Monday, January 23, 2017

Liberal narcissism

I put it to you that you are quite likely to meet people who hold these two opinions:

  1. Donald Trump is a evil manipulator who distorts truth in ways that his opponents cannot counter and who fooled millions of people into voting against their own interests.
  2. Donald Trump is a contemptible moron who can't understand certain basic truths.
I trust you see the problem. They manage this trick because neither of these beliefs is really about Trump. 

As others have pointed out before me, imagining our opponents to be evil elevates us. If I'm engaged in a fight against the Turquoise Party that makes me a political partisan. If I imagine the Turquoise Party to be secretly neo-fascists that makes me a brave defender of civilization against the dark forces of evil.

At the same time, however, it's unsettling to consider that I might be wrong. If I'm willing to be honest, I know that this is a very real possibility. Anyone who has been paying attention will know that they have often been wrong about politics and people. If you are heavily invested in a political battle, however, you have to dismiss such thoughts. You can't direct vitriol against someone who might turn out to be right in the end. And so they have to be contemptible morons.

Okay, I hear some say, but this sort of human failing knows no favourites. All political views are going to be subject to this. And now you will expect me to give examples of conservatives or libertarians doing the same. I could. I have no doubt that such examples exist. That said, I think there is a huge difference in degree here. There is something inherent in contemporary liberalism that makes this much more prevalent. What exactly it is I cannot say just yet.

What we can say is that a lot of liberals see the mere existence of opposing views as an existential threat.

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