The Moral Imagination of Fear

When the authoritarians finally and fully take over the United States, they will do so by fear-mongering about authoritarianism.

They will say that government is the problem, that mobocracy is the danger. They will say that they are being oppressed when the poor and minorities, workers and immigrants demand equal rights and freedom, equal representation and opportunity. They will accuse of others the very authoritarianism they seek to promote.

It is no accident that in this country that there is an overlap between authoritarianism and the conservative movement. Many studies have shown this strong correlation. These people don’t fear authoritarianism, but rather the possibility of sharing power with others, which means the loss of their privilege and position.

As they lose power in the numbers they once held, they will become more vicious and devious in their manipulations of that waning power. Sure, they will likely wrap themselves in the American flag and hug the cross, but it won’t end there. They will do anything and everything. They will even embrace the rhetoric and tactics of the political left, as they take on the mantle of populism and progressivism. They will offer the solutions to the problems they created.

The attack is merely the first step. That is where fear takes over, the battlefield that ever favors the demagogue or worse still the dictator. Only then will they offer their stark vision.

Birds of a Feather
by Corey Robin

Nixon to Kissinger:

We’ve got to destroy the confidence of the people in the American establishment.

Mao to the Red Guards:

Bombard the headquarters.

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43 thoughts on “The Moral Imagination of Fear

  1. Writing a post like this puts me in an odd position. And I’m all too aware of it.

    I have no desire to fear-monger about fear-mongering, to warn about the authoritarians warning about the authoritarians. I offer this not with fear but as insight. It is intellectual self-defense.

    I study authoritarians for the same reason I study conspiracy theorists. I want to understand. Partly, it is just curiosity. I want to understand because it can seem so perplexing. And Corey Robin has been helpful in deciphering what it all means.

    This seeking to understand isn’t idle inquiry, though. The fate of democracy depends on it. I really would like to avoid the complete destruction of the very hope of democracy, the total takeover of the reactionary mind. This isn’t just about conservatives. When a society falls under the thrall of fear, no one is safe from its influence. Fear is powerful.

    It does make me feel better knowing there are great thinkers like Corey Robin spreading knowledge as an antidote. It may not seem like much, but I wouldn’t dismiss it. Tilting the balance of power even slightly might make a world of difference. We must resist the lure of fear. We must not just resist but also simultaneously offer hope in its place.

    If even liberals become overwhelmed and dominated by cynicism, that is when the danger begins. I’d like to avoid that. I ultimately concern myself more with the liberal turned to the darkside more than I do with the run-of-the-mill authoritarian follower. We must defend liberalism first and foremost from rot from within. We need to do so by reaching down deep into the wellspring of liberalism and bringing forth the most radical vision of hope that we can imagine.

    The likes of Paine and MLK didn’t have the influence they had by simply focusing on the problems and dangers. They were visionaries of the most radical kind. Fear is powerful, but hope can be even more powerful. The power of fear can only last so long before it weakens. Only hope can inspire long-term progress.

  2. Undoubtedly there are conservatives who are as you say, just as there are liberals who still think communism or other versions of centralized authority will fix our imperfections. But I personally don’t know any of the former (though I read about them) but do know a number of the latter (who are said only to care about a greater good).

    My bias sees that what Samuel Huntington called the American Creed is successfully being submerged by “liberals” who reject the unifying function of the English language, the English conception of the rule of law, individualism and the American work ethic. People who still believe those things have merit are considered “on the fringe” by intellectuals, the press and any number of politicians (and a few bloggers?). Students today no longer learn the stories that gave life and weight to a definition of America. Now they hear only about racism, aggression, genocide and inequity. We’ve gone from excluding our failures to excluding anything positive. No wonder cynicism and lack of civility abounds.

    Charles Murray writes that Asian immigrants are almost caricatures of a vision of traditional Americans – devoted to family, helpful to neighbors, trustworthy and relentlessly upwardly mobile – and that many Latino neighborhoods now generate more Norman Rockwell images than does the average white neighborhood. And both have a work ethic long lost by American whites.

    From my vantage point, the kind of conservative you see is no less an authoritarian threat than those on the left who do not believe you and I are capable of running our own lives without the supervision and guidance of a distant and inflexible government. Though neither has anything to recommend it, if given such a choice, I think I would prefer life under a right wing dictatorship than one of the left. Right-wing authoritarians generally leave you alone as long as you don’t threaten their finances. The left-wing authoritarians demand your mind. I’ve traveled in lands suffering from both kinds of authoritarianism. I had friends (deceased) and in-laws who lived under Communism. So my notion is not totally theoretical.

    I agree that the threat you cite is possible. Our country is being divided every which way by both of our extremities, where people are being set apart (primarily, it seems, for the purpose of getting votes), set against one another, scrambling us up like a western hemisphere Balkans. I don’t claim there is no truth to your point. I’m saying the culprits you attack are but half of the equation of concern.

    • Let me make a few basic points first. Then I’ll get to the specifics of your comment.

      A main thing to keep in mind is that I tend to speak in a more psychological context. You can almost always safely assume that I mean psychological predispositions when I speak of conservatives and liberals. There is typically an implied “-minded” added to each of those labels: conservative-minded and liberal-minded. This is important as there are relatively conservative-minded liberals and relatively liberal-minded conservatives. Nonetheless, most conservative-minded people identify as conservative or otherwise hold typical conservative views, and the same goes in the other direction for liberals.

      It’s not just a spectrum, but a whole complex of factors that shape an individual’s mind. For my purposes, much of this has to do with personality trait theory and research, along with Myers-Briggs (also with much interest in Hartmann’s boundary types). As such, I’m not just talking out of my ass. I try to speak as honestly as I can about what I’ve learned, but of course learning is a continuous process. Still, some of these basic distinctions are based on decades of solid research.

      The next thing is that authoritarianism is a tricky topic. However, like personality traits, there is a lot of research about it. We must be careful in how we speak about its relationship to ideology. As I pointed out, research has found that there is a clear correlation between authoritarianism and conservatism. Some caveats need to be made clear, though.

      This correlation is mostly to do with social conservatism. Even authoritarian communist countries tend to be socially conservative. The correlation between social conservatism to authoritarianism seems stronger than social conservatism to fiscal conservatism. This is because social conservatism more closely correlates with the psychological traits that are the most opposite of liberal-mindedness, whereas many fiscal conservatives are strongly liberal-minded.

      Here is one caveat. Many see it obvious that communists in former authoritarian communist states tended to be authoritarians. That is not really surprising. (I’m not sure if any research has been done in still existing authoritarian communist states, but I doubt it.)

      What many Americans have a hard time grappling with is the fact that research has found that the opposite pattern is found in the US, because the dominant ideology is different. Authoritarians typically want to fit in, because one of their greatest talents is as followers. Authoritarians will always be found among the most patriotic, the most loyal, the most hardworking, the most stereotypical good citizen (in a mainstream sense). Authoritarians will do anything to please those they perceive as worthy authority figures. It has nothing to do with ideology, as research shows that authoritarians have high rates of hypocrisy.

      Among the US population, researchers have found that authoritarianism correlates to right-wing ideology, at least in the recent history since research has been done. The US government isn’t communist or left-wing of any variety. It would be surprising if most American authoritarians defied official mainstream authorities by supporting what is perceived as foreign ideologies in the mainstream.

      We can argue about what to do with this knowledge. However, before we argue, we should acknowledge the basic facts and grapple with their significance.

