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Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Smug

A recent Jonah Goldberg column contained the following:
I don’t know who first said, “Behind every apparent double standard lies an unconfessed single standard” (and as far as I can tell, neither does the Internet), but whoever did was onto something.

What looks like inexplicably staggering hypocrisy from the conservative perspective is actually remarkably consistent from the liberal perspective.

Well, “perspective” is probably the wrong word because it implies a conscious, deliberate, philosophical point of view. What is really at work is better understood as bias, even bigotry.

If you work from the dogmatic assumption that liberalism is morally infallible and that liberals are, by definition, pitted against sinister and — more importantly — powerful forces, then it’s easy to explain away what seem like double standards. Any lapse, error, or transgression by conservatives is evidence of their real nature, while similar lapses, errors, and transgressions by liberals are trivial when balanced against the fact that their hearts are in the right place.

Despite controlling the commanding heights of the culture — journalism, Hollywood, the arts, academia, and vast swaths of the corporate America they denounce — liberals have convinced themselves they are pitted against deeply entrenched powerful forces and that being a liberal is somehow brave. Obama, the twice-elected president of the United States, to this day speaks as if he’s some kind of underdog.

A later column titled Blaming America First  had these additional points  :
In reality, the liberal ideological comfort zone is incredibly narrow. If an issue can’t be turned into a critique of America (or: white privilege, the religious Right (variously defined), capitalism, the GOP, or some other float in the parade of horribles that is the legacy of those horrible Pale Penis People who gave us so much of Western civilization), then the conversation must be pulled in that direction. It’s simply where their minds go. Rhetorically they have to fight every fight on home turf.
 So what happens when events and facts make it impossible for liberals to change the subject to more convenient topics? They figure out how to make the villain or problem at hand “conservative.”
 All of the nonsense about microaggressions and hate speech, all of the namby-pamby self-esteem boosting, the elevation of feelings, the paranoia of offending people, the thousand flavors of political correctness including informed-consent for every romantic overture: They did it. Them. All by themselves. And they are still doing it. Conservatives aren’t behind any of it and libertarians certainly aren’t.

But the moment it becomes impossible to ignore the huge frick’n mess they created, what do they start calling it? Conservatism.

This is all part of the narrative and political branding.  Plenty of bright people are so trapped in the bubble that they can't see this at all.

Later in the same column he continues:
The Left loves wars of national liberation. The Left loves self-determination against colonialism. But when such nationalism becomes a problem, out come the smug lectures about how nationalism is right-wing.

 And that’s the point. Once something becomes too terrible to ignore, it must be labeled “right-wing” or “conservative” somehow. If you don’t believe me, find the smartest liberal you know and ask him or her to list all of the really bad things done by the Left. Odds are you’ll get silence. Or you might get “Well, I don’t believe in labels . . . ” (“Don’t get him started on that again, people!” — The Couch). But what you won’t hear is much of anything about the American eugenics movement, or the internment of the Japanese, or the Black Panthers, Weathermen, the manifest failures of the New Deal (economic and non-economic alike), etc. That’s because liberalism, by conviction if not definition, is never wrong.

Kevin Williamson in a column titled The New Royals :

Other civilizations are big on karma, arete, martial codes of honor, virtus, etc.; we Americans have “Work hard, live well, enjoy good stuff,” which might be sneered at by philosophers and warlords but is nonetheless the best and most humane organizing principle a human polity has yet discovered.

I miss the days when the important status symbol could be something so simple as a Cadillac.

Tinkering with the organic, spontaneous orders of human society is a tricky business. In the 1960s, the Western world got it into its collective head that traditional social arrangements, especially family arrangements, were an instrument of oppression that needed to be torn down. And we set about tearing them down, without giving any thought to what would replace them. We were confident that whatever came next inevitably would be better, and about 80 percent of our current domestic-policy initiatives are in one way or another aimed at dealing with the fact that what came after wasn’t better — that it was brutish and frequently cruel — without ever being so gauche as to notice that that’s the case.

