Unlike virtually everyone online these days, I still continue trying to be friends with people from across the political spectrum. There are many reasons why I do this, but the biggest one is that I used to be a liberal – honestly, I still am. While I guess I’m a conservative now, I’ve embraced the label, I really haven’t changed my opinions much; “liberalism” is what changed. I still harbor hopes that I can see something, anything, in good people who self-ID as liberals that encourages me that perhaps their Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde transformation is reversible.
To quote the late Christopher Hitchens, liberals, I didn’t leave you, you guys left me. You might want to think on why that is. Because I assure you, it isn’t me falling under the influence of some shady fascist organization, it’s some of the people on your side becoming a shady fascist organization and you pretending otherwise.
The other day several of these good people – some of whom I do truly like – shared the same tweet on Twitter within the span of about three minutes. Now, I am trying really hard to stay apolitical on Twitter, but occasionally I fall short, when something is just so incredibly wrong, and yet is so in my face that I cannot ignore it. So like a very stupid trout, I took the bait.
The tweet’s been deleted, but it ran something along the lines of “people have to be stopped from sharing evil and problematic thoughts at all costs, debate is for suckers” yadda yadda yadda. Now, let me just point out the epic cluelessness involved in anyone on the left sharing such a thing, because a good number of people think that it’s people on the LEFT who are sharing evil and problematic thoughts and thus should not be allowed to debate in the public sphere. There are also a good number of people on the far left who think people in the center-left should be silenced as well because they’re not extreme enough. You see, authoritarianism is a double-edged sword – it can cut you just as easy as the dude you’re trying to slice. You put the mechanisms of authoritarianism in place, and it can very easily, and almost certainly WILL end up with another person running the machine.
The nature of a pluralistic society is that we have to put up with the stupidity of a whole lot of other people. The reason we do this is because while that may be shitty, the alternative, where a gang of people slaughter everyone who disagrees with them until a consensus is reached, is even more shitty. Because those are really our choices here – tolerate dissenting minority voices from a variety of sources, some of whom are quite gross and wrong, or using the force of the majority to shut people up.
And if force sounds good to you, try to remember, there’s no guarantee it will end up as YOU running the machine. Everyone likes to imagine themselves as the benevolent dictator planning to run the world, but in real life, it generally ends up as someone a lot lighter on the benevolence and a lot heavier on the dictatorship than you.
The ONLY way for humanity to break away from the life of constant war and violence that was the human condition till very recently is by relying upon open debate in the public sphere to settle contested issues. It is the ONLY way, whether you like it or not, whether you need to let big fat meanie pants u hate have a say.
You either debate, or you wage war, and the thing about war is this:
Remember that sentiment? Remember how liberals used to believe in that? I believed in it and that was one of the biggest reasons why I knew I was a liberal. Liberals were peaceniks and conservatives were warmongers, interventionists, forcibly inflicting their values – Christianity, blue jeans, democracy, and Coca-Cola on the third world. Liberals just wanted to live and let live, man.
Boy, that sure went away fast, didn’t it? Almost makes a person wonder if any liberals but me ever actually meant it, or if, instead, like about 99% of everything the Left purported to believe in, it was all just bullshit to tear down the principles of liberty and limited government that have brought a level of peace, plenty, and prosperity that the world has never dreamed of, and replace them with whatever bullshit Robin DiAngelo pulls out of her ass this week.
Debate or war. There is no third option. And the funny thing about war is, even when you win, you lose. Anyone who thinks war is easy or fun or necessary, you need your heads examined.
Anyway, so, Twitter brouhaha. Some dude – nice guy – came winging in to chastise me by saying “maybe this is why conservative talk radio was a bad thing”, implying that conservative talk radio is somehow at the root of the liberal movement going rotten from stem to stern. And he even went so far as to take me to task for not publicly condemning talk radio, for refusing to lay the problem square at the feet of the IEB Network.
Well, here’s the problem, Geniuses of the Internet – let’s assume your premise is legit (which I don’t, in fact it’s entirely idiotic considering that liberals have control over the school system, the media, Hollywood, and all major corporations, including the fine people of Google who are kindly “letting” me use their word processor program to write this on, any of which are more powerful than “conservative talk radio” by a factor of a zillion). Rush Limbaugh came on the radio in 1988, when I was in high school, at a point in time in which I had very little ability to do anything to prevent that from happening. Suggesting I would have had the ability to do anything to stop the rise of talk radio is the silliest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. When was I supposed to do this, when I was having my braces off, or when I was getting drunk in college, when I was raising my babies in diapers, or when I was working 60 hours a week running my own business?
Suggesting I would have had the interest is even sillier. Because hey, I don’t give a shit about talk radio. In all honestly, Rush Limbaugh is and always has been nothing more than a cultural mosquito to me – and in fact, I suspect, most people, even many conservative people. I have given him very little consideration over the past 30 some odd years because he’s like the king of the world’s shittiest kingdom, AM radio. Same with Beck, Hannity, Dr. Laura, etc. I may as well launch a fight against Monty Python’s Flying Circus for all the cultural power those guys have.