      That said, even ignoring those hard truths for a moment, the real issue to me is authoritarianism. If I was living in a communist or former communist country, I’d be worried about left-wing authoritarians. I don’t live in such a country, though. Most of the authoritarians in my country are right-wing. Still, I don’t really care about this in terms of an ideological argument, per se. It’s just information to be dealt with honestly.

      The main point doesn’t need to be put in ideological terms at all. The one thing authoritarians fear-monger the most about is authoritarianism, so it seems to me. Much of the Cold War was two different global factions of authoritarians vying for global power. What American authoritarians feared so much about Soviet authoritarians is the fact that they were a competing authoritarian group. Authoritarians will always perceive their enemies in the context of their own psyches, as do we all. An authoritarian can’t imagine that all other people aren’t authoritarians as well. So, they assume any group seeking influence or recognition or equality or whatever must be seeking authoritarian power.

      There is another thing to keep in mind.

      I’m not talking about inherent essences and psychological determinism, for damn sure I’m not talking about biological determinism. People aren’t just born a particular way and that is that. Rather, people are born with and born into many predisposing and contributing factors: genetics, epigenetics, environment, etc. Even once we are adults, the mind retains much of its potential fluidity. Physical or psychological trauma can entirely change one’s personality, which of course would then likely alter one’s ideological mindset.

      I’ve written about this before in terms of liberals. The Achille’s heel of liberals is actually how easy they are to be influenced and changed. Liberals who saw videos of the 9/11 attack were more likely to strongly support the Bush Administration’s war hawk policies of war on terror with its rhetoric of religious crusade and neo-imperialism. Bush tapped into the authoritarianism within the American psyche, including within liberals. He invoked a black and white world of absolute right and wrong, of a clear us versus them. I’m sure that after the Reichstag fire many German liberals suddenly became good Nazis.

      Conservative-mindedness, liberal-mindedness, authoritarianism, and other similar things are predispositions. As potentials, they exist within all of us. It is part of the repertoire of human nature.

      Also, context matters. What people are responding to or acting within shapes these predispositions. Conservative-mindedness can express in defense of conserving liberal values or in reaction to them. Liberal-mindedness can end up being the greatest threat to liberalism when it shifts into fear mode, as I pointed out in this post. As for authoritarianism, that can lead one to be a good Nazi, but in a genuinely democratic society it also could make one a righteous defender of democracy, as authoritarians just want something to follow and defend.

      It’s not just the expression, though. The predispositions themselves can completely alter. People can permanently switch from one predisposition to another. This tends to require extreme events.

      I know one guy who claims he used to be an anti-racist liberal, until one day he was beat up by black guys in two separate incidents. Ever since, he has been a race realist and most definitely not liberal-minded, even though he was never beat up by blacks before that one day or ever since. I was beat up by white guys one time and have dealt with many aggressive white guys in this mostly white town, but it hasn’t yet made me anti-white. There are even former conservatives who become more liberal-minded with age—my father being an example of that, maybe because of decreasing testosterone levels.

      Humans are strange in what triggers psychological conversions to new worldviews or simply shifts to different attitudes.

    • “Undoubtedly there are conservatives who are as you say, just as there are liberals who still think communism or other versions of centralized authority will fix our imperfections. But I personally don’t know any of the former (though I read about them) but do know a number of the latter (who are said only to care about a greater good).”

      Maybe that depends on where you live. I’ve spent my life divided between the Midwest and the South. My experience is probably quite a bit different than yours.

      That said, my views here aren’t so much based on personal experience. I’m not even entirely sure how the research I’m considering fits into my personal experience, although I could make some connections. I must admit that there often is a personal inspiration behind my thoughts.

      For example, this post was partly influenced by a discussion I was having with my father. He was pointing out a passage from a book written by a guy who had been in Germany when the Nazis took over. The passage described how a welfare state had formed and people had become security-minded, specifically looking to the government for security. The Nazis manipulated that with the Reichstag fire. My father was expressing the typical conservative fear of government, but I find this odd as he is a stronger supporter of a militarized police state than am I.

      That worries me, such inconsistency. My father doesn’t worry about the millions of people the US government has imprisoned, tortured, maimed, and killed, both in this country and around the world. His fear isn’t so much of an authoritarian government forming, but that present authoritarian tendencies in our government won’t continue to serve the interests of people like him. My father is an extremely well-intentioned person who takes morality seriously (his liberal-mindedness increasing with age as well), and yet he can’t understand why his attitude is problematic.

      I had just earlier read the post by Corey Robin. I immediately connected it to what my father was talking about. The power of social dominance orientation types (SDOs) is that they have the singular talent of manipulating authoritarian types, the good followers. They will use any ideological rhetoric to gain power. They will use pro-government rhetoric when it is useful, but for whatever reason authoritarians have strangely become attached to anti-government rhetoric. Yet when conservatives gain power, the government keeps on growing. The national debt, in fact, grows more under Republican presidents than under Democratic presidents.

      I’m not a partisan, but these differences stand out to me. It goes to a far extent as well. Economic problems in general are worse under Republican presidents, as the research shows. Even homicide and suicide rates go up in the years following a Republican being elected presdient.

      By the way, some of this I’ve discussed in a few posts:

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/conservatism-murders-suicides/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/republicans-party-of-despair/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/rate-and-duration-of-despair/

      It isn’t just about personal experience. The larger data is what really matters.

      “My bias sees that what Samuel Huntington called the American Creed is successfully being submerged by “liberals” who reject the unifying function of the English language, the English conception of the rule of law, individualism and the American work ethic. People who still believe those things have merit are considered “on the fringe” by intellectuals, the press and any number of politicians (and a few bloggers?). Students today no longer learn the stories that gave life and weight to a definition of America. Now they hear only about racism, aggression, genocide and inequity. We’ve gone from excluding our failures to excluding anything positive. No wonder cynicism and lack of civility abounds.”

      There are many issues involved. One thing is that the younger generation is simply more well educated and more well informed. Knowledge tends to complicate one’s understanding of the world, and undermines status quo rhetoric. We are in a period not just of a vast increase of knowledge, both sociologically and historically, but also a time of great questioning inspired by new understandings based on that expanding knowledge. America has gone through such phases many times before, early 20th century and mid 19th century being two clear examples.

      Being well informed is important. Those earlier times of conflict also involved cynicism and lack of civility. They were actually far worse than today. We live in one of the most peaceful and civil times in American history, but our experience is distorted by having just been through a brief period of extreme peace and outward stability, with the winding down of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. American propaganda won and had no major challengers, for a time.

      There is a lot less conflict than there seems. Most intellectuals aren’t as you describe. That is because the mainstream ignores most intellectuals, who just go along doing their academic work that others find boring or too difficult to understand. I constantly read intellectual books that don’t fit your portrayal, but they aren’t what the MSM popularizes. Most Americans are way more liberal and progressive than what is found in or portrayed by the mainstream, a point I often make:

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/us-demographics-increasing-progressivism/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/the-court-of-public-opinion-part-1/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/warmongering-politicians-progressive-public/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/political-elites-disconnected-from-general-public/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/wirthlin-effect-symbolic-conservatism/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/beyond-the-stereotype-of-the-liberal-elite/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/liberalism-label-vs-reality-analysis-of-data/

      To be honest, I see your perspective as being rather typical of the mainstream. I hear such complaints in the mainstream media. The right-wing media dominates the political narrative in this country and has done so for decades. That is beginning to change, and of course those who challenge the old rhetoric are attacked for being cynical or whatever. That is exactly what I was describing in this post. Those demanding fairness and justice are seen as the problem, instead of focusing on the problems that they are fighting against. Those who love this country the most aren’t those who sweep problems under the rug but those who demand that we live up to our ideals. It would be truly cynical to portray genuine concern as cynicism.

