What explains the vicious left?

images-2I recently wrote about a talk by scientist David Gelernter, at the state university. A student got up to ask about an article he’d written – “What Explains the Vicious Left?” The student said he’s politically moderate, and a pervasive, aggressive campus left-wing atmosphere makes him feel under attack.

I too have written about the poisoning of American politics by those who believe people with opposing views are not just wrong but wicked. And that, while both left and right are guilty, the left is far the bigger culprit.* imagesThis is especially true on campuses, where the left totally dominates, and seeks to disallow dissent. This is the “political correctness” that is so vile.

Its latest manifestation is to “protect” students from words or ideas that might make them “uncomfortable.” We hear much about verbal “micro-aggressions” having that effect, especially on minority students. Ethnic and gender minorities, that is. images-3But what about the minority that is truly persecuted – non-leftist students – like the questioner at Gelernter’s talk? Where is the concern about their being made uncomfortable, by efforts to browbeat them into silence?

I’m reminded of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dred Scott case that blacks have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” On campuses today, conservatives have no rights a leftist is bound to respect. “The left seems to have lost its taste for democracy,” Gelernter’s article said.

Responding to the questioner, he noted that at Yale, where he teaches, conservative students have come to his office in tears because of the left’s “frantic fervor” and bullying. Gelernter suggested the phenomenon has to do with the fact that campus leftists are almost exclusively atheist/agnostic, whereas conservatives are frequently religious.

UnknownThe latter, he said, are cocooned in a strongly held moralistic belief system, satisfying a fairly universal psychological need. And with that box checked off, they don’t infuse their political views with a similar moral fervor. For them, politics is just politics. Atheist leftists, on the other hand, have only their politics to fill this psychological need, which is why they become so fierce. “Politics is their faith, in default of any other; it is the basis of their moral life.”

And naturally they are very protective of that faith, responding ferociously to any challenge; unwilling even to let opposing ideas be heard. (Just like some religious faiths, even today – apostasy is punished with death in some Muslim lands.)

More generally, politics is becoming very tribal, “us against them,” and for many it’s their core identity – virtually their ethnicity. As for why this is more true on the left, Gelernter’s religion-based theory may be at least a partial explanation. But there’s much in his article I find problematic. He’s evidently religious himself, and argues that the problem could only be cured with a religious revival — “a miracle.” Yet he seems to think it possible – ignoring why religious belief is declining — its sheer implausibility. (Though implausible ideas aren’t hampering certain presidential contenders.)

In googling Gelernter’s article, I found comments from left-wingers that were . . . surprise . . . absolutely vicious. Exemplifying the very syndrome he discusses. (Somewhat ironic, with leftists also full of talk about kindness, compassion, non-judgmentalism, and so forth.)

images-4At one time, the kind of moralistic fervor Gelernter discusses drove people to burn dissenters alive. At least we haven’t reached that stage in politics.

Yet.

*Journalism professor Rosemary Armao, frequently on local radio discussion shows, supporting Hillary, has remarked upon the viciousness of messages she’s received from Bernie backers. (But none from Republicans.)

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5 Responses to “What explains the vicious left?”

  1. Pedro Dunn Says:

    This does happen, however, sometimes the media distorts what is really happening by exaggerated headlines, or leaving key data from the story. Often it is a small group of students – or a peculiar department, committee, and when they push their agenda, it is knocked down at the next level. I’m not saying it does not happen – I’ve seen it on my own campus, but often when I track down source material, the story gets muted from the first post.

  2. Paul Landsberg Says:

    By my rough math over 7.5 million voters have gone out and voted for Trump. That is a whole lot of scary ignorance about the consequences of their actions by the Republicans. Any viciousness on the left is just a reflection of the viciousness that plays out at the national level, on the biased news networks, social media, and comments sections on websites.

    Have we lost civil discourse as a nation? Yes. A long long time ago. I was mulling it over though and there are people within our political institutions, industry, etc. that have absolutely no shame whatsoever. They can be spouting utterly verifiable stupidity, and not blink and eye when called on it. These same kinds of people can be shown to be horrifically wrong based on blind adherence to some political agenda (Flint, Michigan is a good example) and there is no concept of honor, no concept of “I was wrong,” instead a shrug of the shoulders and more of the same.

    I could even make the argument that “civil discourse” as practiced by the Republicans didn’t work so well with Donald Trump.

    I don’t have any answers. There are many many very ugly strident people on both sides of the political divide.

  3. Greg Says:

    I disagree that the far left is more vicious than the far right, in fact I believe exactly the opposite is true. Admittedly, I am a moderate-type liberal and view issues from that reference frame , so perhaps our different opinion is just a reflection of different perspectives.

    More to the point, I am disturbed that our politics seemed to be defined by the extremes these days. That is a very unfortunate indeed. The best solution to any problem is most often found somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum. It is these more moderate types of people we should listen to in order to inform our public opinions.

  4. rationaloptimist Says:

    OF COURSE most people believe that those they disagree with are the most vicious.

  5. Karen Smith Says:

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