Today Ms. Phillips published an article on her website titled "The New Intolerance." The article is worth reading in its entirety. It cogently describes the "war of religion" which is currently raging in both Britain and the United States. The article expertly dissects this war and lays bare its philosophical and psychological roots. What I found especially revealing was her description of the individuals who are waging this war. Of course, I am referring to those on the philosophical Left.
Ms. Phillips writes:
Medieval Christianity — like contemporary Islamism — stamped out dissent by killing or conversion; Western liberals do it by social and professional ostracism and legal discrimination. It is a kind of secular Inquisition. And the grand inquisitors are to be found within the intelligentsia — the universities, the media, the law and the political and professional classes — who not only have systematically undermined the foundations of Western society but are heavily engaged in attempting to suppress any challenge or protest.
It is hard to overstate the influence of these left-wing doctrines on our culture. They form the unchallengeable orthodoxy within academia, from which base-camp they have set forth on their "long march through the institutions" which they have colonised with stunning success. They have managed, furthermore, to shift the centre of political gravity so that anyone who does not share these values is defined as extreme.
For the Left believes that its secular, materialistic, individualistic and utilitarian values represent not a point of view but virtue itself. No decent person can therefore oppose them. Anyone who does so is automatically "right-wing". In fact, such opponents may have no ideological position. But the Left cannot acknowledge such a possibility. In Manichean fashion it divides the world into two opposing and exclusive camps, good and evil; and so it creates as the sole alternative to itself a demonic political camp, to which everyone who challenges it is automatically consigned. Since anything that is not the Left is therefore "the Right", and since "the Right" is by definition evil, to challenge any left-wing shibboleth is to be labelled "right-wing" and put oneself totally beyond the moral pale.
So there can be no dissent or argument at all. Only one world-view is to be permitted and all other views are to be suppressed or destroyed. And because all that is evil is "right-wing" and all that is "right-wing" is evil, anyone who supports Israel or the Americans in Iraq, is sceptical of anthropogenic global warming, opposes multiculturalism or utilitarianism, supports capitalism or is a believing Christian is not only evil but also "right-wing". [Emphasis mine]
Ms. Phillips has put her finger on an issue that has troubled me for quite some time: Why are leftists and progressives so intransigent in their beliefs even when they are presented with a logical argument or empirical evidence that exposes the absurdity of their position?
We've all seen it. We've all experienced it. Gone are the days in academia or in polite society when logic and evidence hold sway in an argument and those with intellectual integrity recognize their error and accept the truth. Leftists today barely engage anymore in argument. When presented with one, they respond with timeworn and disproved memes. When the memes are challenged, they are likely to immediately respond with an arrogant indifference and, if pressed, with an ad hominem attack. I could never quite understand this nasty habit.
Yesterday, Erick Erickson at Redstate posted an article called "The Second Coming of American Liberal Fascism?" The article describes what happens when leftists gain political power. They no longer have to bother with making ad hominem attacks on their opponents because they have beaten their opponents, not by force of reason, but by the political force of majority rule. So they become righteous and absolutely intolerant of dissent. They ostracize those who persist in dissent and even imprison them. Erickson points out that this is not new. It's happened before in the era of Woodrow Wilson's presidency.
Melanie Phillips explains the nature of this vicious behavior. Leftist ideology is not a political idea but a belief, as religion is a belief. Leftists are exactly the same as medieval Christians and modern day Islamists: There mission is to stamp out evil, i.e., opposing opinion, by any means possible. Forced conversion of the evil dissenters or killing them is impossible in polite society, so leftists resort to the next most effective means, coerced participation, enforced silence or imprisonment.
Politics in America today is no longer a sport in which both sides agree to engage in friendly governance once the election is over. Politics today is a blood sport. The stakes are high. Not only are the livelihoods of politicians threatened by an adverse, electoral outcome, but individuals on the losing political side are at risk of being literally and legally pillaged and plundered or incarcerated for their dissent. Principles upon which this country was founded are at stake in our modern elections, principles like the rule of law, individual liberty and private property. Modern day politics has literally become a life and death proposition.
This is what so many who are immersed in politics today do not understand. They view politics as a panacea. They naively expect their political opponents to graciously concede political defeat and work with them in the future in common cause. They expect all will be well and good provided the right candidate -- the wise and conciliatory leader -- is elected to office. This was possible in times past when political differences were honest and principled, when political argument turned upon alternate means to attain the same end. Today, most on the left do not share the goals of their political opponents. They consider politics a war in which the spoils belong to the victors and in which the defeated have no rights at all.
The truth is that a society that relies on this kind of politics to resolve disputes cannot long survive. The end game will not be pretty.
The only peaceful means I see of preserving our Constitutional republic is to turn over the rock under which these vermin on the left and the right are hiding. That rock is an ideology that is impervious to logic and evidence. As Ms. Phillips suggests, the left-wing especially has taken cover under an "unchallengeable orthodoxy within academia," which shelters it from truth. The solution is to speak that truth relentlessly and fearlessly, and to remind these vermin of the fate that awaits them should they not discard their anti-cooperative religious ideology.
The other day legal expert Professor Alan Dershowitz appeared on the Glenn Beck show. Prof. Dershowitz and Mr. Beck represent opposite sides of the political spectrum. Prof. Dershowitz is a moderate leftist. Despite his political ideology, Prof. Dershowitz courageously stood up against the left's demagoguery of the Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida.
All rational people recognize that it was their ideology that drove leftists, like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Rep. Bobby Rush, President Obama and others to rush to judgement in this unfortunate incident. They were quick to accuse Mr. Martin's admitted killer, George Zimmerman, of "racism." They made the accusation comfortably and forcefully before hardly any evidence had come to light. The leftist media mindlessly publicized their accusations. The Florida prosecutors, apparently, knuckled under to public pressure and produced charges against Mr. Zimmerman that the evidence does not support. Prof. Dershowitz condemned the prosecutor's action as "unethical" and possibly "criminal." He calmly explained the legal principles involved and how the prosecution had violated them.
This is the way to crack the dome of orthodox ideology that protects the left. Not only did Prof. Dershowitz expose that orthodoxy for what it is, he courageously disavowed it by his appearance on Beck's program.
It's useless to argue with leftists. Our job is not to persuade them by means of logic and evidence. Such a thing is impossible. Our mission should be to expose them as fervent ideologues and challenge those among them who have any remnant of intellectual honesty and integrity to disavow their cultish belief system.
As I said, if these ideologues persist in their quest for dominating power, the consequences will not be pretty. Their victims will eventually act to defend themselves and the fundamental principles that enable a cooperative society to exist in the first place.