Saturday, April 21, 2018

Exceptions

     Toward the middle of the excellent (though paranoid) 1975 movie Three Days of the Condor, we are treated to a brief exchange between a Deputy Director of the CIA, played by Cliff Robertson, and the Director, played by the late John Houseman. Houseman is reminiscing about his wartime experiences, and Robertson asks him, “You miss that kind of action, sir?” Houseman looks away briefly and replies, “No...I miss that kind of clarity.”

     Clarity in wartime is purchased at a high price. You must believe, absolutely and unconditionally, that yours is the side of right and justice, and that therefore whatever it takes to defeat the enemy is licit, perhaps even required of you. You must be able to shrug off “collateral damage,” one of the inevitable horrors of war, as “just one of those things.” And if you encounter an individual from the other side whom you cannot help but like or admire, you must invoke the Exception defense:

Smith: Xs are bad!
Jones: But you like Davis, and he’s an X.
Smith: Well, he’s an exception.

     The closer our political struggles come to outright warfare, the more prevalent the above mindset, and the rarer the Exception defense, will become.


     A few days ago, in commenting on Kevin Williamson’s brief tenure and sudden firing by The Atlantic, I wrote thus:

     Seriously, could anyone familiar with The Atlantic’s op-ed positions, tone, and readership have reasonably expected anything else? Could Williamson have expected anything else? Attempts by the Right to counter-infiltrate Leftist institutions always work out the same way: the infiltrator is hauled up and hanged with a maximum of fanfare. Kevin Williamson was no exception, nor should he have expected to be one.

     Leftist institutions such as The Atlantic are the ideological supreme commands of the enemy. They respect only power. They formulate and emit the General Orders to which the second and third-tier activists of the Left subsequently conform. When they seduce a conservative into their ranks, it’s with the intention of corrupting him, not debating or learning from him. We’ve known that for a long time. Since before the Journolist scandal, at any rate.

     Purity cannot contaminate filth.

     Today, Kevin Williamson himself provides a few observations:

     On March 22, the Atlantic announced that it had hired me and three others as contributors to its new section “for ideas, opinions and commentary.” In no time, the abortion-rights group Naral was organizing protests against me, demanding that I not be permitted to publish in the Atlantic. Activists claimed, dishonestly, that I wanted to see every fourth woman in the country lynched (it is estimated that 1 in 4 American women will have an abortion by the age of 45). Opinion pieces denouncing me appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, Slate, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones, the Guardian and other publications.

     The outrageous statement was a tweet: a deliberate attempt to provoke left-wing pro-abortion advocates. Here’s Williamson’s summary of the event:

     The purported reason for our “parting ways,” as Mr. Goldberg put it in his announcement, had nothing to do with what I’d written in my inaugural piece. The problem was a six-word, four-year-old tweet on abortion and capital punishment and a discussion of that tweet in a subsequent podcast. I had responded to a familiar pro-abortion argument: that pro-lifers should not be taken seriously in our claim that abortion is the willful taking of an innocent human life unless we are ready to punish women who get abortions with long prison sentences. It’s a silly argument, so I responded with these words: “I have hanging more in mind.”

     Now, it’s fairly well known that attempts at sarcasm are easily misunderstood. What’s less well known –less admitted to, at any event – is that an ideological enemy determined to bring you down will deliberately misunderstand anything you’ve said or written if it can serve as a weapon against you. Williamson himself failed to understand that:

     The remarkable fact about all this commentary on my supposedly horrifying views on abortion is that not a single writer from any of those famous publications took the time to ask me about the controversy. (The sole exception was a reporter from Vox.) Did I think I was being portrayed accurately? Why did I make that outrageous statement? Did I really want to set up gallows, despite my long-stated reservations about capital punishment? Those are questions that might have occurred to people in the business of asking questions. (In preparing this account, I have confirmed my recollection of what Mr. Goldberg said with Mr. Goldberg himself.)

     Instead of interviewing the subject of their pieces, they scanned my thousands of articles and found the tidbits that seemed most likely to provoke.

     The stunned tone in the above is the important aspect. Amazing that an intelligent man could be so blind.


     Persons in the Right, though we engage in the same sort of moral, ethical, and intellectual generalizations as anyone on the Left, are willing to use the Exception defense:

Conservative 1: Leftists are stupid!
Conservative 2: I recall you’ve spoken well of Davis’s intelligence, and he’s a leftist.
Conservative 1: Well, he’s an exception.

