Screaming at each other across the chasm. Left and Right


ZenPundit, an intelligent, right-wing libertarian blog was asked the following by a liberal reader.

Hi. As an educated and articulate libertarian person, could you PLEASE point me to conservative points of view that aren’t espoused by retarded ranting weirdos? I know there must be some. Help.

They did so, splitting conservative points of view into four categories (paleocons, neocons, libertarians, and the religious right) and providing useful links.

They then said the current state of political debate seems composed mainly of screaming at each other, and that we see warped views of each other through the filter of the media.

If all I saw of conservatism were the bombthrowing personalities in 30 second MSM clips, I’d think the Right was composed of wingnuts too.

It isn’t, of course, any more than the Left is exclusively populated by Hugo Chavez worshipping, Cindy Sheehan clones. I think the problem in the mutual perception of respective Left-Right wingnuttery comes down to three factors:

1. Partisanship

2. Ideology

3. The Infotainment Media Business Model

Number three is the most significant factor. Bombastic clowns draw an audience. Reasoned discourse puts viewers to sleep. The media is a business, not a charity organization or even a totally one-sided political machine. Basically liberal broadcast networks will air a few conservatives who bring in ad revenue. Period. This model is a driver to propagating corrosive, demonizing, political rhetoric in the public discourse and it garners attention far beyond the actual numbers of people who genuinely support such positions.

Agreed. There’s way too much demonizing going on. Some liberal blogs seem to delight in attacking any conservative simply because they are conservative. And vice versa, of course. Too few are listening. That’s dangerous. Someone can oppose health care reform because they favor small government and not because they are knuckle-dragging racists who think Obama is a CommuNazi. Really.

Here’s some of the main groupings on the left as I see them.

– Liberals
– Progressives
– Non-socialist radicals (as typified by Saul Alinsky)
– Anarchists (the G20 protesters in Pittsburgh)
– Socialists (the alphabet soup of Marxist parties, some of whom have considerable influence via front groups.)

The first three are mostly friendly with each other. Anarchists and Socialists are antagonistic, with anarchists seeing socialists as authoritarian buttheads and socialists seeing anarchists as undisciplined loose cannons – this split has been going on for, oh, 100 years or so.

BTW, the very first car bomb was set off on Wall Street by an anarchist in 1921.

Socialist groups of course split and re-split endlessly according to their perception that they and only they truly understand what Karl Marx meant. Monty Python’s skit on the Judean People’s Front is dead on target.

I hope we of various political views can listen and discuss issues and not just scream at each other. There’s way too much of that going on now. It’s not healthy.

  • UJ

    For simplicity’s sake, I’d group Liberals and Progressives together as one, since their main differences are tempo and priorities, not any larger principles.

    • I see progressives as more to the left than liberals, but yes, the boundaries blur

  • DaveRiley

    It seems to me that your list is formatted by mistakes and simplification. You say that – Socialists are made up of Marxist parties when that surely is wrong. “Socialists’ are many kinds of people not just Marxists or Marxists in parties. In fact there are very many more socialists I’m sure outside the far left parties than in them. Similarly there are many kinds of Anarchists and among those too are socialists.

    Similarly if Saul Alinsky is a Non socialist radical then how radical is his perspective if he doesnt believe in social change of that sort of magnitude? I know the dialogue in the IS is different than elsewhere but I know you are wrong and very schematic with this listing.

    The US “Liberal” and “Progressive” traditions are somewhat indigenous and in way of rationale I’ve always looked upon them as a way for people to excuse their views so that they won’t be labeled unpatriot or communist. The problem is that it’s Democrat speak and the word “Left” is bandied about as a dirty word in the US.

    The other complication is that the very strong libertarian tradition in the US has both right and left forks so that your “anarchist” notion is not very useful as you lay it out. In your country Libertarians can be in the Republican Party too because the anarchist concept of state power merges comfortably sometimes with the notion of small government or none.

    You also don’t list the Greens — and the greens tradition is a mix and match affair comprising ecosocialists(many of whom are indeed Marxists) as well as libertarians, “liberals’ and the like.

    You similarly fail to note the core issue and that is the overwhelming pull of the Democrats on the political left such it is a more useful classificatioon to divide the political environment between Democrats and non Democrats to encompass those who see change outside the the clutches of that party.

    • A week ago, you said you’d never heard of Alinsky, now you’re an expert on him?

      He was plenty radical and wanted major change. But said it had to happen one community at a time

    • DJ

      I agree with Dave as far as the first paragraph: there are surely many socialists who are not Marxists or Maoists. Much of Europe favors a democratic socialist model, and many in the U.S. left favor one as well.

      However, there’s no denying the radicalism of the non-socialist radicals, who also include Day and, internationally, Gandhi and Ariyaratne. They seek not just to change the role of government, but move beyond its supremacy.

      The Greens, while influential in Europe, here in the U.S.– well, I can’t think of a word other than clusterf***. Nice idea (I was a Green for about a decade), but seemingly unsuited to our adversarial American nature.

      But I think the most glaring oversight Bob makes is in “the problem in the mutual perception of respective Left-Right wingnuttery…” That is the benefit the political elite gain through dividing us. This is a more subtle expression of the cycle of violence: It keeps them in power, actually gaining them power at the expense of moderate voices, while we fight amongst ourselves instead of focusing our frustrations at them.

      For example, in the gun control debate, it serves the promoters of each side to fight more than to compromise, and in the Iraq war, Dems had a vested interest in NOT ending the war under Bush’s watch so they could continue to oppose it.

      Health care is another example: we may eventually get some sort of reform, though it looks like in the end, after all the rhetoric, we’ll get Democrat Baucus’s neo-Republican version. Meanwhile, both sides are using the health care fight to misdirect us from more important issues, like the fact that we now live in a banana republic where the politicians and their buddies have been looting the treasury– and continue to do so even though there’s a different party running things.

      Nothing up my sleeve…

      • Also. on may issues now, there is no hard left-right divide, supporters can be all over the map.

  • DJ

    Too often there’s little difference at all– which is why the Dem/GOP steamroller has to create them. The health care bill is a prime example: it looks like, after all the screaming and chest-beating, the Dems will get their victory by “forcing on” the GOP just what GOP proposed a few years back. So Dems get what they want– a victory trumpet– and GOPs get what they want– something to scream about– and the proposal (apparently) suits them both just fine.

    So why the show? You know the answer already.

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