Similarly, the old status symbols — the nice house, the car, the sensible two-week family vacation — might have been bound up with a brand of unthinking and insalubrious materialism, but they were also bound up with some important virtues that we are in the process of rediscovering: thrift, frugality, delayed gratification, etc. That is, in fact, why status symbols work as status symbols: It’s not just having the Cadillac or the gold watch — it’s being the sort of person who earns them.
 As in the case of the princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s 1835 story, so sensitive that she could feel the pea under 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds, acute dissatisfaction with the tiniest, most ridiculous little details of life is how 21st-century progressives communicate to the world that they are indeed the new royalty, with sensibilities finer than those known to mere commoners.
 There is a term for this that is uncharitable but cannot be improved upon: status-whoring. The old status symbols may have been shallow; the new ones are shallow, destructive, and a great deal less fun to drive.

And they don’t even require you to work particularly hard in school.
 But there is an important distinction between political-correctness-as-status-symbol and Cadillac as a status symbol. The Cadillac, at least as presented by Neal McDonough, is a symbol of what you have earned; hashtag-activist foie-gras phobia is, like the princess’s sleepless night, an expression of who you are — or who you are pretending to be. Anybody can be dissatisfied; it requires no real expenditure of effort. All you have to do to be a member of the new aristocracy is to convince the prince (or some gender-neutral equivalent) that you belong.

Which is to say, our progressives have progressed right back to 1835.

 These examples are presented in support of what the late Andrew Breitbart described as the frequent practice of the left to exhibit an "unearned moral and intellectual superiority."  This kind of posturing is an attempt to always claim the high ground in all matters.  It's as phoney as heck and it's all pretend even if many of practitioners don't realize this.

This Afterburner video with Bill Whittle explains this Coin of the Realm.

Once matters get beyond modest complexity, there are no shortcuts to acquiring the requisite knowledge and achieving sufficient maturity and wisdom to make sound judgements about right and wrong and to then have sound ideas about what might follow.  That is what I told my youngest child, who is a junior in college.  All that has comprised this post was part of an attempt to give him an explanation of and a vocabulary to describe and deal with an attitude he senses on campus which he calls "The Smug." 

Cost of this effort: some time; look on his face afterwards: priceless!


Bret said...

"That’s because liberalism, by conviction if not definition, is never wrong. "

Of course that's true for any "true belief" and pretty much everybody suffers from that to some degree. Conservatives have some big disadvantages countering liberal dogma. The first is that some of conservative dogma is really, really old and conservatives can't plausibly deny some of the bad stuff of history that's related to the dogma. On the other hand, it's semi-plausible to claim that a party that calls itself national socialism isn't socialist and that atrocities that happened under leftist regimes were perpetrated by malignant individuals and not inherent in the dogma.

There's also the issue that conservatism often identifies with man being "fallen" or the imperfectibility of man whereas the progressive belief is in the perfectibility of man and the only reason that man is not yet perfect must be conservatives fault because they are inherently imperfect and evil. These are "true beliefs" and as such can never be resolved.

"In the 1960s, the Western world got it into its collective head that traditional social arrangements, especially family arrangements, were an instrument of oppression that needed to be torn down."

From my "War of the Sexes" posts, I obviously think they didn't considered it from a high-level enough perspective. I think the transition from industrial to information age and the growth of the service sector was inherently going to destroy "traditional" social arrangements by radically changing the relative value of men and women and radically changing the definition of "suffectiveness."

"...unearned moral and intellectual superiority."

That's why I pretty much always laugh when someone of the left (or right for that matter) calls me some name usually ending in "-ist." The ones doing the name-calling are, to me, often such pathetic, loathsome, and thoughtless creatures that I can't take them seriously. Of course, they feel the same about me, so at least it's symmetric I guess.

Bret said...

And by the way, I really like the phrase "The Smug!"

erp said...

Howard, I like smug too. Krauthammer said it best when he said, We think they're wrong; They think we're evil.

Harry Eagar said...

This is parody, right? I sure hope so.

Annoying Old Guy said...

How could it be worse than the current Blue Hell approach to teaching poor kids? But as always for Eagar, the idle musing of conservatives are always worse than the actual crimes of the MAL.