Home/Rod Dreher/Liberals: ‘Surrender, Fascist Losers!’

Liberals: ‘Surrender, Fascist Losers!’

The NYT’s Thomas Edsall writes a deeply reported weekly column about society and politics. Sometimes I disagree with him, even strongly, but it’s hard to find a better place to get the liberal view grounded in research. So it is with his column today, in which he writes:

America is embedded in a world that is troubled by insidious parallel variants of the same structural problems — anti-immigrant fervor, political tribalism, racism, ethnic tension, authoritarianism and inequality — that led to a right-wing takeover of the federal government by Donald Trump.

The peculiarly American characteristics of the Trump years have blinded us to the spread of this radical disorder worldwide — even as some prescient scholars and analysts have seen the connections all along and have been trying to make the public aware of them.

According to the Stanford sociologists Michelle Jackson and David Grusky, there is a common thread to these seemingly disparate developments — what they call “the ubiquity of loss” — a condition the authors describe as a “late industrial experience, in short, increasingly one of omnipresent loss and decline.”

We will come back to Edsall’s list of “structural problems” shortly. But first, more:

This trend toward autocracy, [political scientist Pieter] Vanhuysse continues, in evident

within the European Union, notably in Poland and, very much, Hungary. Both these countries have started to consciously devise demographic scare tactics (Muslims vs. “true” Polish and Hungarian Christians; true Hungarians vs. foreign cultures, anti-LGBT campaigns, anti-foreign NGOs) to serve incumbents’ power purposes.

The Global Trends report supports Vanhuysse’s point:

In some Western democracies, public distrust of the capabilities and policies of established parties and elites, as well as anxieties about economic dislocations, status reversals, and immigration, have fueled the rise of illiberal leaders who are undermining democratic norms and institutions and civil liberties. In newer democracies that transitioned from authoritarian rule in the 1980s and 1990s, a mix of factors has led to democratic stagnation or backsliding, including weak state capacity, tenuous rule of law, fragile traditions of tolerance for opposition, high inequality, corruption, and militaries with a strong role in politics.

There are explicitly anti-democratic forces working to encourage the developments Vanhuysse describes, according to the most recent Annual Threat Assessment.

Authoritarian and illiberal regimes around the world will increasingly exploit digital tools to surveil their citizens, control free expression, and censor and manipulate information to maintain control over their populations. Such regimes are increasingly conducting cyber intrusions that affect citizens beyond their borders — such as hacking journalists and religious minorities or attacking tools that allow free speech online — as part of their broader efforts to surveil and influence foreign populations.

And this:

Let’s let [George Mason University public policy professor Jack] Goldstone have the last word:

If Biden fails, God help us, we are headed back to the world of the 1930s, with steep political polarization, ethnic hatreds and cleansings, powerful anti-immigration sentiments and spreading fascism.

Read it all.

This is a good example of why I read The New York Times: to get a clear understanding of how liberals and progressives think.

But boy, is Edsall wrong. It’s not that he is necessarily wrong from an analytical point, if you start with certain priors (most especially, about what a good society is), but this analysis show why liberals like him and those he quotes fail to understand the complexity of the world. This column of his is a good illustration of what someone, can’t remember who, once said: liberalism is the only ideology that doesn’t think it’s an ideology.

Let’s start with his litany of horribles: “anti-immigrant fervor, political tribalism, racism, ethnic tension, authoritarianism and inequality.”

Anti-immigrant fervor is taken for granted as not only a bad thing, but something conjured up out of nothing by malicious political players. This allows liberals (both left-liberals and right-liberals), who generally believe that immigration is a good thing, to hold on to that view undisturbed. Well, France has a terrible, and perhaps irresolvable, problem with immigration. Some weeks back, a group of retired French generals publicly raised the prospect of civil war over the immigration problem. Specifically, they were talking about the nation-within-a-nation that has arisen in the largely ungovernable immigrant-heavy suburbs of major French cities. The fear among the French is that if the suburbs rise simultaneously, there are not enough police and soldiers to quickly restore order. This is not a right-wing fairy tale. It’s reality.

