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When Words Are Weapons

August 15th, 2009 by Myrhaf · 33 Comments · Uncategorized

There are, I believe, two factors that explain the Democrat ad hominem strategy against their opponents in the health care debate (not that there’s much argumentation of ideas going on). One factor is general, and the other more specific.

The general cause is the decline of reason in modern philosophy, and its effect on the left. The postmodern left does not believe that there is reason, but only subjective narratives determined mainly by ethnicity and sex. Language to the left is not used by reason to persuade, but is a weapon used to gain power. Language is a form of force.

This is why the left hates advertising so much; they think it is the way corporations manipulate the minds of the masses and make them act in ways against their own self-interest (in other words, corporate propaganda turns the innocent into right-wingers). One of Obama’s first acts when he took over GM was to cut their advertising budget.

Since words are weapons, the left uses them as such. They tend naturally toward character smears and the “politics of personal destruction.” So they’re going after their opponents on health care the only way they really know how, by calling them a “mob,” “right-wing extremists,” “racists,” “KKK,” and I’ve probably missed a few choice epithets.

This is why Obama said,

“But I don’t want the folks that created the mess — I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking…I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.”

Toleration used to be valued on the left, but those days are over. When words are weapons, then talking is force. You don’t want the enemy to “do a lot of talking.”

The more specific cause is the Swiftboat advertising campaign against John Kerry in 2004, an event that seems to have traumatized the left. Recently Senator Franken — no, I can’t believe he’s a Senator either — was nasty to T. Boone Pickens about his support of the Swiftboaters. The Democrats still remember it well, and it still bothers them.

As the left views words as weapons, it concluded from the Swiftboaters that the mean-spirited right is really good at using words to attack their side. I would say the Swiftboat attack devastated Kerry because it hit home with the truth. I think it was Aquinas who said that the most powerful argument in a debate is the truth. This doesn’t even register with the left. There are no absolutes, no reason, no truth.

The left concluded that Kerry’s problem was that he let the Swiftboaters sink him without responding. It has become dogma among the Democrats that when the Republicans attack, you attack back hard and fast. Thus Obama aides said they would “punch back twice as hard” against their critics. Now, even though 70% of independents are against the health care bill in the House — which means a majority of voters — the Democrats don’t care, they’re fighting back to avoid John Kerry’s failure.

Modern philosophy has corrupted our culture and created this nastiness. The left sees words as weapons, and probably some precincts of the right, who are not altogether immune from the dominant trend in philosophy, also have no confidence in or understanding of reason. When people use words as weapons in the pursuit of power, without regard to the truth, can the use of real weapons be far behind? How long until factions begin shooting at one another?

UPDATE: Corrected a name. Al Franken feuded with T. Boone Pickens, not Warren Buffet, as I first wrote.

33 Comments so far ↓

  • Neil Parille

    Wasn’t Franken angry at T. Boone Pickens? I think Buffet is a big dem.

  • Mike N

    Right on Myrhaf, that’s a great point about how the anti-conceptual left uses words not to convey ideas, but as attack weapons mainly because they don’t know any other way of interacting with their fellow humans. I just wish the American public would wake up to this fact.

  • Bingo

    “The left concluded that Kerry’s problem was that he let the Swiftboaters sink him without responding.”

    You correctly identify the achilles heel of the leftist paradigm.

    Were there ever a need for an application of “Occam’s Razor”, surely the numerous and tortured leftist rationales for the Kerry smackdown by the Swiftvets is one.

    The leftist ideology is incapable of comprehending that a product of their collective “thought” (John Kerry vs. Swiftvets, man-made global warming, Obamacare), once formulated and espoused, might be fundamentally flawed by their own prediliction for truth as they want it to be vs. truth as it actually is.

    Hence, when their ideologically constructed persona of John Kerry fell prey to a factually-based and substantive assault, they will invariably learn the wrong lesson…

    “It has become dogma among the Democrats that when the Republicans attack, you attack back hard and fast.”

    They need to believe that the remarkable success of the Swiftvets is only explainable as the triumph of circumstance over substance…and they are bringing that faulty premise to the ongoing debate.

    They will lose…again.