And I wouldn’t have done it anyway, even if I had the wherewithal and the interest, because I’m all about the free speech, in case you hadn’t noticed. In my opinion, OF COURSE Rush Limbaugh should have been on the radio because we live in a pluralistic society with many different viewpoints and it is fine and fair for those viewpoints to be represented somewhere. That’s liberty, friend, it’s right there in the name “libertarian”, and even though the libertarians have let me down an awful lot, it’s still the closest match to my political beliefs.
But set that aside. Even if we accept your ridiculous premise that “conservative talk radio” somehow singlehandedly polluted the cultural atmosphere, magically overwhelming all the other much more important cultural forces that are decidedly on Team Liberal, please explain why me wasting my breath decrying “talk radio” of 30 fucking years ago is in any way helpful to the debate in the here and now?
It’s not. It isn’t. It makes NO FUCKING SENSE. It is simply a way to undermine the argument I am making in the here and now by bringing up something I had no control over and no interest in, and hanging it around my neck. Anyone who looks around at our nation, coming apart at the seams, in which people – even politicians, professors, philosophers, and reporters at some pretty important sources like the NYT and WaPo – are regularly sharing sentiments that would make Rush Limbaugh at his very worst blush, and thinks “you know, the real problem here is the talk radio of 1993, Bill Clinton just wanted a blow job, FFS” is like the person who sits there arguing over the menu when the restaurant is on fire.
It’s the musings of a person who cannot come up with a legit criticism because they don’t want to look any too close at the illiberal, and yes, I’ll say it, fascist tendencies present in THEIR FUCKING movement. So they seize on the ONE THING the conservatives have ever won at – talk radio – and attribute the origins of all American Evil to that one thing.
I mean, it’d be funny if it wasn’t so pitiful.
Statement of fact – when it comes to free speech, the cons have always harbored anti-free-speech sentiments that I loathe, that’s why they’re burning Harry Potter books and Dixie Chick CDs. I have always thought that book burning is thoroughly repugnant, and said so at the time, because I believe in the necessity of free speech. The difference is, liberal chums, you used to think it was repugnant too, but now that you got your greasy mitts on the levers of power, you’re all in. What the fuck happened to you, liberals? Y u no believe in free speech no more?
And then this Nice Guy had the gall to tell me “police your own movement”. Um, hey dude, I am policing my own movement, the LIBERAL MOVEMENT. Why aren‘t you standing beside me doing the same? My liberals, where you at, baby? It’s basically me and Bills Burr and Maher up here, and Bill Maher’s stock is dropping by the day. How’s about YOU start policing your own movement rather than taking potshots at me for doing so?
Conservative talk radio. Fuck you.
Riddle me this: if your magical liberal thinking is SO evolved and SO advanced and SO inarguably superior, then shouldn’t it be OBVIOUSLY AND UNDENIABLY TRUE? Shouldn’t everyone be falling all over themselves to agree with you if the stuff you say is so undeniably correct and better? If your philosophy is really that awesomesauce that it should be allowed to reign supreme without a challenge and can be trusted to stifle all dissent, surely it could withstand ANY LEVEL of cranks saying “MegaDittos” back and forth to each other??
What are you so afraid of anyway, if you’re so goddamn correct?
By calling for viewpoints you dislike to be silenced, you’re basically admitting that conservative thought packs a serious amount of convincing power, power you have no answer for apparently, if your philosophy cannot withstand any competing dogma whatsoever.
In a free society, confident people who are sure they’re on the right side of an argument are not so scared of things that they happen to disagree with. This is especially true when they’re the ones with all the cultural power, and are in the majority, as liberals are (unless you’re telling me that Biden didn’t actually win??) So someone wants to believe in the flat earth? Hey, I don’t care. Moon landing? What difference does that make to me? I don’t care that some people are evangelical Christians and some are Muslims and some are atheists because their beliefs really don’t have a hell of a lot to do with me. I’m even willing to put up with commies (no McCarthy, I) because I have complete faith that eventually glorious liberty will win in the end. Because I know I’m right, and freedom is awesomesauce, I can be completely chill about the tankies blathering on about how breadlines are good, achtually.
If you know you’re right, you know the truth will out eventually. Provided, that is, that respectful debate is still seen as possible and beneficial. You saying it isn’t, that it shouldn’t be, that any and every disagreement over your orthodoxy should be quashed, makes me think you don’t actually believe you ARE right, and as such you’ve decided to resort to the “let’s kill the infidels” approach. Because you know your philosophy can’t compete.
Which, last time I checked, was pretty fucking illiberal.