      Students hear inspiring stories all the time about America and what it stands for. That is why we continue to obsess over the Civil Rights movement, Progressivism, Abolitionism, and the American Revolution. Many Americans have come to identity those who fight against corruption and oppression as the true patriots, not that those in power see it that way. Left-wing academics are more in line with American people in this regard. This is why the likes of Howard Zinn are so popular among the younger generations. Zinn spent his life inspiring change and informing the public about the historical reasons to be inspired. Many other academic writers could be listed along these lines. In the media, there are Thom Hartmann and Cenk Uygur who have sought an inspiring vision, the former in particular grounding this in historical knowledge.

      “Charles Murray writes that Asian immigrants are almost caricatures of a vision of traditional Americans – devoted to family, helpful to neighbors, trustworthy and relentlessly upwardly mobile – and that many Latino neighborhoods now generate more Norman Rockwell images than does the average white neighborhood. And both have a work ethic long lost by American whites.”

      That is true of all immigrant groups, at least when they exist in large enough numbers to form ethnic communities. Asians and Latinos are simply the largest immigrant groups at present. That supports my point, as these immigrant groups seek to be treated fairly and instead are attacked by the political right, even though they embody more fully everything the political right claims to support. It is hypocrisy.

      “From my vantage point, the kind of conservative you see is no less an authoritarian threat than those on the left who do not believe you and I are capable of running our own lives without the supervision and guidance of a distant and inflexible government.”

      If you have data to support your view, I’d like to see it. I haven’t met many liberals who fit your portrayal of them, a caricature that is popular in the mainstream, both in the media and among politicians.

      “Though neither has anything to recommend it, if given such a choice, I think I would prefer life under a right wing dictatorship than one of the left. Right-wing authoritarians generally leave you alone as long as you don’t threaten their finances. The left-wing authoritarians demand your mind. I’ve traveled in lands suffering from both kinds of authoritarianism. I had friends (deceased) and in-laws who lived under Communism. So my notion is not totally theoretical.”

      That seems naive to me. Right-wing dictatorships include Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, Middle Eastern theocracies, Brazilian military government, Pinochet’s Chile, etc. Here are two lists, one of right-wing dictatorships in the world and one of those supported by the US government—tell me which ones you would like or would have liked to live in:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_dictatorship
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_authoritarian_regimes_supported_by_the_United_States

      Those governments had no interest in leaving people alone. I’m not saying your notion is theoretical, but it is skewed. My point is that I don’t want to live in any authoritarian government. I’m not sure why I should support American authoritarians, just because they might be less horrifically evil (at least for the moment) than authoritarians elsewhere. I agree we are probably better at keeping our authoritarians under control here, and I’d like to keep it that way.

      “I agree that the threat you cite is possible. Our country is being divided every which way by both of our extremities, where people are being set apart (primarily, it seems, for the purpose of getting votes), set against one another, scrambling us up like a western hemisphere Balkans.”

      It’s good that we agree on that much.

      “I don’t claim there is no truth to your point. I’m saying the culprits you attack are but half of the equation of concern.”

      The data doesn’t support your claim, not in the US anyway. Authoritarianism isn’t evenly divided between the American political left and political right. That concerns me, for obvious reasons. That isn’t to say I’m not critical of liberals as well, just for different reasons. False equivalency is not just about inaccuracy. It is a dangerous attitude that blinds us to the reality before us.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/right-vs-left-personality-differences/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/do-rightwingers-love-war/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/conservative-minded-authoritarianism-liberal-minded-anarchism/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/re-the-moral-stereotypes-of-liberals-and-conservatives/
      http://www.freerangelongmont.com/2010/04/06/authoritarian-conservatives/

      “For several decades Bob Altmeyer, an American scholar at the University of Manitoba, has been a tireless and dedicated researcher. According to the Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, Altmeyer’s work “powerfully predicts a wide rang of political, social, ideological and intergroup phenomena.” Altmeyer’s work is largely directed at other psychologists and social scientists. He has undertaken hundreds of experiments and his work is reliable and valid according to Paul Nesbitt-Larking reporting in

      “Political Psychology in 2004. His work goes the distance in understanding conservatism.

      “In an article titled “What Happens When Authoritarians Inherit the Earth? A simulation,” Altmeyer explains that, “When I started out, and ever since, I was not looking for political conservatives. I was looking for people who overtly submit to the established authorities in their lives, who could be of any political/economic/religious stripe.” His work identified “right-wing authoritarians” but he was not using the term “right-wing” in the political sense. Rather he used the designation in a psychological sense.

      “But as he continued his work he reports that “it turns out that in North America persons who score highly on my measure of authoritarianism test tend to favor right-wing political parties and have ‘conservative’ economic philosophies and religious sentiments. He goes on to say that this empirical finding has been repeatedly duplicated in his continuing studies and has been replicated in studies by others.

      “The extensive research on the behavior and personality characteristics of right-wing authoritarians and conservatives concludes that they are people who do not see themselves as they actually are and have little facility for self-analysis.

      “The research demonstrates that conservatives delight in hurling invectives against their enemies and often prove to have the thinnest of skins if the same is done to them. Many conservatives are unaware of their illogical, contradictory and hypocritical thinking. And if they are forced to address it, either rationalize it away, fail to care, or go on the attack against those who reveal their human weaknesses.”

    • I don’t have much time at the moment. Let me state it quickly.

      I think we agree more than is immediately apparent. I often find that is the case. We seem to be intuiting a similar issue, although coming at it from a different direction.

      I also worry about liberals. I’ve often written about what I call conservative or conservative-minded liberals. My point is how easy it is for liberals to stop acting like liberals. If a liberal starts acting as you say many of them do or will do, then they are no longer liberal-minded. Ideology is less relevant than the more basic psychological patterns.

      Social conservatives have a natural tendency toward authoritarianism, as I argue based on the data. But that is in some ways less of a problem. The liberal turned to the dark side can be much more dangerous. That relates to what Corey Robin discusses in terms of the reactionary mind using the rhetoric and tactics of the political left.

      So, I don’t dismiss your concern. I just would frame it different. And I do think it matters how we frame it.

    • On the issue directly above, I would be wise to remain as humbly openminded as possible. I’m sure that I’m not framing it as best as I might, but it is what has made sense to me in the past, while looking at the research.

      Not that this has stopped my thoughts from shifting. My writing about what I call symbolic conflation has been part of my process of looking for a different frame. Also, my readings these past years have contributed to rethinking what ideology means.

  3. Insightful and thought-provoking response. Well done. I agree with your psychological analysis. I can identify a number of aspects of and specific incidents in my life that prompted the perceptions, attitudes and convictions you note. I suspect the top four were 1) the majority of my growing up was as a minority in a multi-cultural (truly many and of all kinds) community; 2) growing up in an a very strong union area where it was hazardous to your health and/or property to speak a notion or perform a contrary action too openly; 3) growing up in a home where money was not plentiful – my parents never owned property and did not have an automobile until I was in high school; and 4) spending time in the USSR in 1964 where, among other influences, the only things to read in English were political tracts which basically were identical to the writings of left-wing politicians and groups in the US.