     Here’s the key insight, the one that Williamson and many, many other conservatives have missed:

Leftists never make Exceptions in a conservative’s favor.

     The Left’s mindset is far closer to the all-out-no-prisoners-war mentality described in the opening segment. Have a few thoughts about that from a former Leftist:

     For the millions raised as leftists, it is not an ideology; it is a culture. Since childhood, they have lived and breathed it every day in the home. They know nothing else. Like any culture, it is a way of speaking, thinking and acting, with its own narratives and rituals. Narratives are held sacred, repeated, reinforced and, over time, added to. That which challenges sacred narratives, even reality itself, is met with confusion and hostility. As with any aggressive, intolerant culture, if you enter it, it enters you.

     Contrary to opinion, leftism isn't just about hate. Leftists are more complex than that. From my time as a red diaper leftist, I can tell you that a whole range of emotions are involved. Hate, anger, fear, bitterness, jealousy, envy, rage, greed, pride, smugness and paranoia (not technically an emotion, but it is widespread among leftists)....

     Leftists combine child-like naïveté and paranoid aggression in all of their narratives. It is a remarkable and very damaging pairing. The child-like naïveté protects the narrative from facts while the paranoid aggression protects the mind from doubt. For red-diaper babies, this thinking competes with their normal emotional and intellectual development, causing an internal struggle that can go either way.

     This is a remarkably candid depiction of a mindset that, were it divorced from any political ideology or agenda, would immediately be categorized as seriously mentally ill. But note its purity. The Right is the enemy, wholly unentitled to any consideration one Leftist would allow another. Therefore all its representatives must be fought a outrance. The only acceptable outcomes are total submission and death.

     It’s been said many times, by many commentators, and now and then by your humble Curmudgeon: There’s a war on, but only one side is fighting.


     We in the Right, who hold to traditional notions about tolerance of dissenting views, have done our best not to hate the Left. We haven’t declared war on them. We have made many Exceptions for sincere and eloquent representatives of the Left’s views. That was William F. Buckley’s attitude: invite them on to the program and talk to them as reasonable people. In Buckley’s day it worked now and then.

     That time is behind us. Today only we in the Right make exceptions. The Left has a different approach, one that makes it plain that they prefer clarity, whatever the price.

Leftist 1: Conservatives are evil and must be destroyed!
Leftist 2: Wait, what about Davis? He’s a perfect gentleman and entirely reasonable.
Leftist 1: Are you going over to the other side? Conservatives are evil!

     Maybe not all of them “think” that way...but it’s the way to bet.

5 comments:

Linda Fox said...

I do realize that this is true - but it is profoundly depressing. Ever more, I feel like a rational person, able to see both sides of a debate, in 1860.

Just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

MMinLamesa said...

Williamson was hired by The Atlantic because they knew from some of his bullshit columns at The NR that the seeds of trashing conservative traditions were planted and they had another David Brooks in the making.

I gots no pity for the asshole.

Andrew Pryzant said...

When a non-left winger deals with friend and relatives that are stridently left-wing the rule of thumb is no debating political topics or if such are being discussed, keep your contrary view quiet. With the passage of sufficient time, even strident left-wingers will give a non-left person a pass in order to maintain cordial relations.

Stewart said...

This is indeed depressing, although the comments from Michael Faraday seem to fit what I observe in my daily life.

The last time we had to deal with such an ideology/culture, during WWII, we all know how the Allies used total war to resolve the conflict. The question is, how do we approach it today, when we're not fighting with state power on our side, against a foe that has, if not a state, significant portions of a state at their disposal.

As I've been telling friends and relatives, you can identify the bad guys in a dispute by looking at who relies on lies, trickery, and manipulation to get you to support them. Our side finds it almost impossible to use those tactics, but the problem is, those tactics work.

Francis W. Porretto said...

It is depressing. For me the worst aspect of it is that until we in the Right go on a total-war footing, it can only get worse.

Note that invading forces and ascendant insurgencies make it a point to take control of the communications facilities of their target before anything else. He who controls the comms holds, rightly or wrongly, the tactical and moral high ground. He can shape the perceptions of anyone who tunes in.

The Left controls essentially all "traditional" comms in the U.S., which is why they're so ardent to have Internet communications "regulated." If it weren't for their comm dominance, they'd have lost the country already. Their ability to spread deceit and deceptions is all that's allowed them to keep their grip on the portion of the country they hold.

Anyone have any new ideas about taking back America's radio, television, entertainment and educational institutions? Without bloodshed, that is?