Similarly, in Italy, migrants pouring in from Africa are clogging cities, compelling Italian taxpayers to have to care for them, even though there are no jobs for these people to do. Spain has a parallel problem. When I was here in Spain two years ago, the Vox Party, a new political party that takes a hard line on immigration, had just overturned four decades of Socialist rule in Andalucia. In Sevilla, I heard about a Spanish coast guardsman who voted Vox because he could see with his own eyes, every day, how Spanish authorities were practicing catch-and-release with masses of illegal immigrants from Africa.

Viktor Orban is despised by elites in Western European capitals in part for his hardline anti-immigration stance, articulated and implemented forcefully during the 2015 crisis. Germany’s Angela Merkel opened the gates to one million migrants. Orban said none could come to Hungary. Hungary is a small country with a shrinking population. But they do not have a problem with violent Islamic radicalism, because they have no Islamic radicals. During the recent war between the Israelis and the Palestinians, disgusting anti-Semitic marches took place in capitals all over Europe, some of them featuring Muslim protesters calling for death to Jews. Not in Budapest. There, the native Jewish population went about its business without concern (I know this because I walk through the Jewish Quarter almost daily). There’s a reason, even if well-meaning liberals don’t want to see it.

The point is this: it is by no means obvious to everybody in a given country that immigration is a good thing. How many times to liberal elites have to learn this lesson? In Spain, from where I write today, the unemployment for adults aged 25 and under is, get this, 40 percent. Forty percent! For working-age adults older than that, it’s 14 percent — much better, but still, if we had that kind of unemployment rate in the US, we would be facing a serious political crisis, immediately. But opposition to immigration is an inexplicable urge that leads to “right-wing takeovers”?

Or let’s take two other Edsall bugbears, “political tribalism” and “racism”. Nobody can deny that political tribalism is tearing us apart, and that both sides play a role here. Edsall, like many unwitting liberals, seems to define “political tribalism” as “objecting to what liberals want.” Don’t share the liberal view on, for example, LGBT rights or “diversity, inclusion, and equity”? Well, then you are a political tribalist whose factional fanaticism prevents him from seeing sweet reason. And on race, I’m old enough to remember a time when the kind of racialist rhetoric that is totally mainstream on the Left right now would have been seen even by liberals as racist. But now white people who do not accept the progressive party line that there is something deeply wrong with them because of their race, and that justice requires them to accept policies that disparage and disadvantage them, solely on the basis of race — well, see, these are racists.

What would Edsall and his academic all-star team call non-white people who preferred policies that did not disadvantage people like themselves, and their children, on the basis of race? Not “racists,” I can tell you that. They would see them as ordinary political actors. Political scientist Eric Kaufmann has written about this kind of thing before, especially in his book WhiteshiftMany liberals have bought into the line that there is something uniquely terrible about white people that exempt them from the normal laws of politics and morality. Meanwhile, last night at dinner in Valencia, I discussed with a professor how the working class in a certain Spanish city went from voting for the Left to voting for the Right, in large part over immigration. From what the professor seemed to be saying, the Left’s core constituency in that city went from the working class to university employees and highly educated professionals — the kind of people who prefer the immigrants they do not know to the working classes in their own country. So it is with our liberals too, back in America.

The “ethnic tension” that Edsall decries is almost entirely being stoked by bad actors — activists, academics, media figures,  corporations, and others — on the Left! Who is it that is teaching us Americans to regard each other wholly on the basis of racial identity? In a time in which we desperately need to find some way to hold together across racial lines, it is the Left who is driving us apart, by intentional policy. And it is the Left at the same time who is blaming the Right for resenting them for this. It’s perverse. I’ve characterized this dynamic before like this:

Left: “Trans, trans, trans, trans, trans, trans, trans. Trans! Transtranstranstranstranstrans. TRAAAAAAAAAANS!”

Right: “Trans?”

Left: “BIGOT! You’ve got the blood of dead transpeople on your hands!”

On inequality, Edsall is right that this is a big problem. But you know what? The Left is now obsessed with “equity,” which is equality of outcome. Instead of attacking the deep and serious problem of structural economic inequality, the Left now focuses on diving what remains by using the power of the state and of institutions to distribute them according to a racial spoils system. And if people resent that — hey, what’s wrong with those bigots, holding on to their privilege?