    Point #1 prompted libertarianism in my youth (it doesn’t work in its pure form – but it can be a place from which to start) and it made me a social liberal – up to a point. Point #2 made me fearful of communitarianism that limits freedom of thought or positive behavior. Point #3 made me a relentless fiscal conservative. Point #4 made me cautious as to the true view of the future espoused by those markedly left of center. So I am a complex mix of libertarian, social liberal to a point and fiscal conservative (which I find to be, for better or worse, my trump card) and wary of the far left. If I’m not mixing up the names of psych tests, I’m like the Myers-Briggs tests (yes, plural) I’ve taken which show my primary likes are incompatible polar opposites. Thus, I was told, I would never find total happiness in work; I would need to have a hobby outside work to find fulfillment. The issue, then, was which would be hobby and which would be work. That’s another story I won’t belabor here.

    I guess the bottom line is that I am less fearful of the right than the left. My experience is that it relatively easy to wok around limits established by the right (Jim Crow is a major exception here) and nearly impossible to work around limits set by the left. So I think we agree on the principal of your point. We do, I believe, disagree, on where the greater danger lies. And the truth is that either one of us might be wrong.

    • 1) Research does show that growing up in a diverse community correlates to increased rates of social liberalism in adulthood. We both grew up in diverse communities and both developed social liberalism, but our respective ideological expessions differed because of other factors. I should point out that as a liberal I have more of a libertarian streak than my conservative father (I suspect there are a lot more ideologically or predispositionally left-libertarians/liberaltarians than is recognized in mainstream media and politics).

      2) My experience of unions is different. I’ve never lived in an earlier 20th century Appalachian labor union town, for example, the kinds of places typicaly known for having class politics with a socially conservative and aggressive bent. My life has been split between the largely non-unionized conservative Deep South and moderately unionized liberal areas of the Midwest. I’m a unionized local government employee in a middle class liberal college town. Unions aren’t a central concern and a divisive issue here. Most people don’t particularly care if you are in a union or not nor what your opinion is on the matter. Unions at best are seen as a practical affair and at worse taken for granted. Few people get very excited about it. I could harshly criticize unions to my union steward or in a letter to the editor and there would be no retaliation and drama, no threats to my person or property. This is an individualistic town. Thre is some liberal Midwestern concern for community, but communitarianism is almost non-existent. It of course was even less of an issue in the Deep South.

      3) Fiscal conservatism isn’t as straightforward as it usually gets portrayed. My parents are fiscal conservatives who grew up in working class towns. My mother in particular raised my brothers and I with working class conservative values. I began working my first job in 3rd grade and was never given a car. Still, my brothers and I all grew up to be liberals. As for politics, years of watching partisan politics and reading analyses of data has taught me that there is no dependaable relationship between fiscal conservatism as rhetoric and fiscal responsibility as policy. The more astute on the political left aren’t bamboozled by Starve the Beast, while the federal government and debt grows under GOP administrations and the most conservative states are an economic drain on the country (receiving more federal funding than they pay in federal taxes, the complete opposite of the most liberal states). I support fiscal responsibility and, for that reason, I wish that conservatives took seriously their own rhetoric.

      4) That is interesting, your being in the USSR in 1964. Left-wing politics obviously dominated communist countries during that era, whereas back in the US left-wingers were still fighting for basic civil rights and human rights while trying to defend against homegrown authoritarianism, from Jim Crow to COINTELPRO, and so many other forms of publicly and privately enforced oppression and injustice (secret government testing on the unsuspecting, forced sterilizations, redlining, sundown towns/suburbs, etc). The year 1964 was just before the Civil Rights Act, a time when MLK was becoming increasingly radicalized with left-wing politics (the worst part to mainstream whites was his anti-authoritarianism) and was being targeted by the FBI (not just spying on him but also trying to blackmail him into suicide). That was a 11 years before I was born. I only saw the ending of the Cold War. Many in my generation grew up skeptical of Cold War propaganda and, along with it, the propaganda of the wars on drug users, the poor, and minorities.

      Here is my take. The US hasn’t had a powerfully organized left-win movement in a half century. There used to be a labor section in newspapers, but now there is only a business section. Right-wing libertarians regularly get on mainstream news and sometimes get their own shows, but most Americans don’t even know that leftist libertarians exist and you won’t see many Marxists with their own network or cable show. The left-wing is nearly silenced. Left-wingers haven’t had the power to hold their ground and keep the political spectrum from shifting right, haven’t had the power to fight conservatives and keep liberals honest. Without that contervailing force, mainstream politics has been taken over by socially conservative neocons and pseudo-libertarian neoliberals. Under these conditions, too easily liberals become conservatives, conservatives become reactionaries, and reactionaries become authoritarians. I’d like to regain balance in our society by shifting the center a notch back toward the left, where it was earlier last century. Such hope of moderation, however, is now seen as radical.

      In other well functioning social democracies and at an earlier time in this country, what the American mainstream now considers radical used to be and still is elsewhere considered moderate. Bernie Sanders would feel more at home in presentday Scandinavia or early 20th century America (e.g., the first half century of Milwaukee sewer socialists). Progressivism didn’t used to be a left vs right issue. Socially conservative Christians, from Evangelicals to Mormons, used to be the strongest and largest group of supporters for progressive reform. The Populist and Progressive eras wouldn’t have been possible without them. The New Deal wouldn’t have happened without them. Labor organizing depended on them. Social Security and Medicare remains popular with the political right, including Tea Partiers. A traditional mainstream conservative like my mom finds it the moral position to argue or public education and a New Deal style work program. It used to be that both parties each had a left and right wing, but now only the Democrats are a big tent party with socially conservative and highly religious minorities their most loyal supporters. Liberalism didn’t used to be a dirty word, back when it could be praised along with conservatism, even by GOP presidents such as Ike and Nixon. Teddy Roosevelt even was able to get away with openly taking up the issues of socialists.

      Why has there been such a shift to the right? And why do most Americans have such short memories that they have forgotten it wsn’t always this way?

  4. P.S. I accept and agree that the terms left and right have the variability, complexity and imprecision you explain. For my purposes, however, I used them here in the general sense of the terms as accepted in present-day US politics.

    • I used to use those terms in the mainstream way. But I slowly came to see that usage as obfuscatory and intentionally so. It makes genuine debate nearly impossible, which is the point. It closes down rather than opens up our ability to think. Being careful with our language is the first step in effective intellectual self-defense. I’ve grown wary with age, as I’ve become humbled by and respectful of the the power of language and ideas.

  5. The comments above were in response to your “preface.” I must go and will respond to your point-by-point on my post later. Sorry this is so fragmented but it’s a busy morning and I’ve been distracted.

  6. This is not a normal time in human history and acting like we can just continue on with business as usual because things have gone alright in the past needs to be banished from people’s heads.

    If global warming is to be mitigated such that human civilization survives (fuck I wish I was being hyperbolic) things like economic disparity, poverty, and human welfare need to be fixed quickly. How else are people supposed to afford solar panels and electric cars? How else are people suppose to have energy to think about ecology when they can’t send their kids to college? The places where environmentalism is most successful is in democratic socialist countries where the common welfare has become engrained into the people’s minds.

    the World can’t America electing people not like Sanders. And the answer is 20 fucking years ago.
    This is serious shit. This isn’t about a few token issues. The future of the human race depends on our democratic process fundamentally changing and we NEED to start somewhere. Sander’s clearly is that somewhere and we don’t have time to fuck around.