  • Myrhaf

    You’re right, Neil — it was T. Boone Pickens. My mistake for not googling it.

  • madmax

    Are there any guesses as to how long before the Left takes to organized violence. I guess in one sense they already have with environmental terrorism and the insanity that occurs at all these “G8” type “summits”.

    Also Myrhaf, you write this:

    “…some precincts of the right, who are not altogether immune from the dominant trend in philosophy, also have no confidence in or understanding of reason.”

    I would say that most indeed the overwhelming majority of the Right have no confidence or understanding of reason. The Religious Right thinks that reason is the handmaiden of faith as in we must have “faith in reason” and the secular Right worships at the alter of David Hume. They accept the Is/Ought as gospel and believe that only liberals believe in the power of man’s “unaided reason” whereas true Conservatives know that reason is limited and must be supplemented with traditions and institutions – things “external” to man (because only such “external” things can have permanence)

    So I think that statement is *much* too generous to Conservatives. If they had more respect for reason we wouldn’t be in this mess.

  • Grant

    Has anyone else ever experienced the glee which overtakes liberal’s face – particularly a young liberal – when he thinks that he’s defeated your argument merely by, on the spur of the moment, concocting a half-baked counter-argument to it?

    They really do believe that words have a metaphysical potency. Their conception of just what reason is is so perverted that if they are able to utter anything which will confound or stifle their opponent and cause him to lose his composure, then in their minds they have responsibly rejected what he was saying. Even if it’s just a senseless string of shrieks passed off as a protest song.

    They truly are social-metaphysicans and nihilists to the core. I think this explains why so much of the left-wing counter culture is marked by drug abuse and unkempt appearances. They are so preoccupied with knocking things down, and so convinced that it is an accomplishment in it’s own right, that they incorporate it into the smallest details of who they are. They intentionally make themselves as ugly as they can get away with as symbolic badges of honor – displaying their committment to their hatred of values.

  • Michael Labeit

    It sounds like an aesthetic argument can be made against left-liberalism – that it corrupts the minds of those who adopt it to such a degree that the argumentative result is all but wretched: ad hominems, ad baculums, ad populums, etc.

  • Neil Parille

    Mr. Max,

    I think the concept of “faith in reason” is approriate. Consider some standard philosophical problems such as the existence of the external world and the reliability of sense perception. I don’t deny that there are some good arguments here, but even the best have some problems. Is it a mistake to believe that my senses are reliable even though I can’t answer all the skeptic’s arguments? Even if I could, what about the average person who isn’t able to follow philosophical arguments?

    Or consider the problem of induction. Ayn Rand said she didn’t solve it. But if she believed induction was valid, then she must have had “faith” that it could be solved.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Neil –

    What is your definition of “faith”?

    My definition — and the definition understood by most religionists and non-religionists alike — is not a careless shorthand for “any claim of knowledge.” See John 20:24-29 for this distinction as Christians understand it (although an Objectivist would of course disagree with the evaluation by Jesus in verse 29).

  • madmax

    Here is how Dr. Peikoff describes reason:

    “The senses, concepts, logic: these are the elements of man’s rational faculty—its start, its form, its method. In essence, “follow reason” means: base knowledge on observation; form concepts according to the actual (measurable) relationships among concretes; use concepts according to the rules of logic (ultimately, the Law of Identity). Since each of these elements is based on the facts of reality, the conclusions reached by a process of reason are objective.

    The alternative to reason is some form of mysticism or skepticism.”

    Here is how he describes faith:

    ““Faith” designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof.”


    How would it be possible to base the first on the second?

  • Mike

    Grant, I witness that all the time and you’re spot-on. I call that practice “flinging,” because it is as though the liberal just plunges his hands into a vat of goop (words), pulls out a handful, and just flings them back at you, regardless of whether they actually answer the premise of the argument you originally made.

    Those who practice a lot have tried-and-true clumps of goop to fling that contain the right buzzphrases and SOUND just on-point enough that, when combined with the liberal’s unbending confidence in the rightness of his position, the ignorant witnessing the exchange will think the liberal has won.

    I’ve actually taken to answering a flinging by saying, “Don’t just fling a phrase at me that you read on the internet. Do you have an answer or not: is it ever right to protect the individual rights of one person by violating the rights of another? Yes or no?”

