief that Al Gore is the currently elected President of the United States.

Ergo, a direct threat not so much to their politics -- they get that from all over the blogosphere -- but to their egos. And that is an insult they simply cannot let stand.

He should agree with them. He should be a pious member of their church. But he strayed; he is Heretic. His very existence is anathema.

It's about identity politics, of course. They say that in the progressive mode of thought, "victim" is the most holy identity of all. But that's not quite right. He holiest status among progressives is their own status -- the status of Redeemer, the Hero who Saves the Victim, who liberates the enslaved. Not through actual action, of course, but through the sheer power of caring. By their lofty rhetoric shall we know them.

When progressives talk about the oppressed, those who died in Katrina, have no doubt-- they're mostly talking about themselves. They are the ones who are concerned, who worry for the fate of this Republic. To borrow Goldstein's schtick-- the text of their expressions of outrage and compassion is merely a complex system of signifiers for the true authorial intent, the subtext, or maybe even the supertext, that they are among the chosen.

Bush lied, people died. Message: I care.

Is all of this overstated? Generalizing? I suppose so. But I do think this is primarily what fills the left with such emotion over so many issues. Emotion is a response to a stimulus that affects one personally. Not abstractedly, or intellectually, or theoretically, or even politically.

And looking at the unhinged rantings of the left-wing of the blogosphere, and left-wing poltiicians and pundits, I simply cannot accept that all we're talking about is politics here. I got physically angry when psychopathic death-cultists killed 2700 of my fellow Americans just 100 or so blocks south of my home. Jane Hamsher and Kos seem to get physically angry about-- well, what don't they become angry about? Why is humor and irony so common on the right and so hard to find on the left? Humor and irony require emotional distance from a subject-- something I would contend the left is in of rather short supply.

As they say-- the politics is personal. And they're quite right, though perhaps in not the way they think.

Pre-Emptive Rejoinder: Please, Larry the Urbanite, do not tell me you are angry because you "care" so damn much for this country. I care about this country too; not to get into a contest about it, but I'm pretty sure I care more about America itself (as opposed to "America and the rest of the world which is also, in a way, America") more than you do.

Your anger cannot be explained as simply "caring" more. I grant you-- you do seem to be more emotionally invested in these debates. But the question remains: Why? Not because you care about America. There must be a more personal reason for the perpetual fury.

digg this
posted by Ace at 08:00 PM

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