    • I most definitely agree this isn’t about a few token issues. Nor is it about politics as usual.

      Over this century, something has clearly changed in this country. Many things that were once normal are now seen as strange or foreign. And many things that once were outside the norm have become so dominant as to obstruct all else.

      It is strange that, as certain issues and problems are being pushed to the edge, other issues and problems such as violent crime and IQ are improving. It is hard to make sense of it all.

  7. Boomers saw the reflection of the same future millennials want to build, and they had their collective spirit utterly crushed in the 70s and 80s.

    So many things that were designed to breed disfunction and cynicism happened, like the drug war, Nixon, Vietnam, Kent state, etc.

    The battle cry of the millennials, that we will be the majority and radically shift this country, should not be dismissed.
    But we can’t be vengeful or complacent about it. That’s exactly what happened to the boomers. They went to the marches and rallies, and seeing everyone there they thought they were done, then the spirit of those movements was ground to dust when everyone went home thinking the problem would take care of itself now.
    We can’t do that. The earth and our species don’t have many more generations like that left in us.

    • Their collective spirit was literally crushed. It was a concerted effort, mostly by government, but also by private forces putting pressure on the public sphere and on personal lives.

      On the government side, COINTELPRO (now technically illegal, although still used) was used intentionally to destroy lives and movements. COINTELPRO was sort of equal opportunity, as the FBI destroyed the KKK with as much vigor as they destroyed the Black Panthers, But we have to be honest in acknowledging that the FBI mostly went after left-wingers, while the US government supported right-wing dictatorships and fascist regimes.

      In the private sphere, many forget that during McCarthyism corporations were more oppressive in their blacklisting than was the government was through the FBI. Major businesses worked together to destroy careers and sometimes lives, driving people to suicide. Don’t ever underestimate the power of collective economic force, even when done privately.

  8. ”They will even embrace the rhetoric and tactics of the political left, as they take on the mantle of populism and progressivism.”

    Like NR’s?

    • Yes, like neo-reactionaries.

      Richard Hofstadter is well known for his criticisms of populism because of how right-wing it was. I think that is related to what Corey Robin writes about in terms of the reactionary mind. This is what makes it hard to pin down.

      Libertarianism, for example, began as part of the European left-wing workers movement. But American reactionaries took over both the label and the rhetoric. That is their talent, and it is hard to fight against.

  9. You are correct in noting that its is risky to reach sweeping conclusions based on personal experience. However, it can be legitimate when the experience is repeated many times over and/or supported by similar experiences of others.

    Research does, indeed, alter facts as each of us sees them through our own eyes. Research is often all we have to work with, but we must recognize that research can be flawed by the sample, omission of variables and variables that are not even known, faulty research instruments and unintended or real bias by the researcher, especially in the social sciences.

    You will be disappointed to learn that, unlike you, I don’t have a vast storehouse of readily available support for everything I say. I am at an age (82) where I am ridding myself of resources carried and used throughout my life to turn to when challenged or simply for pleasure. It is marvelously freeing to see sparsely inhabited shelves – the space is like experiencing a morning on the high plains after a week in an Appalachian hollow with no views, no space. My main reason, however, is so that when I pass, nobody will be burdened with voluminous sorting or deciding or disposing. The end will be reasonably clean and ordered in that sense. Complicating the issue is that I need the paper. Reading at length on a computer bothers my eyes. And I, too often, can’t remember where something is filed. With my shelves, I am (was) an “exterior” filer, so that with a few glances I know (knew) where what I want(ed) is (was) located. So what I say is pure opinion or presumed facts from memory. You will have to trust me – or not.

    Security.

    The more security expected, wanted or demanded by a people, the less self reliance is considered an important value. Thus, the greater the chance of the rise of an authoritarian state. Complete security = no freedom. Complete freedom = no security. We argue about the proper balance between the two. At present, liberals lean toward security and conservatives lean toward freedom – at least in their own minds. When I was in the USSR, I discovered the definition of freedom can be what Americans see as totally unrelated to how we define freedom. The average Joe on the street, or at least the younger people who wanted to practice their English on me, defined freedom as freedom from worry. They were afraid if they made decisions, they would make an incorrect decision. They worried about making an error. The Communist system freed them from that worry. That, incidentally, is one reason for the collapse of the USSR. Most people were afraid to make a decision, so matters were kicked on up the line until some party functionary had no choice but to make a decision. Far removed from the question, his decision was by the book, so not often applicable to the reality of the matter. Multiply that by the thousands and you see the USSR’s operational problem.

    Education

    I disagree that young people are well educated today. A recent study found that the majority of college students actually knew less upon college graduation (or maybe retained less of what they knew) than they did when they were freshmen. Much of college today, mainly in the liberal arts, consists of forms of indoctrination rather than education. This began when the 60’s generation assumed control of so many of our colleges. Having taught at a large land-grant university for a number of years (one of a number of versions of myself), I can report that even then, conservative thought was hard to find in the liberal arts and even denigrated publicly as well as privately. I was named the college’s Adviser of the Year in 1989 (toot! toot!), a student generated award. I had numerous students who were not among my official advisees come for advice. The reason was that I laid out options. I never told them what to do unless it was to follow their passion. Other advisers too often told them what the adviser wanted them to do (save the world, join the protests, don’t be a capitalist, etc.). In fact, more than once, a student told me a teacher told a class if you didn’t agree with this, that or another political view, you should drop the class because you will flunk. All of the reported offenders were on the left. I don’t think you are attuned to what’s going on with the curriculum at many colleges today. Broad based American history (replaced by what I call The History of American Offenses to Humanity), Western Civ. and such are in the dustbin. You now can fulfill your history requirement by taking a course taught with a political agenda or, as the case at the University of Colorado, a course on the history of horror films, the history of baseball and other such interesting but not particularly enlightening topics as far as understanding what your country or the world are about, warts and the good stuff, too. I recommend the work of the National Association of Scholars and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for you perusal.

    Media

    Here I sharply disagree with your conclusion based on a number of years in the field (another version of myself) and Pew Research which over the years has found around 90% of journalists are registered Democrats or identify themselves as liberals. You may be carrying on the old saw that top management controls content. It does not in the major media (except for Fox, CNBC and NBC in tv – conservative, liberal, liberal) . Where what you say may be true is in small papers in small markets where making a big advertiser unhappy could put you out of business. I’ve been a printer, reporter, managing editor, editor and vp-publishing and never during those years, not once, did top management tell editorial what to publish or even how. Here’s a simple example to prove the bias. Have you ever read about a US politician who is described as a left-wing extremist? Yet the news is full of people referred to as right-wing extremists. Pay attention to the adjectives. The press has taken to calling Carly Fiorina “the only woman” Republican candidate. Have you ever seen Hillary called “the only woman” Democrat candidate? NBC has been caught TWICE in recent yeas of doctoring tapes to misrepresent what a conservative said. You may brush him off as “one of them,” but Bernie Goldberg’s books (starting with Bias) cite many true examples of press bias. Remember the Duke soccer team case? The team was tried and convicted by the press and the college based on what their biases wanted to be true. The whole thing was later proven to be a sham, but apologies or corrections we few and far between. Shootings of blacks by whites are given big play. Shooting of whites by blacks, often equally heinous, are not even covered. It doesn’t fit the agenda. My brother-in-law (I married above my class) was the editor and publisher of a major US daily. He is so left that he thinks (actually thought; we talk little) that anyone who doesn’t think Obama is one our greatest presidents doesn’t merit any kind of consideration. Such bias shows up in a publication whether intended or not.