    At that point they just fling again, but even the dimmer bulbs among those listening will perceive that the liberal is trying to sidestep the subject.

  • Neil Parille

    Mr. Max,

    I do not consider Leonard Peikoff to be an authority on anything other than Objectivism.

    His definition of “faith” is not what religious people mean by faith (for the most part).

    I do not think Peikoff has made a serious study of religion, based on my readings of his books and listening to his DIM lectures.

  • Neil Parille

    Mr. Max,

    I have a book entitled The Assurance of Things Hoped For: A Theology of Faith by Avery Dulles, one of the more important Catholic theologians of recent memory. He has a historical overview. I checked the entries for Augustine, Calvin and Aquinas. None of these major thinkers defines faith the way Peikoff does.

    Now, Peikoff is free to define faith however he wants, but “religionists” aren’t bound by what he says.

    I should correct what I said before. I do not consider Peikoff an authority on Objectivism, if by that you mean Rand’s philosophy. He claims in OPAR that he has based some of his work on private discussions with Rand. Now that we know he has sanctioned the doctoring of Rand’s work, I consider anything he says on Objectivism “arbitrary.”

  • dismuke

    “I think it was Aquinas who said that the most powerful argument in a debate is the truth. This doesn’t even register with the left. There are no absolutes, no reason, no truth.”

    Yes! To a Leftist, “reality” is merely something that is created by words and the intentions behind them.

    Leftists have never progressed much beyond the six year old who thinks his parents are being “mean” when they tell him that they simply do not have the money to pay for a trip to Disneyland. “But going to Disneyland would be fun,” the child repeatedly protests. “But Jimmy’s family got to go to Disneyland.” In the child’s mind, his parents make all sorts of things happen – a home, food, clothing, a car, etc. He has no idea how they make such things happen and he doesn’t really care – and thus he concludes that his parents denying him a trip to Disneyland has to be motivated by malevolence on their part with their talk about not having money being little more than a rationalization. To a child and a Leftist, the fact that something is deemed desirable ought to be the end of the argument.

    To a Leftist, a person’s virtue is not determined by his actions or how in touch he is with reality but rather by his motivations. Therefore, a person’s opinions are to be measured not by how much they conform with reality but by the motivation behind them.

    Thus a person who points out that socialized medicine leads to shortages, rationing and death panels is mean and immoral on grounds of: why would anyone want to believe such a thing to be true? A truly benevolent person would want government control of medicine to produce universal abundance of high quality medical care that people could access at any time for little or no cost. What kind of person would NOT want something like that to happen – unless of course he was malevolent and in the employ of the insurance or medical industry wishing to preserve his financial stake in the current system at the expense of his fellow citizens?

    Those who demonstrate why socialized medicine is necessarily a disaster and point to overwhelming evidence in England and Canada – well, to a Leftists, such evidence, no matter how compelling it may be, is little more than a rationalization of and proof of their opponents’ malevolent intentions. Indeed, a Leftist regards such criticism as being profoundly destructive and evil because it undermines what they believe to be the magical power of motivations in the form of words to shape “reality.” If everybody would just have the same “good intentions” and believed in it, then socialized medicine would be a resounding success. But naysayers come along and prevent that from happening with their pesky rationalizations and evidence.

    If socialized medicine fails, it is not because there is anything wrong with socialized medicine – it is because the malevolent naysayers who want it to fail keep pointing out its failures.

    Demonstrate why solar panels are not sufficient to replace the power grid – well, that makes you a bad person. Why would you be against unlimited, free, non-polluting power – unless of course you work for the greedy oil industry? Facts? Evidence? You wouldn’t even go looking for such “evidence” unless you had the malevolent intention of trying to destroy solar energy.

    John Kerry? John Kerry is a virtuous person because he has noble Leftist intentions. John Kerry presents himself as a war hero. Why would anybody not want John Kerry to be a war hero? Why would anybody even bother to challenge his status as a war hero – unless they were motivated by malevolent intentions of trying to stop him from becoming president and implementing his noble agenda? Facts? Evidence? Why are they even trying to dig this kind of stuff up in the first place? If nobody challenged Kerry’s status as a hero, then he would be a hero.

