The Republican Party is basically the party of white America, but of course such an entity as “white America” cannot be acknowledged in mainstream outlets (except of course as a source of some evil). A Republican legislator cannot complain that his constituents are being forced to move because their schools are becoming disabled by excessive numbers of non-English speakers or poorly behaved minorities. So instead he must complain about “illegal” immigration in the vaguest of terms and express displeasure with the failure of schools by blaming teacher-unions (bastions of anti-Republican rhetoric). A Democrat, on the other hand, can freely rile up his constituents by denouncing “discrimination” and favoritism, regardless of the facts.
Similarly, any Democrat politician, black or white, can make unlimited hay over alleged racial profiling among the police or “institutional racism” in the law enforcement. But no Republican politician would dare court white voters by defending the police, pointing out, for example, the disproportionately high levels of criminal behavior in the black community. When it was recently revealed that some NYPD officers had the nerve to complain on a facebook page about having to work during the West-Indian Day parade which annually features gun-fire and police injuries, who came to their defense, pointing out that people who engage in gunfights during a parade deserve to be called ‘animals’?
The essence of this asymmetry in political combat is that Democrats are free to rabble-rouse and demagogue their positions without penalty – indeed, often with great showers of media attention for doing so – while Republicans must rouse their constituents only obliquely through proxies – religious faith, gun rights, opposition to gay marriage, and of course “No New Taxes”. Even then, we often hear pundits denounce the “Three G’s” – Gays, Guns and Gods – so even their proxies are derided.
The problem is that when your enemies control the vocabulary of public discourse, it’s hard to maintain a sophisticated private understanding of what is going on. [Emphasis mine — RD]
That’s a really interesting point that deserves elaboration.
We often lament the way Americans today live inside epistemic bubbles, where they only hear what they want to hear, and rarely face a challenge to their positions. It’s a serious problem. It stems in large part from the ideological moralization of American politics, by which I mean the practice of imputing a rigid, black-and-white morality to complex questions in public life, such that those who disagree with you are not only wrong, but Evil. Every conservative perfectly well knows that there is a gross double standard in these things, as Lying Eyes and Sailer point out. Most conservatives who work in professional environments — academia, offices, etc. — quickly become aware of the double standard, because they know their careers depend on not saying or doing anything that could get them referred to the Human Resources Department for sinning against Diversity. Reason, you learn, has very little to do with any of this. You have to learn the code of behavior, and the speech code, or you could lose your job.
Anyway, I wonder to what extent the harsh policing of speech, in the workplace and in the public square, by liberals, who control the public discourse, contributes to the maintenance of the right-wing bubble. When you cannot openly say what you think is going on, you realize how limited and pre-determined the public discourse is, and you become all the more distrustful of it. Moreover, when you are only able to have these discussions safely (= without risking professional damage, or social condemnation), because to speak openly is to risk being condemned as a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, or some other kind of bigot (all opinions on race, gender, homosexuality, and suchlike that are to the left of your average journalist being ipso facto expressions of bigotry), you retreat into private spheres of discourse.
(How ridiculous is some of this stuff? NPR’s ombudsman wrote a column addressing the freak-out some NPR listeners had over Fresh Air’s airing of a 1970s-era dialogue between Jewish comedians and talk show host David Susskind; these listeners protested that it trafficked in racial stereotypes, and ought not be heard on public radio — this, even though it was Jews making jokes about Jewish behavior.)
Of course the liberal congratulates himself on this achievement, having exiled the offending speech from the realm of the righteous (e.g., MSNBC president Phil Griffin, on Pat Buchanan’s last book: “The ideas he put forth aren’t really appropriate for national dialogue, much less the dialogue on MSNBC.”). Meanwhile, the grotesque black liberal Al Sharpton, whose public career has been built entirely on crude racial, and racist, manipulation, continues to prosper on MSNBC. Liberals love to despise Fox, and the Fox effect, and they’re not entirely wrong in their criticism. But it never seems to occur to them that the way they police public discourse, including maintaining the double standard every conservative recognizes, compels conservatives to seek out a public space where their ideas aren’t treated as inappropriate for national dialogue.
(I should point out here that I disagree with Buchanan on some issues, and find some of the things he’s said about Jews indefensible. That said, his is, generally speaking, a voice we need in the public square, as even Stanley Fish said the other day. You are not going to find many commentators who can so well articulate the political and cultural positions held by many white working-class people in this country. But of course those people’s ideas and beliefs aren’t really appropriate for national dialogue, I guess.)
A related problem, though, is that conservatives become so mistrustful of non-Fox news sources that they cease to think critically about the spin their own preferred news sources put on the news. This, I think, is part of what Steve Sailer means when he says it becomes difficult to maintain a sophisticated private understanding of what’s going on. When you cease to trust the mainstream media, that doesn’t automatically make the news sources you do trust fair, accurate, and intelligent.
Which reminds me: Jonathan Haidt’s book is out in a couple of weeks.