Edsall characterizes this as “radical disorder,” but has no apparent awareness of the role liberal and progressive policies play in causing this disorder, and compelling voters to react against it. Instead, they implement cancel culture to prevent people from talking openly about these problems, many of which have been caused by leftist or neoliberal policies.

Edsall quotes the Danish political scientist Pieter Vanhuysse saying:

within the European Union, notably in Poland and, very much, Hungary. Both these countries have started to consciously devise demographic scare tactics (Muslims vs. “true” Polish and Hungarian Christians; true Hungarians vs. foreign cultures, anti-LGBT campaigns, anti-foreign NGOs) to serve incumbents’ power purposes.

Note the unstated premise: that any concern over immigration and demographics, religious difference, sexual morality, and the influence of foreign actors in domestic affairs, is nefarious. 

This is crazy. I mentioned above why there are very serious reasons for European nations to reject Islamic immigrants. You can say on balance that they are mistaken, but the idea that these concerns are ginned up by cynical politicians is idiocy. Western liberals accuse Hungary’s Orban of anti-Semitism because he heavily criticizes Hungarian-born Jewish globalist and activist George Soros for Soros’s activism in Hungary. This is a total smoke screen. Orban openly criticizes anti-Semitism, and he makes clear (most recently in his remarks to the media in London) that his opposition to Soros comes from resenting the oligarchical liberal’s attempts to use NGOs to overturn Hungarian policies and traditions. If George Soros was named Charles Koch, and was pouring a fortune into left-wing countries to disrupt the social order there in order to make them more right-wing libertarian, it would be much easier for the Left to understand Orban’s concern.

As I’ve written here recently, the Fidesz government in Hungary has just passed a law restricting the dissemination of pro-LGBT printed and broadcast materials to minors. Whenever you read anything in the Western media about Hungary or any European politics of the Right, take it with a large grain of salt. I am looking now for the wording of the new law, but until I find it, here’s what Orban himself said about it:

European bells are now being set aside because of new laws that are radically punishing pedophiles and radically protecting our children. In vain, the movement is eternal, it is no longer the “proletarians of the world unite,” but the “liberals of the world unite” is the new slogan. This, of course, reinforces the Central European belief that today the liberal is in fact the graduate communist. The current left-wing campaign against Hungary is further evidence that today the left is the enemy of freedom because they want political correctness as defined by them instead of freedom of speech and hegemony of opinion instead of pluralism of opinion.

Yet the new Hungarian law does not conflict with any lofty idea or European legislation. The new Hungarian law only clearly states that only the parent can decide on the sex education of children.

Schooling must not be contrary to the will of the parent, it must at most be complementary, its form and content must be precisely defined and it must be subject to the consent of the parents.

Parents also rightly expect that pornography, self-serving sexuality, homosexuality, and unalterable programs will not be available on surfaces that our children use without restriction. These limitations must also be determined with surgical precision. In Hungary, no one has a say in how adults live. In our view, the adult free man should not account for his life before some secular authority, but before the judgment seat of the Good God when the time comes.

Therefore, Hungarian law does not apply to the lives and sexual habits of adults over the age of 18, nor to their own adult publicity. Moreover, in the European context, Hungarian society is one of the European peoples most committed to individual freedom and tolerance. The reasons for this are they are rooted in our cultural traditions, in Christian freedom, in the struggles for national freedom, and in the deep contempt for communism and communist arbitrariness.

Hungarian freedom means not only political freedom, freedom of choice, freedom of speech, assembly and association, but also the right to protect our families and raise our children at our own discretion. Our law is a worthy continuation of the European tradition of freedom. The debate on the future of Europe, our children, has just begun. Here we are, we stand before the debates.

Liberals (including some right-liberals) see spreading LGBT messaging to children to be part of expanding freedom. Conservatives who side with Fidesz on this regard it as protecting children from cultural imperialism that violates the sanctity of the family. I get why liberals believe as they do; they don’t believe there’s anything wrong with LGBT messaging to children. But come on, people, don’t act puzzled when people who strongly disagree with you react according to what they believe is right. And when people in a particular country look at foreign NGOs and see them actively working to undermine that country’s laws and traditions, why on earth is it illegitimate for them to fight back?