    Intellectuals. We apparently don’t read the same self-styled “intellectual” publications. Harpers’s is left. Hardly any conservative thought is found in the supposedly neutral Boston Review. New York Review of Books, Book Forum and other book review periodicals clearly have left of center sympathies. My goodness, the world’s intellectuals gave President Obama a Pulitzer Prize, not for anything he did, but for what they expected him to do! Zinn, Chomsky, Coates, to name three, are of the left and considered great thinkers by most writers I’ve read who wrote about them. And so on.

    Right wing dictators

    You make a good point here, I will read your lists at a later time. But I would argue that National Socialism was not of the right. Hitler started out wanting to lead the Communists. But the jobs were taken. The Nazi party was ripe for the taking. It was matter of chance. The German industrial complex was not as found in right dictatorships. It existed because it was directed and, in fact, controlled by the government in terms of day-to-day operations. That is closer to a left model than a right. Hitler chose the Jews to attack. Stalin chose the Kulaks and other landed folks and their “dupes.” The methods were the same, except Stalin was more successful in piling ip dead bodies than was Hitler, though not for trying. Then Hitler’s base of “the other” was smaller.

    I agree with your comment on the characteristics of all immigrant groups. When I was born, 66% of the people in my area were foreign born. Many of my classmates were first-generation Americans.

    Of course the left and right are not 50/50. The sands shift in either direction as times change, people change, we forget the past, we get tired of the old, etc. What worries left and right today is that I don’t think it is clear which way the sands are shifting. That should be revealed next year.

    My eyes are beginning to hurt. Will get back to you on with more on academics and the left regarding their visits to the USSR and Cuba, Altmeyer , the dictator lists and maybe a few other things. Meantime, I agree that I think we agree on the worthy principles and goals. Where we may differ is in how to reach them. ’till later . . . . .

    • “You are correct in noting that its is risky to reach sweeping conclusions based on personal experience. However, it can be legitimate when the experience is repeated many times over and/or supported by similar experiences of others.”

      I guess I’ve lived long enough to see the limits of mere personal experience. For me, personal experience is only ever a jumping off point. I try to never end with that, as I go seeking knowledge not just to fit my experience but to challenge it.

      “Research does, indeed, alter facts as each of us sees them through our own eyes. Research is often all we have to work with, but we must recognize that research can be flawed by the sample, omission of variables and variables that are not even known, faulty research instruments and unintended or real bias by the researcher, especially in the social sciences.”

      Yes. But I think generations have different experiences of facts. You are around my father’s age. My generation grew up being swamped by information, as cable and internet emerged during my youth, not to mention the Cold War was thawing with such things as the Comic Book Codes coming to an end when i was young. People my age and younger are more confident in their ability to deal with tons of information, confident in being able to filter it and make sense of it. My generation was born with a bullshit detector. Older generations often see it as cynicism, but I think my generation just grew wise early, at least a certain kind of wisdom from seeing the power propaganda and media manipulations had on previous generations.

      “You will be disappointed to learn that, unlike you, I don’t have a vast storehouse of readily available support for everything I say. . . So what I say is pure opinion or presumed facts from memory. You will have to trust me – or not.”

      I’m fine with opinions. I’m full of them. But I take them with a grain of salt. We live in a world full of opinions, more than ever before, as the number of voices proliferate in this media-saturated and globalized (and often anti-intellectual) world.

      “The more security expected, wanted or demanded by a people, the less self reliance is considered an important value. Thus, the greater the chance of the rise of an authoritarian state. Complete security = no freedom. Complete freedom = no security. We argue about the proper balance between the two. At present, liberals lean toward security and conservatives lean toward freedom – at least in their own minds.”

      I understand the perspective. My conservative father would say the exact same thing. That might not be too surprising as, like you, he is a relatively socially liberal and strongly fiscally conservative. It also might be a generational thing. From a younger perspective, that sounds like the narrative that has falsely dominated mainstream media for far too long. It is too simplistic. I just don’t buy it.

      “The Communist system freed them from that worry. That, incidentally, is one reason for the collapse of the USSR.”

      That is a fair point. If I was living in a former Soviet country, I’d take that seriously. But I don’t. America, if anything, has the opposite problem. Our Social Darwinian pseudo-meritocratic society of oppression and injustice heaps worry upon individuals and isolates them in their suffering and frustrations. It creates an entirely different kind of dysfunction, especially as our government is nearly incapable of acting with endless partisan conflict.

      “I disagree that young people are well educated today. A recent study found that the majority of college students actually knew less upon college graduation (or maybe retained less of what they knew) than they did when they were freshmen. Much of college today, mainly in the liberal arts, consists of forms of indoctrination rather than education.”

      I call bullshit on that. It doesn’t pass the smell test. There are some really crappy for-profit colleges out there. I’m sure they don’t teach much all that well. But I doubt that kids are forgetting more of what they learned than they are learning in the process. That doesn’t make sense. Besides, most kids these days aren’t in liberal arts. The most popular fields are such things like business management.

      “Having taught at a large land-grant university for a number of years (one of a number of versions of myself), I can report that even then, conservative thought was hard to find in the liberal arts and even denigrated publicly as well as privately.”

      Yeah. And liberal thought is hard to find in business schools and Bible colleges. So, what’s your point?

      “In fact, more than once, a student told me a teacher told a class if you didn’t agree with this, that or another political view, you should drop the class because you will flunk. All of the reported offenders were on the left.”

      That is more typical right-wing bullshit. That isn’t going to fly here. I’ve seen the analysis of that kind of thing. It never matches the claims being made. Plenty of liberals and left-wingers feel left out of academia, because academia tends toward the status quo, not radicalism or challenging authority. There are also numerous examples of professors on the political left being forced out of their positions. Howard Schwartz is one example. But the mainstream media for some reason rarely focuses on these leftist examples. Media bias?

      “Here I sharply disagree with your conclusion based on a number of years in the field (another version of myself) and Pew Research which over the years has found around 90% of journalists are registered Democrats or identify themselves as liberals. You may be carrying on the old saw that top management controls content. It does not in the major media (except for Fox, CNBC and NBC in tv – conservative, liberal, liberal) .”

      I’ve looked into this issue great detail, probably more than you have.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/black-and-white-and-read-all-over/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/what-does-liberal-bias-mean/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/this-far-left-and-no-further/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/npr-liberal-bias/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/the-establishment-obama-corporatism-parties/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/man-vs-nature-man-vs-man-npr-parking-ramps-etc/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/fox-news-unbiased-in-what-alternative-reality/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/vietnam-war-myths-memory-narrative-rhetoric-lies/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/controlling-the-narrative-part-1/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/controlling-the-narrative-part-2/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/response-to-rightwing-misinformation/

      “I’ve been a printer, reporter, managing editor, editor and vp-publishing and never during those years, not once, did top management tell editorial what to publish or even how.”

      They don’t to tell them what to do. They decide who to hire and who to fire. If you want a career, you learn what can and can’t be said, before you even get hired or else you don’t get hired.

      “Here’s a simple example to prove the bias. Have you ever read about a US politician who is described as a left-wing extremist? Yet the news is full of people referred to as right-wing extremists.”