I’ve got suspicious that some of you want to crush dissenting voices because you know, you know right down deep in your gut, that your movement IS rotten from stem to stern and you don’t know what to do about it. You’re as powerless as me, in 1988, to stop Rush Limbaugh singlehandedly. You know the Left has got off track, that you’re betraying your principles, but on some level you believe that it’s only just till you win, and then things will go back to the way they’re supposed to be once the bad guys are gotten rid of. Once all the bad guys are gone, THEN war can be bad for children and other living things again.
Of course, that’s what every fascist tells themselves, and I think you know that too. You’re worried you’re not on the right side of history here, you’re starting to suspect maybe you’re on the wrong side, the bad side, the oppressors, not the oppressed, no matter how much you like to cosplay as the voice of the downtrodden. Every fascist that has ever lived felt the exact same way you do – that the other guy had to be the bad guy, because if they’re not, that means you must be the bad guy. That’s what you get when you decide that you, you personally, are the arbiters of everything true – if you’re the source of the One True Way, and someone else has a different way, either they’re evil or you are wrong.
Anyone over the age of forty knows this, because while the kids may be perilously dumb and grossly uneducated, the older people aren’t. You were raised with the same body of knowledge I did, bros and sisses, the same liberal values were drummed into your heads the same way they were mine. And I do not think for one single solitary minute that you’re that stupid. You just don’t want to believe it. You don’t want to be wrong and have to keep sticking your thumb out there to be hit with the hammer the way I do time after time.
You want to erase every contrary voice because those voices make you nervous.
For all your talk of tolerance, for all your coexist bumperstickers, your fellows, a good number of them, don’t want to coexist. They want to WIN, and they want that victory to be complete and not have to put up with any naysayers that harsh their buzz.
Well, bitch, I’m harshing it. A good number of people, people I honestly quite like, are fascist or fascist adjacent, and you know who isn’t? ME. I’ve done more to fight fascism than the vast majority of everyone over the course of my life, including YOU, my liberal friends. I’m sorry you don’t know about all that stuff, person who only knows me from Twitter, but it’s true. I’ve sacrificed more than anyone could reasonably expect from me in terms of fighting fascism, and then some. My grandpa died fighting fascism and my other grandpa was seriously maimed, and the baggage from that has echoed through the generations. My husband ran for Congress, even debated on C-SPAN. I spend hours and hours and hours writing thought provoking essays and my children are upstanding taxpayers who even vote. I bought myself an ACLU subscription with my fucking BABYSITTING MONEY when I was a teenager. I could go on listing off shit for quite some time; suffice to say I find my efforts to be pretty darn adequate, actually.
Even though I did not challenge Rush Limbaugh to a wrestling match, I did do my part to stick up for values that at that point in time WERE LIBERAL. This is not a new thing for me here, my believing in free speech as an absolute, hardline, no compromises ideal. I am not believing in free speech to own the libs, I am begging the libs, who once believed in free speech too, to wake up and start acting normal again before it’s too late.
If you prefer to stay asleep, so be it. But don’t you fucking dare blame me for your own fascism. It wasn’t me “not doing my part” because I did my part and I’ll keep doing my part and it’s a hell of a lot more than you ever did or will do, I’ll wager. Your fascism is not the fault of cultural mosquito Rush Limbaugh, it wasn’t the Proud Boys, and it sure the fuck wasn’t me. It was a whole bunch of people who decided that winning the culture war means they get to have their way all the time on everything without even having to defend their positions in the marketplace of ideas. And as is true of all fascist movements, this relatively tiny group is bolstered by whole lot more of you who know it is happening and are inexplicably going along with it because you think this time it will be different, because this time it’s your team, and this time the bad guys are ACTUALLY bad.
But of course that is what every fascist has told themselves every time fascism has risen – this time is different. This time, we’re getting the Actual Bad Guys. Unfortunately, ain’t nobody ever ridden out on a pogrom in the middle of the night thinking they were the villains, going out to bash the heads of the innocent. No. They went out thinking they were the heroes going out to silence the dangerous ones, just like you do.
Fascism is like fire – maybe you need a little of it to provide your movement with some heat and some light. I get it. I don’t think you’re a bad person for being a little fascist around the edges, truly, even though I cursed a lot in this piece I understand that being fash is just something people DO, even when we call it other, nobler names like “fighting the good fight” and “doing the right thing” and “being on the right side of history” and “not tolerating the presence of evil”. But just exactly like fire, fascism is a dangerous master. If you build it up too high, feed it too much, and then the wind kicks up and the humidity drops, it will rage right out of your control and destroy everything, even the things you like are gonna get all burned up. Someday you’ll be standing in the ashes thinking “huh I guess maybe atomic was right all along, too bad how she got hauled off for wrongthink, or I’d tell her. Hmm, is that wolves howling that I hear, or is that a roving gang of postapocalytic criminals instead?”
“Oh well, at least I didn’t have to live in a world where I had to tolerate Rush Limbaugh.”