I wish we had the political will in the United States to restrict LGBT messaging to children, and give parents more control over educating their families. If parents want to be liberal in what they tell their kids, fine, let them do it. But don’t force everybody to have to live by progressive doctrines.

Let me put it like this, with a story I’ve told here before. Back in 2003, I had just joined the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News. I sat in on a meeting with some diplomats from Mexico and trade officials from the US. They were there to ask us to support some new trade treaty. As I recall, the only real sticking point were small farmers along the US-Mexico border. The new treaty would have wiped them out. The people meeting with us were going on and on about how economically inefficient these farmers were, and how they were the only thing standing in the way of this wonderful new legislation. I was appalled by what I heard. No doubt these farmers were inefficient. But who said efficiency is the most important thing in life? These farm families had an entire way of life to protect, and these rich, powerful Americans and Mexicans were planning to roll right over them. The unthinking arrogance of these people pissed me off. All they could see was a bunch of economically problematic peasants.

Well, when I see Western liberals look down their noses at countries whose moral codes don’t align with What’s Happening Now, I think of those slick diplomats and trade officials who had nothing but contempt for those small farmers, because those farmers were Not Modern. People on the Left used to at least pretend to care about them.

Let’s close by recalling this quote from Edsall’s column:

If Biden fails, God help us, we are headed back to the world of the 1930s, with steep political polarization, ethnic hatreds and cleansings, powerful anti-immigration sentiments and spreading fascism.

Oh FFS, really? Joe Biden’s administration, and its fellow travelers in elite institutions, are stoking ethnic hatred with that many-headed hydra called Critical Race Theory. This administration is expanding gender ideology through executive action (e.g., the Justice Department preparing lawsuits against states who have the nerve to protect female athletes from unfair trans competitors). Joe Biden’s administration is presiding over a flood of immigrants rolling across the Rio Grande. Under this Commander in Chief, the US military has decided that Special Forces are too white, and are lessening standards to diversify them. And on and on.

But see, it’s Joe Biden who is defending the nation from FASCISM.

These people will never, ever understand what’s actually happening. On this trip to Spain, which ends for me tomorrow, I talked to a Spanish soldier who said that the morale among the troops with whom she serves is low. There used to be mostly unity there, but now they argue all the time over these issues that the Left has introduced into society, and is constantly pushing. But if you ask most liberals, they will tell you that all the problems in society are caused by troglodytes and fascists who refuse to roll over and give them whatever they want next.

The problem is that we live on the same planet, but different worlds. I was explaining to a group in Barcelona tonight about the arrogance of major American companies who are throwing their weight around to punish US states whose democratically elected lawmakers vote to enact social policies that the companies dislike. I cannot wait to vote for an American president, and American politicians, who will knock the dogcrap out of those oligarchs, and make them know their place. In a rightly ordered democracy, the Human Resources Department at Apple Computer would not get to run social policy in our states.

Anyway, the point is, when a columnist as intelligent as Tom Edsall can write a column like that, and it never once seems to occur to him that the tens of millions of people who disagree with liberal premises and goals are not necessarily haters and pre-fascists, it tells you a lot about how blind liberal elites are to the world into which they have been thrown.

UPDATE: A Catholic priest reader writes:

I used to say in the seminary that the liberals hate authority and so they can never admit they are exercising it. Instead, they are just being open, compassionate, and reasonable. So if you don’t go along, you’re not disagreeing or being disobedient–you’re being rigid.

The critical theorists are in a similar spot. They maintain there is no objective truth, but only competing narratives which are inherently about justifying  power. Then does it not follow that their own narrative, however much it professes liberation of the marginalized, is also a power grab? But, again, they can’t admit that to themselves so they use ad hominem attacks against those who raise the question or otherwise refuse to support their worldview.
You can’t be a fascist if you refuse to admit you exercise power except, maybe, if you use it to liberate fellow marginalized people who you claim are being oppressed by fascists. A neat and convenient self-justification.
The thing about the liberals in the seminary and these critical theorists is that if you don’t agree with them, obedience or conformity is never enough, they demand agreement.  They have to have agreement because adapting to them for any other reason exposes their exercise of power over you–and they couldn’t stand to see themselves as authoritarian. So their persecution of you is always your own darn bigoted fault.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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