    To a Leftists, “reality” ought to be what they want it to be. Unfortunately, in our universe, there is this malevolent, tyrannical mystical goblin called “The Man” who stands in the way and says “no!” and reshapes “reality” according to his malicious whims. If you criticize or in any way stand in way of what a Leftist wants – well, you are nothing more than an evil agent of The Man.

    Nancy Pelosi says the protesters at the town hall meetings are “Nazis.” I have no doubt that many Leftists, and perhaps even Peolosi herself, sincerely believe that to be true – using the term “Nazi” to mean “a malevolent tyrant.” To a Leftist, the people at the town halls are agents of The Man. By protesting socialized medicine and saying “mean things” about it, the people at the town halls meetings are preventing the Left’s benevolent intentions and visions from becoming “reality” – which in their eyes is profoundly evil and makes the protesters no better than jack booted thugs. What do jack booted thugs do? They impose the will of the dictator upon everybody else. To the Leftist, that is what the protesters at the town halls are doing – imposing the will of The Man by virtue of their naysaying.

    The Left genuinely believe that they are the true champions of freedom and that it is they who are fighting tyranny. What you and I call “reality” and accept as a given and an absolute is, to a Leftist, an outrageous and profoundly unjust tyranny.

    In a fair and just world, “reality” would immediately and automatically bend itself and conform to the Leftist’s wishes, whims and intrinsically benevolent intentions. THAT is the natural and proper order and the Utopia that the Leftist seeks.

    Unfortunately, there exists The Man – and his mean-spirited wishes, whims and malevolent intentions keep canceling out and nullifying the virtuous wishes and intentions of the Leftist. And the power of The Man’s malevolent wishes and intentions is further intensified by those of his minions such as The Rich, Republicans and the protesters at the town halls and all of the various man-made institutions that such people set up to perpetuate the power of The Man.

    The protesters at the town halls are little more than Brown Shirts because they are acting on and imposing on “reality” the malevolent intentions of The Man – a tyrant whose vast powers are so pervasive that Adolph Hitler was little more than a petty bureaucrat by comparison. The protesters say that they are trying to prevent tyranny from coming to America. To the Leftist, that is absurd – because, to them, they already live in a tyranny which you and I call the absolutism of reality.

    To a Leftist the only way that “liberation” will ever come is if all of the institutions and legions of followers though which “The Man” implements his will are co-opted and, eventually, forcefully destroyed. Only when that happens will we reach a state of nirvana where one’s intentions are immediately and automatically realized. It is such “liberation” which totally consumes the likes the Obamas and Pelosis of the world and which motivates their every action – it is the end by which all means are justified. Of course, they will never achieve it. Even after they assumed absolute power, Hitler and Stalin were both psychological wrecks who were constantly tormented and forever undercut by their own versions of “The Man.” It is, of course, impossible to destroy and wipe out reality – but it is very possible and, unfortunately, not uncommon for Leftists to wipe out an awful lot of people in the process of trying.

  • Michael Labeit


    I would assert that faith in anything is mistaken, including in reason. Faith is belief without evidence – most honest religionists I believe would agree to that definition. Evidence allows one to determine that a claim is true. Without evidence, one cannot know that a given proposition corresponds with the facts of reality. So while a person may have “faith in reason” that person does not know whether reason is effective or not as an epistemological method. To say, for example, that I have “faith in reason” would be equivalent to saying that “I believe in the truth or efficacy of reason in the absence of evidence that demonstrates that reason contains any truth or is efficacious.”

    Furthermore, we need not have to have faith in reason, for reason is a valid epistemological method. Reason ultimately rests upon axioms such as our sense perception, and the laws of logic. The efficacy of the senses cannot be coherently denied because all arguments, including denials, rest upon some form of sense perception. A person who possessed no senses would not be conscious of reality, and therefore argumentatively impotent.

    Lastly, induction does not have to produce contextless, absolute truths in order to be valid.

  • RadCap

    Instead of addressing the question, providing a rational argument against the given description of faith, or supplying an alternative description of the term, Neil instead appeals to authority and engages in ad hom attacks against Dr. Peikoff.