      Left-wing extremists don’t need to be mentioned. The mainstream media rarely even acknowledges the existence of a left-wing, since they are simply excluded from both reporting and debate. It is simply a non-issue. Plus, the facts disprove your belief. Most violent extremists in recent decades have been right-wingers. That is another topic I’ve written about before.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/muslim-vs-rightwing-violence/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/the-media-and-governments-biased-response-to-muhammad-youssef-vs-dylann-roof/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/beck-vs-moore-other-examples/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/violent-speech-and-the-uninformed-public/

      Left-wing extremists tend toward pacifism, rather than mass violence like right-wing extremists. Anti-abortion activists, for example, have for decades been threatening, kidnapping, shooting, bombing and committing arson. Pro-choice activists don’t do this, and so why would the news media report on pro-choice extremists when they are practically non-existent?

      “The press has taken to calling Carly Fiorina “the only woman” Republican candidate. Have you ever seen Hillary called “the only woman” Democrat candidate”

      That is obvious. The GOP is well known to being male biased. Few women vote for Republicans. Democrats have always had lots of women. It isn’t as much of an issue for Democrats.

      “NBC has been caught TWICE in recent yeas of doctoring tapes to misrepresent what a conservative said.”

      Fox News has been caught about a million times in recent years falsely reporting in a numerous ways. There are entire massive websites dedicated to analyzing that one news source.

      “Remember the Duke soccer team case? The team was tried and convicted by the press and the college based on what their biases wanted to be true. The whole thing was later proven to be a sham, but apologies or corrections we few and far between.”

      That isn’t a left vs right issue. Right-wing media does the same thing. If anything, they do it even more often. Anyway, media is big biz. It’s about grabbing attention and selling advertising.

      “Shootings of blacks by whites are given big play. Shooting of whites by blacks, often equally heinous, are not even covered. It doesn’t fit the agenda.”

      It depends where you live. Around here violence by blacks always gets attention. The much more numerous violence by whites gets ignored, maybe because it is most of the violence. It’s the dog bites man vs man bites dog scenario. The unusual or shocking gets all the attention.

      Plus, there has been plenty of research done on this. It isn’t just that blacks get stopped and frisked, arrested and convicted more than whites for crimes that whites commit more. The mainstream media also shows pictures of black criminals and suspects disproportionately more than whites, and it doesn’t follow the percentage of each race committing crimes. This undermines your entire worldview, but it is understandable as you probably got your worldview from watching that biased mainstream news reporting. We are a society obsessed with race and yet we can’t admit it, as most of it is unconscious and so pervasive as to be like the air we breathe. Everything gets racialized.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/on-racialization-of-crime-and-violence/
      http://ushypocrisy.com/2015/07/21/the-media-and-governments-biased-response-to-muhammad-youssef-vs-dylann-roof/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/media-race-and-obama%E2%80%99s-first-year/

      “We apparently don’t read the same self-styled “intellectual” publications.”

      Maybe you need to read more widely. There is a massive field of right-wing media and think tanks that put out massive amounts of reading material. There are also many conservative and right-wing academics working in conservative colleges, not just Bible colleges, and in many conservative-dominated fields: business management, engineering, medical field (at least for doctors), of course Biblical studies, etc. These are some of the most popular fields that pump out a large percentage of graduates.

      “But I would argue that National Socialism was not of the right. Hitler started out wanting to lead the Communists.”

      I consider that more right-wing bullshit. A carryover of Cold War propaganda, in which all authoritarians are assumed to be left-wing. The Nazis were typical fascists, gaining early support of conservative Christians and promoting nationalistic folk religiosity. That is typical of fascists, not communists.

      “I agree with your comment on the characteristics of all immigrant groups. When I was born, 66% of the people in my area were foreign born. Many of my classmates were first-generation Americans.”

      In that case, you are more well informed than many Americans. Our fellow countrymen seem to often have short memories. They forget how diverse this country used to be. The problems we face today with immigrants are no different than before. It is the same endlessly repeating pattern and the same endlessly repeating xenophobic rhetoric. It gets tiresome and almost boring in how predictable it all is.

      “Of course the left and right are not 50/50. The sands shift in either direction as times change, people change, we forget the past, we get tired of the old, etc. What worries left and right today is that I don’t think it is clear which way the sands are shifting. That should be revealed next year.”

      That is true. I would take it further. The division between left and right, as understood by the mainstream, has been shown to be empty and meaningless. There is still significance to certain labels, but it demands more careful thought than the mainstream is willing to give it.

      “My eyes are beginning to hurt. Will get back to you on with more on academics and the left regarding their visits to the USSR and Cuba, Altmeyer , the dictator lists and maybe a few other things. Meantime, I agree that I think we agree on the worthy principles and goals. Where we may differ is in how to reach them.”

      I find it interesting how debating with you resembles so much debating my moderately libertarian and strongly fiscally conservative father. Your positions are almost exactly the same as his, although different than my conservative mother who is more traditionally conservative. This is why I so often come back to generational divides. I think they are larger than ideological divides, which tend to be superficial or obfuscatory. The labels and rhetoric don’t even mean the same thing from generation to generation. We aren’t working from the same set of experiences, ideas, and info. Many younger people would know what I’m talking about when I refer to various things, but between you and I we continually seem to be on different pages, even as we share some similarities.

      It gets frustrating. I think that is clear. I apologize for that. But I don’t mince words, something for which I’ll never apologize.

    • About supposed liberal bias, that is utterly meaningless, at least in the way it intended. To the degree there is a liberal bias it is only in the sense that America and Western Civilization has had a liberal bias since the early modern revolutionary era that took hold with the American Revolution, although it began much earlier.

      When one looks widely across the polling and survey results (as I have done), one thing becomes undeniable apparent. Most of the American population has a “liberal bias.” Policies and positions that get portrayed as liberal or even leftist in the mainstream are regularly held by the majority of the population. Taking the silenced majority as the center, it is the mainstream media and politics that has a conservative bias. That is obvious to anyone paying attention, beyond what is said in the mainstream (and, yes, the right-wing media and think tanks are part of the mainstream).

      Here is the proof of my claim:

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/-us-demographics-increasing-progressivism/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/sea-change-of-public-opinion-libertarianism-progressivism-socialism/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/average-right-libertarians-support-direct-democracy/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/political-elites-disconnected-from-general-public/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/wirthlin-effect-symbolic-conservatism/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/do-politicians-racially-discriminate-against-constituents/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/most-americans-know-what-is-true/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/extreme-consensus-on-globalization/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/ruling-elite-anti-democratic-fiscal-conservatives/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/beyond-the-stereotype-of-the-liberal-elite/

      I bet you were unaware of all that info. Doesn’t it make you angry that you’ve been lied to your entire life, that you bought into the lies to such an extent that only now late in life are you presented with the opportunity of acknowledging this sad state of affairs? Anger was my response when I first learned about this. It still makes me angry just writing this comment.

      I understand not knowing. No one taught me any of this in school or informed me of it in the mainstream news. Certainly, no professional politician in Washington DC, of either party, passed this info along to me and the rest of the public. I only know what I know because I spent years looking for it, based on a clear hunch that I wasn’t being told the whole story.

      I can’t begin to explain how much this pisses me off. My entire life I’ve heard the Cold War propaganda and its continuing echoes. I was told the political left was dangerous, bringing foreign ideas, manipulating the public, and trying to take over the government. It was all bullshit and those spreading it knew it was bullshit. It turns out the supposed left-wing radicalism and liberal bias was basically identical to what most Americans believe and aspire to. We’ve all been duped for decades and generations.

