The great liberal betrayal.

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by easily_amused, Aug 20, 2009.

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  1. rampant

    rampant LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    An astute article, one for the proposed Philosophy Forum methinks, Cohen’s argument and conclusions are not remarkable in themselves, but what is remarkable is that that he brings a magnifying glass to an all too prevalent issue, both on the left and the right, of overt-simplification and the strangling of nuanced dissent and reasoning (an issue that is often very common on this site too in many regards). This is commonly seen as a resort to reductio ad Hitlerum/socialismum(sp?), and generalist appeals to emotively loaded terminology (fascist, nazi, communist, socialist, liberal etc etc) in order to denigrate an opinion that one disagrees with. Godwin’s Law is the most perfect example of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

    See also the links to reductio ad Hitlerum and the Wisdom of Repugnance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum

    The main problem with this type of fallacy is that it fails to challenge to questions raised by the opposing opinion in any reasonable manner, moreover it is typified by an ignorance of the actual meaning of the derogatory terms used. The examples raised by Cohen with regard to the left in the Stop the War Coalition are equally mirrored by the wild claims and shouting of the right in the US with regards to Obama’s Health Care proposals.

    What Cohen says with regard to the SWP, and associates, is not surprising at all tbh, I remember encountering their type in Edinburgh on many occasions, and I believe a certain poster on this site had a run in with one of their ilk at Goldsmith’s. These people and parties are in thrall to ideology, yet fear ideas, a strange dichotomy when they claim to be intellectuals, but then ideology is a weapon that can be wielded far more tenanciously than ideas, a cudgel rather than a rapier.

    The sins of those they oppose, ie the US/UK, far out way the sins of those of the resistance, Why? Well in simple terms: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. A questionably unnecessary and illegal war by an obtuse expression of superpower is far easier to rail against than more specific and abstract expressions of power based on ethnicity, religion or gender. Because these groups oppose my big enemy, the US, I will ignore their opposition to my little enemies (race, gender,etc, etc).

    But that is not what is most troubling and sinister about these movements, in my eyes at least, is that these groups are willing to subsume their, often, worthy ideals (gender equality, freedom of speech, demonstration, education, worship) in their desire to punch the superpower on the nose. I am reminded of the middle-class mothers in London who marched in opposition to the recent Israeli escapade in Lebanon, carrying placards that proudly displayed “We are all Hezbollah now!” Yep great idea show your support for a group that considers you a second-class citizen, fly the flag for your own subjugation.

    Cohen explains how the left is allying itself overtly fascist groups, this too is not really surprising because both the far right and the far left show similar tendencies in the expression of, and utilise similar mechanisms in the enacting of power. Stifling of dissent with recourse to ideology, being the most obvious of these. Once again a return to the enemy of my enemy, resistance is sacred trope.

    Although his article mainly deals with the issue of the SWP and the left wing there are also important lessons for the right as well. Debate has become overtly simplistic, and there has been too much of a tendency to subjugate our ideals in order to oppose the “great enemies of humanity/civilisation”. Too much the wrong way I fear: in fact our ideas, ideals and our ability to reason must be held up to scrutiny and challenge in order to better them and the best way to do that is for all to have a voice to debate with and not someone to dictate the debate for us.


    As a follow on to that article I recommend this one by Tristam Hunt, in the Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/06/labour-moral-market-gambling-society
     
  2. Agreed, rampant. He is illustrating the obvious:
    The basic conceptual flaw is again the belief/expectation that there is such a thing as a horizontal democratic/liberal continuum on which every political position can be located. Fact of the matter, as again demonstrated, is that obviously you fall off the scale at one point on either end and land in the same catch-all cesspit of radicalism.
    A liberal/democratic score-chart is thus an arch.
    Illustrations like Cohen's article are important as politics are all too often seen as a continuum and thus left-wingers take refuge at the space furthest removed from Nazism, feeling all cosy in that spot which must be the most liberal (and thus humane) not noticing that they have arrived in the very place they are trying to avoid.
     
  3. :worship: I suddenly feel all inadeqaute :oops:
     
  4. Which of course was what was intended. Such quasi scientific political arguments are but tosh to cow the masses with. Ignore them, they will certainly ignore you and your opinion.
     
  5. msr

    msr LE

    From 2004?
     

  6. Hmmm, interesting!

    On the 'Scatter Chart' I ended up just a little to the right and a little above the centre of the cross...FFS! :oops:

    B*gger! ...And there was I thinking I might be nudging elbows with Ghengis; turns out that Uncle Joe is more right leaning than me!

    Does that make me a closet liberal or does the definition of liberal need redefining?

    Hang 'em all and let (insert deity of choice) claim its own! :x
     
  7. I tend to turn out libertarian (I think this is "pragmatic" here) / weakly lefty on these tests (up, slightly left), which always comes as a great surprise to anybody that knows me and would expect me to be denounced as a flaming right-wing nutter. I think it's because they keep asking questions about homosexuals (their own business) rather than economics (everybody's business). But I'm not going to join Sven in the (il)Lib-(un)Dems, regardless.

    Liberal is fine - it has just been hijacked by the left - "classical liberal" was all about small govt, freedom of individuals and, unfortunately, republicanism (world sense, not US) - a less pedantic version of what is often now called a libertarian or a minarchist. Of course, it means "worse than a commie" to many septics.