    We have in our midsts a living example of the type of individual discussed in the above article!

  • madmax


    You still haven’t given us your definition of faith. Instead of attacking Dr. Peikoff just let us know what you mean by faith.

  • madmax

    I think Dismuke’s comment should be a blog post of its own. It perfectly captures the subjectivism of the left and how it results in their war with reality. Also, the use of the war against “the man” metaphor is the best way I have seen to accurately describe the psychology of leftists. Gems of wisdom like that shouldn’t be left in the comments section.

  • Moataz

    dismuke’s post is excellent and hilarious at the same time. Max mentioned subjectivism of the left but aren’t altruists subjectivists by default.

  • Neil Parille

    Mr. Max,

    1. If Peikoff is going to attack faith or people who have faith, he should use some standard definition. Otherwise we have a straw man, don’t we?

    2. I would define faith in a way similar to that to William James in The Will to Believe. “Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds; for to say under such circumstances, ‘Do not decide, but leave the question open,’ is itself a passional decision,–just like deciding yes or no,–and is attended with the same risk of losing truth.”

  • Jim May

    1. If Peikoff is going to attack faith or people who have faith, he should use some standard definition. Otherwise we have a straw man, don’t we?

    No. He should use a *factual* definition.

    The common meaning of “faith” packages in things which have nothing to do with the core idea of faith, and as such is epistemologically invalid.

    His definition of “faith” is not what religious people mean by faith (for the most part).

    So what? This is argumentum ad numerum, and therefore irrelevant.

    Faith is what it is: the assertion of the arbitrary as being cognitively equivalent to the non-arbitrary. It is the willful breach of the mind’s first and most important input filter: the rejection of the arbitrary. It is the willful consideration of noise as signal.

    I make no appeals to any authority on this; I have ample evidence of this from the words and actions of the faithful, both written and spoken, as well as the internal logic of the ideas involved.

    That James quote is incoherent question-begging. Care to try using your own words instead?

  • madmax


    The James quote is pathetic. Please give a definition of faith in your own words and make an argument how Peikoff’s (and Jim May’s) definition of faith is wrong.

    You have a history of this type of “hit and run” ad hominem “argumentation”. You have done this on Nyquist’s blog, on Auster’s, and at SoloPassion (particularly with regards to James Valiant). I would love to see you follow a line of argumentation through to its end without resorting to attacks on Rand or Peikoff.

    You have set yourself the task of making the skeptical argument that the senses may be invalid and that conclusions of reason must therefore be accepted on faith and, further, that a proper definition of faith is not incompatible with something that you are calling “reason”. Now please, defend these positions with arguments that we can interact with.

  • Michael Labeit

    Argumentum ad hit-and-runnum

  • RadCap

    Neil said:

    “I would define faith in a way similar to that to William James in The Will to Believe. “Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds; for to say under such circumstances, ‘Do not decide, but leave the question open,’ is itself a passional decision,–just like deciding yes or no,–and is attended with the same risk of losing truth.””

    If Neil truly believes the above is a DEFINITION of *anything* (let alone ‘faith’), then he has a MUCH bigger problems than his simple failure to grasp the definition of ‘faith’.

  • RadCap

    Oh – and Neil claims Dr. Peikoff doesn’t use a “standard” definition when it comes to “faith”. Well, an assortment of dictionaries all provide definitions of faith quite in line with the one Dr. P has provided:

    “belief that is not based on proof”
    “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. ”
    “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”
    “unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence”
    “strong belief in something, esp. without proof”
    “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof”
    “Mental acceptance of and confidence in a claim as truth without proof supporting the claim”

    In other words, the ONLY person creating “straw men” here is Neil himself.

    Isn’t it funny how the irrational almost unfailing PROJECT their OWN fallacies upon those they are attacking? One might be tempted to call it pathological.

  • madmax

    Theologians play epistemological games with faith. See for example this entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “The twofold order of knowledge. — “The Catholic Church”, says the Vatican Council, III, iv, “has always held that there is a twofold order of knowledge, and that these two orders are distinguished from one another not only in their principle but in their object; in one we know by natural reason, in the other by Divine faith; the object of the one is truth attainable by natural reason, the object of the other is mysteries hidden in God, but which we have to believe and which can only be known to us by Divine revelation.”