      The only reason this knowledge is finally coming out is because of the internet. It is harder to suppress knowledge and enforce indoctrination as was done during the Cold War. It’s not like the days when everyone across the country watched the same television programming and got the same news from the same sources. By the way, the mainstream news during the Cold War was infiltrated by the CIA. I’m not speaking of propaganda in a metaphorical sense or exaggerating the reality. All of that really happened and the American public was kept in the dark.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird

      This is what makes the generations different. Surveys show the younger generations are more likely to get their info from alternative sources. Meanwhile, the older generations are still glued to the MSM, watching such things as Fox News.

      In many ways, the Cold War was one of the worst things that happened to this country. I say that as part of the last wave of the last Cold War generation. All of us who grew up during the Cold War are fucked up in the head. My generation was only different in not getting the full brunt of it. This gave some of us enough distance to realize the powerful influence it had over us, enthralling an entire society in fear and ignorance.

      I’m glad the younger generations will be able to bring something new to the table. We really need it right now.

  10. The question is net, who is gaining ground.

    On one hand, we do see generation y moving to the left and learning from the past.

    On the other, we see a clamp down on civil liberties and rising inequality. They are quite willing to sacrifice society for wealth and it is not about preventing terrorism as much as it is on clamping on civil liberties.

    The question is the long term trend. This could pass like Nazi Germany or it could worsen and the rich could become entrenched.

    • Yeah, we are both interested in the long-term trends. As long as you and I live into old age, we will eventually see where all this is heading. It might all come to a head in the coming decade or at least in the decades following that. Everything feels like it is near either a tipping point or a breaking point, not just within the US but around the world.

  11. Speaking of authoritarianism, why was/is the USA so RABIDLY averse to communism, that Muricans frankly do/did some really fucked-up shit in the same of ”repelling commieszzzz?” What is it?

    • I’ve often wondered that myself. Some like to point out that during the Cold War there really were people in government positions who had affiliations with communist groups or countries. Even some spies. So what? There were also fascist politicians and spies in the US government. Every major country has spies in every other major country. It isn’t an ideological issue.

      Anyways, it turns out the greater threat were the fascists, but right-wingers never point out that threat. Fascists took over the US, not communists. While we were distracted by left-wing boogeymen, the real authoritarians took control. Is it surprising that the FBI has tended to focus on left-wing Americans and American groups, even though right-wingers commit most of the violence? The FBI lists some non-violent left-wing groups as terrorists, despite their never having harmed or attempted to harm a living soul. That is messed up!

      Right-wing oppression in this country: xenophobic Indian removal and genocide, slavery, Gilded Age plutocracy, Jim Crow, sundown towns, KKK, forced assimilation, Japanese internment camps, COINTELPRO against left-wing activists and groups, government alliance with fascist and theocratic regimes and right-wing dictators, etc. When have communists, left-libertarians, anarcho-syndicalists, or any other left-wing group ever oppressed any American in American history? Never.

      Well, almost never… there were a few small incidents of anarchist violence about a century ago, but not much since. Even the Weather Underground sought to not harm people.

      Consider the terrorist attacks before and since 9/11. The largest mass killing before 9/11 was committed by a white right-winger. After 9/11, most of the terrorist attacks have been committed by white right-wingers. If the media is so liberally biased, why don’t we hear about this terorrism all the time?

    • This one is easy.

      The right wing types are more than anything else useful idiots for the 1%. The left wing ones might actually be real social change.

      It’s why Tea Party types are allowed to bring their guns to debates and rallies while Occupy Wall Street is spied upon despite being mostly non-violent.

  12. On the note of right wing accusations of left wing bias, more often than note it is because they cannot come to terms with reality and rather than accepting the implications, attack the person.

    Religious people cannot accept Evolution
    Libertarians cannot accept their economics is a failure
    Social conservatives cannot accept the total failure of Red State policies

  13. They are actively trying to cocoon themselves.

    They aren’t seeking news as much as they are seeking affirmation to their beliefs. That’s the typical Fox watcher I am afraid.

    • Yeah. But it isn’t just Fox News. It is the entire right-wing echo chamber. It is also mainstream media in general. That is why I find it so significant that the younger generations are those most likely to get their news from alternative sources, not the mainstream.

      • I have been wondering about the significance of Sanders. I still have my finger to the wind, trying to see which way it is blowing.

        Sanders is a professional politician and that makes me naturally suspicious. But he does seem to be way better than the average professional politician, which however is an extremely low standard. I’d like to see him elected, just to see what he might do.

        My expectations aren’t too high, though, as even Sanders seems to the right of the likes of the Roosevelt clan, TR and FDR. Those two, upon being elected, utterly cleaned house. They put big money and big biz in its place. It’s hard to imagine any president coming close to what they did.

        Still, we have to start somewhere. A Sanders presidency would be the American public putting its toe into the pool to test the water. Maybe democratic socialism (or what most would simply call social democracy) isn’t so bad after all, and then Americans can plunge in with some serious support for progressive reform.

  14. So Reagan is supposedly one of the most loved presidents…

    Is it mass ignorance or mass Stockholm Sybdrome? Not just reagon love, but the love for Wall Street and trickle down BS. Like we are stuck in a “evil COMMIESZZZZ!!!!” Mindset that allows the powers that be to fuck us over. Like the guy that points at the evil reds then steals your stuff when you are busy looking at the evil reds

    • The Cold War lives on in the minds of many Americans. It was a war of propaganda that is still being fought within the American soul. The walking wounded from that catastrophe are still among us and still spreading their sickness. It needs to be contained, until the disease runs its course.

    • That hypocrisy is as old as the country. Older even.

      Puritans came to America for religious freedom and then denied it to others. American colonists were oppressing all kinds of people while fighting against their perceived oppression by the British government. Lincoln abolished slavery to save white man’s soul, not to save blacks, and at the same time he promoted the continued genocide and removal of Native Americans. The US for the first century tangled with a number of empires, often denouncing them for their imperialism, and yet developed its own imperial tendencies with thoughts of Manifest Destiny, attacking other countries and invading island nations.

      The twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been simply more of the same. The US government toppled democratic governments and helped assassinate democratically elected leaders. They supported terrorist groups and allied with right-wing dictators and fascist regimes. They used extreme rendition and operated secret torture prisons.

      If any country did to the US what the US has regularly done to other countries, it would be all out war. If any country that isn’t an ally of the US simply does what the US does, even not directed at the US, it will be attacked for having the arrogance to assume that it could follow the example set by the US government.

  15. If you grow up in any country, like the USA, you are taught from birth that the USA is the beacon of good in the world, the older brother so to speak. The usa is good and certain places are evil (china Russia Iran currently) When ou are older though, you realize this is BS and the USA is just another nation with interests like any other nation.

    There isn’t really a good or bad guy in the geopolitical game.

    When the US says it’s bringing you “democracy” you better not hold your breath because 9 times out of 9 you’re actually getting a military junta that’s going to kill, disappear, and imprison tens of thousands of people while enriching American corporations.

  16. Honestly as an american I’m more afraid of the government than I am of terrorists (foreign) and foreign powers these days

    • The US government has killed more people, including more Americans, than terrorists. Also, more white right-wing Americans have killed other Americans than either foreigners or any minority group within the US. The main threats to Americans aren’t liberals, commies, or Muslims.

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