    “…for example, we accept the statement that the sun is 90,000,000 miles distant from the earth because competent, veracious authorities vouch for the fact. This last kind of knowledge is termed faith, and is clearly necessary in daily life. If the authority upon which we base our assent is human and therefore fallible, we have human and fallible faith; if the authority is Divine, we have Divine and infallible faith.”


    You can see by the above the con games that they are playing. I have a feeling that this is what Neil is referring to. These are the games that theists play when they say “faith in reason” or that “reason” leads to intelligent design or the belief in a transcendent, supernatural realm. Its all epistemological corruption.

  • Mike


    Though I think it was implicit in your quoting that material, I like to state it explicitly just to complete the point:

    It’s not faith to accept that the sun is 90M miles away. The sun is right there. We can get our telescopes, etc, and measure it for ourselves if we want to confirm it. Every single human being can, if they want to, attempt to disprove that figure by gathering facts that demonstrate otherwise. The facts do not demonstrate otherwise, ergo it is the truth and can be rationally considered proven. Rational perception, that of those who have already measured it and those who understand that they can do the same if the need ever presented itself, is the manner in which we know the sun is 90M miles away. Faith has nothing to do with it.

  • Roger Theriault

    I second the suggestion from madmax that Dismuke’s cogent comment be made a post of its own. I’ve wondered about the psychology of Leftists for many years. Remembering all the discussions I’ve had with Leftists, Dismuke makes perfect sense, and now I think I understand them.

  • dismuke

    Madmax and Roger –

    Thanks for your nice remarks regarding my comments.

    The comments were pretty much written “stream of consciousness” style. I really didn’t plan on writing anything – Myrhaf’s posting hit on a few things that more or less inspired it to come out.

    I definitely want to put up a posting about it sometime. Back in September, I put up additional comments along similar lines touching on the Leftist and his relationship to “The Man” on the comments section of Myrhaf’s blog. What I would like to do is put up a posting that would incorporate the points made in those earlier comments as well.

    Plus, there is also the vast, highly regimented and all-pervasive totalitarian regime that The Man has imposed to keep Leftists in line and under His thumb. The name of this evil empire is: The System. The humiliating indignity that the Leftist suffers and endures while having to live under the oppressive thumb of The System has profound psychological consequences which are helpful in understanding the Leftist mindset and which results in and helps explain a wide variety of Leftist behavior that reality oriented people usually find baffling and inexplicable. I have not yet written about that – and it is something I would also like to include and expand on in the eventual posting.

    My difficulty is that, when inspiration strikes me, I am very good about pouring stuff out “stream of consciousness” style. But going back and editing it – making it less wordy and flow better – is something that is much more time consuming and difficult. It is definitely something I am wanting to do – it is just a matter of my sitting down and actually doing it.

  • madmax


    I’m glad to hear that you have a blog post in mind. Your way of looking at the left is one of the best that I have seen. I’ll give you one objection that I have encountered. Liberals will say that their politics flows from a desire to end suffering and not a desire to punish anyone. They look on Ayn Rand’s “hatred of the good for being the good” as a malicious “right wing” attack on their benevolence.

    Do you think that, as a cultural phenomenon, there are large numbers of liberals motivated by a misguided compassion and not by a hatred of the “man” or his system? I’m dubious of that argument. Most of today’s left seems nihilist to their core and those that are not nihilist still are motivated by a deeply internalized altruism and egalitarianism. Even if it could be argued that their fierce commitment to altruism and egalitarianism was not malicious my response would be “so what?”. Its still extremely destructive.

  • Andrew Dalton

    madmax –

    Your distinction is between left-liberals and the consistent (or “hard”) leftists. There are many left-liberals who are honestly mistaken; the problem is that they’re not in positions of ideological leadership.

    Consider specific issues on the broadly defined “Left” such as foreign policy, race, environmentalism, and so on. In each case, the hard leftists have the pulpit. And it’s the outspoken leaders of a movement who set the course of history. The rank and file, no matter how numerous, don’t.

    For reasons of both accuracy and tactics, I never pejoratively use the word “liberal” to mean leftist. Such an error may alienate potential allies, and it allow both leftists and conservatives to persist in the mythology that the Left is the child of the Enlightenment.

  • madmax

    “And it’s the outspoken leaders of a movement who set the course of history. ”

    That’s a great point. I have always applied that principle to totalitarian movements (environmentalism for example) but I never actually considered it in the context of the entire left-liberal movement as a whole.

    “For reasons of both accuracy and tactics, I never pejoratively use the word “liberal” to mean leftist.”

    Then Dismuke’s “hatred of the man” analogy applies most directly to leftists and not to liberals. Now that I think of it, this fits with my experience. I know many liberals who wouldn’t fit Dismuke’s description. But all the leftists I know fit that description to a T.

  • dismuke

    I, too, agree that it is important to distinguish between Leftists and mere liberals and that there are plenty of mere liberals who are decent individuals, some of whom are even engaging and enjoyable to be around.

    However, I do think there is a definite connection between the two. Trying to understand a liberal will not necessarily enable you to understand a Leftist. But once you understand the nature of the Leftist, the liberal becomes much easier to understand.

    Basically, I think the essence of being a Leftist consists of the peculiar relationship that the Leftist has with reality.

    The other day while searching for something I ran across a quote from last year’s Democratic convention by Michelle Obama that actually identifies that relationship. She said:

    – – – –

    ” Barack stood up that day,” talking about a visit to Chicago neighborhoods, “and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be…”

    And, “All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do – that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.”

    – – – –

    Of course, taken out of context, that is something that even an Objectivist might feel sympathetic with – after all, Ayn Rand spoke of Romantic art as projecting the world as “it might be and ought to be.” But that is NOT what the Obamas are talking about when they talk about the world as it SHOULD be verses the world as it IS.

    To them, the world as it should be is that sort of nirvana I mentioned – a world where one gets whatever one wants without cost or consequence. But what stands in their way of getting it is the “world as it is” – i.e., the world ruled by The Man via The System.

    Because the only absolute in this world to a Leftist is his wishes and desires, the distinction in his mind between what Ayn Rand described as the metaphysical verses the man made is fuzzy at best. Thus the hippies at Woodstock thought it was “unfair” that a thunderstorm inconvenienced their little party and yelled curses at the sky. It was an example of “the world as it is” getting in the way of their desires. Thus the Leftists think it is “unfair” that some people are born with less talent and in worse circumstances than others and that it is “unfair” that somebody who is lazy is not able to acquire the things he wants the same way as someone who works hard and is productive. It is unfair because it is an example of the “world as it is” getting in the way of people getting whatever they desire, which would be the case in the “world as it should be.”

    What the Leftist and the liberal both have in common is their belief that the “world as it is” is, at best, unfair, corrupt and rotten. The Leftist has a deep seated and profoundly personal hatred and resentment towards that world- a resentment and hatred that goes to the very core of his being.

    The liberal, by contrast, has a much better relationship with the “world as it is” – and, to some degree, might even feel comfortable and at peace with many aspects of that world. But, nevertheless, the liberal still believes that “the world as it is” is profoundly flawed and unfair when compared with the “world as it should be.”

    Yes, many are probably genuine in their self professed benevolence. But their position still amounts to a child-like argument.

    “Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody could earn a decent wage at a fulfilling job – and have a nice house and not be wanting for food, shelter and other essentials?” Well, please find for me anybody – even an Objectivist – who would say that something like that would somehow not be nice? You can argue with the person all day and point to the many things that can stand in the way of that happening and the liberal will be unmoved. What matters is the liberal’s INTENTIONS – i.e., their desire for the “world as it should be.” All of your facts, evidence and arguments are nothing more than artifacts of the “world that is” which is merely an undesirable transient aberration. What REALLY counts is “the world as it should be” which both the liberal and the Leftist view as each person’s birthright – a birthright that we have all been deprived of by the blighted “world as it is.”

    The liberal’s notion of the “world as it should be” may not be the all out total war on reality that the Leftists’ wished-for nirvana is, but he believes in it nevertheless – and, as a result, he is largely blind to the consequences that his quest for it has on “the world as it is” that the rest of us are concerned about and have to live in.